Monday, March 18, 2013

RivaBella: Reflection of Beauty on Sunset

Have I mentioned how much I love indoor/outdoor spaces? Maybe because often, I love the idea of dining al fresco more than the actual experience.  Restaurants that bring all that is lovely about being outside, into a more refined and controlled environment gives you the best of both worlds. So I was excited to be invited to check out the recently opened RivaBella in West Hollywood, featuring an 8,000 square foot dining space described as "rustic Tuscan" AND chef Gino Angelini of locally beloved Angelini Osteria - creating an anticipated pairing of style and substance.

It was a pretty breath-taking space from the moment you set foot inside the main dining room, with its soaring ceilings, sleek, sophisticated woods and elegant greenery all around including several manicured trees between sections of tables.  And a wine cave with arched brick ceiling!

The roof is retractable, for when the signature SoCal sunny weather returns.  In terms of ambience, this place is perfect for date night or that Hollywood power lunch. The crowd on a weeknight? If there was a Housewives of Hollywood Hills - this is a place where they might often be spotted.  There were also lots of beautiful people in their 30s, 40s and up, dressed to impress.
Our tasting started with an off-menu item: Seared Swordfish with Bottarga - personally, I'm not a big fan of swordfish, but those who are would say this is a nicely seared piece - and who doesn't love bottarga!

Next up was the Beef Carpaccio Romagna Style ($15 on regular menu - full sized.  Image shown is sample sized for our tasting only) - this was a lovely starter that mixes Italian staples together: raw beef slices with (fresh-tasting) anchovies topped by shavings of parmesan

One of the most unforgettable dishes of the night was the Roasted Octopus Salad ($21 on regular menu - image shown is sample sized for tasting only) with potatoes, Taggiasche olives, salsa verde - the octopus was roasted perfectly, nice crisp clean smokey charred exterior opening up to incredibly tender, flavorful meat inside.  Loved the use of potatoes to soak up the amazing juices and for a different type of crunch, while the brininess of olives and acidity of tomatoes helped cut through the heft of the proteins and carbs.

We were then generously treated to another unscheduled dish, Eggplant Parmagiana ($14 full size on regular menu) the chef's own modern interpretation of it topped by delicious flash-fried eggplant skin!

Where's the pasta, you say?  It came in the form of the showstopper for the night in my opinion: Nidi di Rondine nested pasta with Italian ham and parmagiano cream ($17 full size on regular menu) - I have never seen pasta presented this way, wrapped like a Jewish deli roll, but with layers of freshmade noodle around delicious, juicy ham.  The 'roll' is then topped by amazing veal and wild boar ragu that I think must have been wine-braised (for great depth of flavor that is instantly addictive) and baked onto the roll with a nice slightly crunchy crusty texture.  The parmagiano cream sent me over the edge - I couldn't even pause for breath, I loved this thing so much and only wished I could have ten more. This one was my favorite of the night, hands down, and one I would definitely have to go back to RivaBella for, especially since at $17 for an entree sized dish, it's not a bad deal at all either.
Grilled Filet of Branzino with Sautéed Spinach and Sicilian Style Sauce I didn't see this on the regular menu posted online.  Not the most impressive plating, nor game changing execution, but a tasty piece of fish and 'safe' choice for date night.

Our tasting concluded with a round of various desserts: I liked the presentations especially of the Beignets with raspberry, chocolate and mocha sauces...

...and the Tiramisu with a silhouette of a fork reversed into cocoa powder.

In terms of taste, the tiramisu was a solid execution of a classic.  The others weren't very memorable and were not something I would crave and make a special trip back for.

While we were finishing up, we noticed several tables around us with guests celebrating birthdays - it was cool for us to see the waitstaff bring out treats with sparklers, showing that despite our inital assessment of the 'scene' here, that at least the restaurant doesn't take itself too seriously (even if some of its patrons do).

All things considered, RivaBella successfully delivers with upscale, event dining ambiance paired with some fantastic dishes and great people watching. A nice addition to the WeHo area!

*Disclaimer: This meal was hosted.


9201 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, CA 90069
Ph: 310.278.2060

Parking: Valet parking is probably your best bet in this area $10 for first 3 hours


Rivabella on Urbanspoon 

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