15 June, 2009
Sometimes people can get a bad rep. Reality TV has done a great job of exponentially proving this to be true. Gordon Ramsay could be one of the best examples of the "bad rep" victims, since when hearing his name, images of people in tears and being cursed at instantly come to mind. However, there is a lot to be said about Gordo's style with food, dining and entertaining in his own turf. A recent visit to The London Hotel's showcase with his namesake changed my perception from a Gordo to be feared to a Gordo to be respected.
Recently even Ramsay hasn't escaped tough financial times like most others. The restaurant bearing his name is in the process of being sold by Ramsay to The London hotel, but after a few questions of the staff, I was assured that Ramsay is actually releasing his stake in the restaurant, but maintaining creative and management oversight. And that's a good thing.
This elegant setting immediately feels extremely warm and welcoming. The very friendly and attentive staff remove any scent of pretentiousness. Our treat for the evening was a five-course tasting menu and wine pairing. We were nestled in a private room that, aside from the extremely dim lighting, was an almost perfect environment for fine dining.
** Apologies for the dark photos, but lighting was a huge issue during our romantic dining...
Our host for the evening was a very friendly and knowledgeable Jeremy whose partner in crime, Sommelier Aaron, were superb hosts with the most. Serving food prepared by Executive Chef Andy Cook, the evening was kicked off with a chilled cherry and watermelon gazpacho topped with a tempura breaded lettuce leaf. It was the perfect beginning for a warm spring or summer evening, refreshing to the palate. Contrary to its name, it was not a sweet bite but quite savory and true to the gazpacho category.
The first course was a spring heirloom lettuce salad with truffle and aged parmesan. The light salad wasn't overpowered by the sometimes overwhelming truffle taste and aroma, but rather had a nice balance of earthiness and acidity in the creamy vinegarette dressing. Paired with a Willamette Valley Argyle Brut, the light crispness of the wine complemented (and complimented!) the tasty starter.
Our second course was a celery root gratin and roasted purple artichoke with pearl onions and creamed spinach. Creamy and smooth, the celery root emulsion and the sweet caramelized potatoes were like a savory custard dancing with flavor. The creamed spinach was nothing if not creamy and delicious. Our sommelier paired an Austrian Salomon-Undhof Gruner Veltliner, a vineyard with cellars that pre-date Christ!! The sweet subtle flavors of the wine are similar to a Guwertziminer, enhancing my already prepped appetite for the main event.
And yet, our main event was yet to come, but not before the tiger prawn ravioli with creamy fennel puree, deep fried basil and a light lobster bisque. If it sounds like a mouthful to say, just imagine the more-than-a-mouthful portion and flavors. The sweet tiger prawns were "stuffed like ravioli pillows of buttery goodness" (this was a direct quote from my table), and the deep fried basil was a pleasant surprise and somewhat shock - it must have been flash fried because basil normally naturally wilts from heat, and yet these leaves were still in tact and crispy. The Pouilly-Fuisse Les Vernays Burgundy was a heavier and richer wine, brightening the seafood and pasta flavors well.
Alas, we were ready for our main course, although at this point, we could have easily stopped and walked away from the table, quite satisfied and happy with our evening thus far. However, they twisted our arms and we stayed for the seared beef fillet with horseradish pomme puree in a braised ox cheek and truffle madeira jus. This tender cut was prepared medium rare, so tender we could cut it with the back of the fork. The potato puree was alive and vibrant with the burst of horseradish, and a warm blanket of truffle jus was the savory icing. A Spanish tempranillo, the most traditional of all Spanish wines, paired perfectly with the beef. The rich and full bodied Ribera del Duero Condado de Haza Alejandro Fernandez sealed the deal for the evening with its ripe berry flavors and smooth finish.
Somehow, we managed to fit in some dessert. With some more arm twisting, we enjoyed a dark chocolate with olive oil gelato, tangerine and lavender. The smooth pudding-esque finish was irresistable, and the sherry-like Madeira opened up the olive, citrus and flowery flavors melded in the gelato.
Gordo may be difficult on camera, but he's smooth as silk on the plate, and the restaurant bearing his namesake proved that. Hopefully during happier economic times, we will get to see more of Gordo's culinary visions in L.A. For now, The London Hotel will keep our anxious stomachs and salivating palates at bay, while "Kitchen Nightmares" and "Hell's Kitchen" will keep our fears in tact.