There are salads and salads, says the gal. This one is by Wolfgang Puck – yes, he of CUT in London and Spago and WP-34 and goodness knows what else across the great USA.
This is his salad at the restaurant at the beautiful Hotel Bel-Air, Los Angeles. Last time I ate there it was raining and we seemed to be surrounded in rather tacky clear plastic (the restaurant is outside, by the way).
Today it is as if we are in heaven. The outdoor area has been extended, a permanent retractable awning has been put in, a really attractive artwork cover, actually (designer, like the hotel’s bar, is David Rockwell).
There are banquettes and freestanding tables, and, even though it was lunchtime, pink bubbly was flowing at the all-ties table next to us. Was this yet another Hollywood deal being done?
Sadly, it was impossible to recognise anyone – no, megabucks Harvey Weinstein was not among that particular crowd. I concentrated instead on the superb onion focaccia and the fact that the waiter wrote down our order in a blue Smythson leather notebook. Style, Bel-Air.
This actually is turning out to be a Wolfgang Puck day, and night. This evening, after all the luxury retail shopping that makes Rodeo Drive, we stroll along to Wilshire, to the Beverly Wilshire, the Hong Kong (Cheng family)-owned, Toronto (Four Seasons)-run megadame, 1928 and full of Hollywood glitz. There are now permanent tables and chairs on the sidewalk pavement, and, being tinseltown, they are inner-lit, and neon fuchsia at that.
Go inside the 395-room luxury hotel and the lobby’s festive decoration is more glitz, pink and white and thousandfold. Glorious glorious. The bar off to the right is full – people come to Los Angeles, or rather Beverly Hills, to be anonymous, or to be see and be seen, and the BW is the latter category.
These are beautiful people (even the aforementioned H Weinstein is married to a stunning beauty, Georgina Chapman, co-owner of the Marchesa couture red-carpet gala gown fashion label). Here at the BW you feel you, gal, are walking ten inches taller, and your waist is ten inches smaller.
This is a good thing. Frankly, coming here for your Wolfgang Puck extravaganza you are going to need all the capacity you can muster. Walk through to the rear of the main part of the hotel and there is the entrance to CUT.
A neat-suited guy (was it Dan or Eric?) somehow recognised me, greeted me by name. We were ushered through to one of the best tables, a black leather banquette just below the two-foot-raised level by the open kitchen (note, those upper tables are least desirable, say the real celebs, who prefer to sit where we sat).
The designer of this permanently-full restaurant, busy every night since it opened over five years ago, is architect Richard Meier. I looked across to a giant painting, a Studio-54 remembrance chosen, like all the wow art on the otherwise-plain cream walls, by Wolfgang Puck’s Ethiopian wife Gelila. This was on the menu, too.
And oh what a menu. As in London CUT (in 45 Park Lane), they make a presentation of some of the meat types, rather like looking at cross-cuts of felled timber. Here the choices are corn-fed USDA Prime, 21-day-aged from Illinois, 28-day aged from Washington State, 35-day-aged from Nebraska, US Wagyu from Idaho, Australian Wagyu from Victoria.
Choose your provenance, choose your cut, your length of cooking – grilled over hardwood and charcoal and finished under a 1,200-degree broiler grill. Choose your sauce, your vegetable, your other extras, all bringing extra moolah on to your final, serious, check.
But OH what a fun place. Before you even begin your choice, chef Lee Hefter sends out specials, a tiny mini kobe-hamburger, a steak tartare bite, a mouthful of braised shortrib on a green sauce (to be paired with a Hacker-Pschorr white beer, from Munich.
To go with my Snake River ID ribeye (nine ounce, arriving plain, stylishly unadorned on a white rectangular dish), I have chosen beef marrow, which I adore, and sautéed spinach and, of course, fries.
Ben Trodd, GM of this memorable and friendly iconic hotel, has chosen one of his favourite wine, a Pinot Noir 2007 by George, from Russian River CA. The evening is total delight. Well done Wolfgang Puck, the day, and its night, is total delight.