February 7, 2010
(Picture taken by Austin of Living to Eat.)
Yes, it’s true – I *heart* Chef Ben Bailly. Not quite love – it’s going to take another serving or two of his famous black truffle mac and cheese for me to get to that level – but definitely *heart*. I fall into *heart* rather quickly; I just can’t help myself.
Take Petrossian for example – I’ve been *heart*ing it for a while now, ever since the words “truffle mac and cheese” fell upon my ears. Thus, when this current Winter 2010 DineLA Restaurant Week came rolling around, I knew – If I only had one restaurant to go to this season, it would be Petrossian.
After hearing so much about it, it was surprisingly to walk into Petrossian for the first time. It was this little unassuming spot on the corner of Robertson and Rosewood, without a single valet umbrella in sight. (I got lucky and found myself a free meter on the street.) Their dining room is clean and simplistic – a combination of mirror and glass and black and white. While I first made myself comfortable there, I soon overhead the bustle of the kitchen behind the wall and relocated myself to the boutique where I could catch a glimpse of the kitchen. You can’t tell when peeking in from the outside but Petrossian’s kitchen is very small; it’s amazing Chef Ben can produce such wondrous dishes from a single stove. (Yes, a single stove. Four burners – That’s it!)
Now, onto the food…Oh, THE FOOD.
Although I went for DineLA, their regular menu was so tempting I knew I wouldn’t be satisfied with only three dishes. Thus, my three course DineLA prix fixe of shrimp papillotte, pork belly and pistachio creme brulee soon became a five course meal, with the addition of the napoleon tartare and truffle mac and cheese both ordered a la carte. Little would I know, this five course would later turn into a seven course, with the blinis and mushroom cappuccino delivered compliments of the chef. By the end of the meal, I was holding my stomach in a mix of pain and pure bliss. (So much food! Need more space!)
The night began with the trio of blinis topped with trout roe, salmon roe and caviar. I usually have roe prepared Japanese style over rice, so tasting a more traditional preparation was a nice change of pace. I particularly enjoyed the salty caviar against the creme fraiche, although the salmon and trout roes were also fantastic.
The next course was the first of the DineLA three – the shrimp “papillotte” with passion fruit and chili ginger sauce. Traditionally, to be cooked “en papillotte” means a protein (typically fish) is wrapped in parchment paper and cooked to lock in the moisture. The shrimp were not quite cooked en papillotte; instead of wrapped in parchment paper, they were wrapped in thin wonton skins and fried. When tasted with the tangy passion fruit ginger sauce, one could see a slight Asian influence in the dish.
Just as the two light starters perked my appetite, then came THE DISH: Chef Ben’s famous truffle mac and cheese.
When I had mentioned I was going to Petrossian, one dish was shouted from the heavens with foodies rallying like it was the next coming – the truffle mac and cheese. Chewy orrechiette pasta, smothered in cream, black truffles and bacon…The aroma alone made my mouth water. While the description may sound heavy, it was perfectly balanced and not at all overwhelming. The flavor caused my eyes to roll into the back of my head in delight with every bite. Absolutely amazing.
If there was a dish that could have followed up the truffle mac and cheese without disappointment, it would be the napoleon tartare. Raw steak with a layer of caviar streaked through the center – there is nothing more luxurious than that. Seasoned by Chef Ben himself, I could have eaten the whole thing with a fork – no crostinis necessary. (They have a version of the Napoleon tartare without caviar but seriously people – why would you NOT add caviar?!)
After the tartare came the mushroom cappuccino. It was a complex soup that tasted like a field of mushrooms – deep and earthy, each sip felt like it was warming my soul. The chestnuts hidden at the bottom of the cup added some texture and a bit of sweetness to that final sip.
Our last savory dish of the night was the DineLA pork belly, a glorious slab larger than the palm of my hand. Its delicious fat glistened in the candlelight, each bite melted in my mouth. Petrossian’s pork belly could arguably be the best piece of pork belly I’ve had in my life.
Finally, I arrived at dessert. By this time, I had already reached foodie delirium and only allowed myself a couple tastes of each dessert. Flavor-wise, the pistachio creme brulee was the most unique, with the roasted pistachios giving off almost a green tea/matcha taste. (Chef Ben seemed surprised by this comment – there were only pistachios in the brulee, no tricks!) I personally favored the panna cotta with strawberry jam; it was light ending to a large meal and my gorged self really couldn’t handle anything more than that.
So now you see why I say I *heart* both Chef Ben Bailly and Petrossian; the thought of this meal still causes my heart to beat faster. Now to go again to see if this is just *heart* or love… (If this is how I’m kicking off 2010, the rest of the year has some damn high expectations to live up to!)