Sunday, January 27, 2013

dineLA Winter 2013: Caulfield's at the Thompson Hotel Beverly Hills

For my first dineLA meal of the year, I knew I had to try Caulfield's, the newly overhauled restaurant in the Thompson Hotel in Beverly Hills - aside from new interiors by HD Buttercup to new leadership in the kitchen by Chef Stephen Kalt who has previously served in Daniel Boulud's kitchen at famed NYC icon Le Cirque - the menu just looked like fun, and a good deal at just $25 for 3-courses, practically surreal in most parts of Beverly Hills.

The interior design to me kind of had a Manhattan vibe, softened by SoCal sun streaming through huge windows.  It was well designed, yet comfortable, my fav combination in a restaurant.  The unpretentious space was well paired with an unpretentious staff - on the day of my visit there seemed to only be one server for four to five tables, all dineLA customers - but he was equally attentive (as much as he could be spread so thin) and friendly to all of us.

Where many others defaulted to boring salads or tuna of some sort as a starter, Caulfield's offered options like Rabbit Terrine, Latke with creme fraiche and salmon caviar, and one of their signature dishes, House Smoked Trout in a Jar ($12 on regular menu) with creme fraiche, egg, pickled veggies and toast.  I have a dear friend who adores rabbits and reads this blog (thank you for your support!!!) so I skipped the terrine and went for the trout.  LOVED the presentation (beautiful salmon-colored flakes in a mason jar, served on a wooden cheese board with perfect little toasts and small mound of veggies) backed by skillfully balanced flavors. I normally don't like my eggs hard-boiled, but I think it serves as a nice counterbalancing texture to the light flaky fish here, and its mildness a counterpoint to the sharp acidity of the pickled carrots, radish and brussel sprouts.
Intrigued that they have a whole section of Binchotan Charcoal Grilled proteins, for my main I went for the Binchotan Charcoal Grilled Marinated Skirt Steak with fingerling yams and antichucho sauce ($25 on its own on the regular menu, meaning for dineLA you would have gotten the starter and dessert free!) - this had a nice smokey crust outside, with an incredibly tender and flavor-rich inside.  The finely chopped buttery garlic and parsley mix reminding me of the sauce you usually get with escargot (I love French food so this is a + to me).  For those not into red meat - ladies at the next table over raved about the trout as the best they've ever had, and in talking with them they are well-travelled and know their food.  I just didn't want to do trout on trout over 2 courses though.
I had high hopes for the dessert, given the elaborate description: Frozen Milk Chocolate Souffle, Dark Chocolate Pearls, Orange Toffee, Coffee Caramel, Blood Orange

The other option was "doughnuts with pastry cream and jam".  The ladies who lunched at the next table had both, and said the donuts are better by far.  But, I had just met them for a few minutes at that point, and couldn't pass up what sounds far more exciting - so, I went with the souffle option.  I should have listened to them.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words - and it's very true in this case.  The presentation definitely evoked something that could occur in nature, and not in a good way - not very appetizing to look at, for sure. And in terms of taste and texture: though chocolate and orange are a common flavor pairing, the execution of the various elements just didn't come together coherently for me.  If I were to go back I would definitely want to see how the donuts are done.

But, two fantastic courses that saved me $12 regardless of dessert, made me a happy customer.  Also, if you don't have time or are unable to find street parking - valet parking here with restaurant validation comes out to just $4, much more affordable than other hotel valets in the area (*cough* Beverly Wilshire *cough*).

To check out my other dineLA picks, and tips on deal stacking, see my post here.

On a 7 point scale:
Flavor - 6 bites
Presentation - 5.5 bites
Originality - 6 bites
Ambience - 5.5 stars
Service - 6 stars
Overall experience - 6 bites
Price - $$ (2 bite marks)
Probability of return visit - 100% 

Caulfield's at the Thompson Hotel

9360 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90212
Ph: 310.388.6860

Parking: Valet $4 with validation


OpenTable: Look for reservations and points here


Caulfield's on Urbanspoon

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