June 20, 2010
I feel a little guilty writing this review because this is my third review of Petrossian. I have 30+ reviews still sitting in my backlogs (including two New York trips and now an Atlanta trip too!), waiting to be written. Is it fair to write yet another Petrossian review while so many other restaurants have been sitting for months in queue, waiting to be typed onto screen?
No, it’s not really fair, but it’s just so easy to write Petrossian reviews. The food inspires me to write and the aesthetics behind Chef Ben’s food translate from plate to picture so effortlessly.
(Picture taken by Liz of Food, She Thought.)
Unlike my previous visits to Petrossian, which were basically planned to satisfy my hunger for fine dining, this visit was for a special occasion – this meal was the one that would later be featured on ABC7’s “Food Paparazzi” segment for both local and national broadcast. (I was very excited.) Given the occasion, Linden the Gastronomnom requested a small tasting menu and, as usual, Chef Ben did not disappoint.
Course 1: Caviar Surprise with King Crab and Apple Cider Jelly
We began our meal with a glass of hibiscus champagne, with its distinct vibrant rose color, and a hearty portion of “caviar surprise”. I was happy to finally taste the surprise, which I had seen on many a food blog, and enjoyed the sweetness of the crab and apple cider jelly against the saltiness of the caviar.
Course 2: Salmon Tartare, Caviar, Quail Egg
The salmon tartare was also delicious, as tartare and caviar have been known to do. (Another example: the steak tartare and caviar referenced in my first review.) As the course was perfectly seasoned, I found myself directly putting fork into mouth, completely ignoring the toast points provided on the side.
Course 3: Crispy Egg, Cipollini Onion Soubise, Pressed Caviar
My favorite component of this dish was surprisingly not the crispy egg but instead the onion soubise. Although a soubise is defined as a bechamel based sauce, I found the consistency to be more similar to a puree or a very thick soup. The runny yolk of the egg spilled into the soubise, making it even richer than originally plated.
Course 4: Skate, Brown Butter Foam, Crushed Potatoes, Sherry Vinegar Gelatin, Capers, Croutons
My first ever taste of skate will not be my last as I’ve never had anything similar in texture; it seemed to flake away in distinct layers. (To borrow an apt description by Ruth Reichl, it has a cordoroy-like texture.) The sherry vinegar gelatin was like a punch of flavor in the face (I mean that in a good way) and, surprisingly, did not distract from the rest of the dish. A complete bite of fish and accoutrements was salty and tart and buttery all at the same time – simply delightful.
Course 5: Sweetbreads, Baby Spinach, Maitake Mushroom
Our last course is typically not found on the menu, although I wish it was. As a lover of sweetbreads, I appreciated the simplicity of the dish because the natural taste of the sweetbreads was allowed to shine.
As mentioned previously, this meal was for a special occasion and Chef Ben outdid himself with this menu. Looking back now – the caviar in excess, the flutes of champagne, the TV crew – it feels a little surreal. This is, in no way, “normal” in my life…but I could get used to it. I just have to find a camera crew to follow me around and I’ll be set!
(Note: Since I’ve had people ask: ABC7 did NOT cover any part of this meal. I don’t think they would have let us splurge on caviar and champagne if they had…)
February 15, 2010
After that first meal at Petrossian, I had to go back…So I did. Immediately.
A little over one week after my dineLA-cum-7 course tasting menu, I was already back in the restaurant, sitting by the same window, scanning the same menu and wondering what to order for my second time around.
The circumstances for this meal were different than the last: I was here for a light brunch with a friend and wanted to try the one or two dishes I missed the last time around. Overwhelmed by the menu, I had the opportunity of asking Ben for his opinion:
“What do you think about the caviar pizza?”
“I was thinking about the croque madame too.”
“That’d be great for brunch.”
“Well…what about the foie gras salad? Linden (The Gastronomnom) says it’s even better than your Napoleon tartare.”
“Oh, did he? You should get it then.”
Wow. That was helpful.
My dining companion was just as useless, but agreed to split whatever dishes I decided to order. So, after much inner debate, I finally settled on the foie gras salad and the caviar pizza, with an order of the truffle mac and cheese instead of the croque madame. (There’s no way I could turn down the mac and cheese!)
Once again, Ben surprised us with an order of the blinis to start. They were still as delicious as I remembered (a memory of which was still fresh in my mind at that point).
The foie salad was brought out next – a slice of a foie gras terrine placed atop a bed of haricot vert and walnuts.
(“You should get it”, he says. And so I did.)
The fresh green beans were a welcome start to my sunny Sunday morning, and I loved the crunch of the walnuts hidden in the pile. The rich foie terrine smeared over toast points was that day’s butter and toast.
After touting Petrossian’s mac and cheese throughout my conversation, it finally arrived – picture perfect as always. Again, each bite was heaven, with the bacon flavor a bit stronger this time around. Although I adore this dish, I’ve decided that it’s best enjoyed at dinner; it’s just too hearty for a morning brunch.
The caviar pizza, on the other hand, was the ideal dish for such an occasion.
The combination of ingredients is surprising. The menu may have described it as a pizza with creme fraiche, red onions, chives, capers and caviar, however, it fails to include the finely minced hard-boiled eggs (which are key, as I soon discovered). The eggs add smoothness, the onions add sweetness and, of course, the caviar and capers add that final punch of salt.
I ended my meal with the strawberry panna cotta and the pistachio creme brulee. I favored the panna cotta before, I favored it again.
Now that I’ve eaten all the favorites at Petrossian, you may think I’d be satisfied for a while. Not quite – my friend can attest that, during our converastion, I was frequently distracted by the dishes ordered by the patrons outside (you know, the more standard brunch fare like the hand sliced smoked salmon, the 321 salad or my foregone croque madame). I may have been enviously eying them then, but I’ll try them myself soon enough.
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!)