Thursday, July 11, 2024


Friday, May 24, 2024

Maude (Beverly Hills, CA) [8]

Maude Restaurant
212 S Beverly Dr, Beverly Hills, CA 90212
Fri 05/24/2024, 08:30p-11:50p

Maude Exterior

Maude, Curtis Stone's "dream" restaurant, grand-open on February 1st, 2014 to considerable anticipation. Initially, the place offered a monthly-changing tasting menu centered on one star ingredient, a novel idea that actually made me return to the spot quite often. Maude closed temporarily in December 2017 to retool, and when it reopened in January, began serving quarterly-rotating menus inspired by the world's wine regions, starting with Rioja. The change apparently didn't sit well with me, because I failed to visit this new incarnation of the restaurant even once, though Maude did land a Michelin star in June 2019, which has since been retained. 2019 also saw the announcement that Stone would be opening up inside Downtown's historic Trust Building, but that never came to fruition, though what did was Georgie, the Chef's steakhouse in Dallas.

When the pandemic struck in March 2020, Maude quickly closed up shop, but quickly reopened as a marketplace of sorts, though that only lasted until June. In September 2020, Stone launched Picnic Society at The Grove, set inside the former home of Dominique Ansel. The residency concluded at the end of the year, and in February 2021, Stone transformed Maude into Pie Room by Gwen, serving meat pies, tarts, pastries, and so on. However, the goal was always to reopen Maude properly, and Pie Room thus shuttered at the end of November 2021, making way for the restaurant's rebirth. Maude 3.0 therefore commenced service on Valentine's Day 2022, with new Chef de Cuisine Osiel Gastelum at the helm and a new menu highlighting the bounty of Southern California.

About the Chef: Osiel Gastélum Muñoz was born in September 1992 and spent his early years in Culiacán, Sinaloa, the youngest of four children. His parents loved to cook and entertain, which is what first got him interested in food. When he was five, his family moved to the Los Angeles area, settling in Whittier, but he'd regularly go back-and-forth between SoCal and Mexico. At age 18, he moved back to the US for good to finish high school, then moved in with his two-year-older brother Reynaldo "Rey" Gastelum, who was attending culinary school in Orange County. The younger Gastelum was inspired by his hermano's passion for cooking, and subsequently got a job at Signature Kitchen, a casual cafe located inside the Macy's at South Coast Plaza.

He then returned to Mexico after a year to go to cooking school himself, enrolling at the Universidad Autónoma de Durango's Sinaloa campus. During this period, he got married to Alisa Gámez Gaxiola (March 2013), and also operated a bakery by the name of La Bollería Cupcakes in order to pay for school. A week after graduation, he moved up to San Francisco, as his brother was working as a sous at Acquerello and promised him a job there. Unfortunately, the opportunity fell through, and Gastelum wound up staging a bit and applying to various restaurants in the Bay Area. There was interest from both Commis and Bar Agricole, but he ultimately got accepted at fine dining standby Gary Danko. He started in the spring of 2015, and over the course of his time there, worked through pretty much every station, in the process falling love with the energy of the kitchen.

In December 2016, he left for a commis position at Atelier Crenn. Gastelum rose to the rank of sous and also assisted with the opening of Bar Crenn, but decamped in the spring of 2019. His next move was back down to LA, where he landed a CdC gig at Somni, under Aitor Zabala. After the restaurant shut down in March 2020 due to the pandemic, he decided to work at Gwen in order to sharpen his butchery skills. When Curtis Stone was ready to reopen Maude and asked Dominique Crenn if she had any recommendations for a CdC, she suggest Gastelum, who ended up joining the team in November 2021, around the same time that his daughter Elyse was born.

Maude Interior
Maude's dining room has been lightly remodeled. The space now sports a darker-toned aesthetic, and has done away with the banquette that once sat along the right wall.

Maude Menu Maude Menu (Reverse with Chef's Signature)
Pictured above is Maude's spring menu, priced at $215 a head (up from $195 when Gastelum first took over). To drink, the classic wine pairing is offered at $155 per person, while the reserve pairing costs $255. Of course, there's also a pretty respectable French- and American-leaning wine list, assembled by GM Jessica Marie Taylor (Gwen, City Club, C.O.D, Tiato, Locanda Veneta, Ca' Del Sole, The Tasting Kitchen). Click for larger versions.

Frozen Mezcal Cocktail
Dinner commenced with a frozen "welcome cocktail" of sorts, one that demonstrated the unmistakable smokiness of mezcal before transitioning to the juiciness of green apple and the vegetal zing of sorrel. A proper pick-me-up that perked up the palate and got me excited for what was to come.

Finger Napkin
A moistened napkin was provided along with the bite above, which was a welcomed nicety.

Snacks–Yellowfin Tostada
1a: Snacks | Yellowfin Tostada
Next, a troika of canapés arrived simultaneously. A yellowfin "rose" showed off the clean, lean, mildly briny nature of the tuna in concert with tangy tomatillo and the sweetness of passion fruit. The key for me, though, was that blue corn tostada base, which served as both a textural element and a maize-y counterpoint.

Snacks–Pai Tee
1b: Snacks | Pai Tee
A riff on Malaysian kueh pie tee possessed a wonderfully smoky salinity right up front, courtesy of cured steelhead trout and smoked roe. This was then perfectly offset by the creaminess of an avocado purée, with a fermented Fresno chile gel, lime zest, and fish sauce imparting additional interest. And if that wasn't enough, there was also a delightful savory crunch from the pastry shell to close out the bite.

Snacks–Green Garlic Pillow
1c: Snacks | Green Garlic Pillow
These "pillows" were filled with salty, unabashedly porcine shards of housemade porchetta di testa, tempered just a touch by crème fraîche. However, what I really liked here was the bite's bitter, vegetal quality and ultra-familiar sear and savor that actually reminded me a bit of Chinese stir-fried greens. Perhaps that might've been due to the use of what I believe was black garlic.

Moistened Napkin
Again, another oshibori-style wet hand towel was provided following the finger foods.

Lily's Eggs Nopales
2: Lily's Eggs Nopales | Santa Barbara Box Crab, Green Strawberry, Allium Oil
The night's first proper course was a thoroughly rejiggered version of nopales con huevo. Steamed box crab ate fresh and sweet, but what was really smart was how the tart, almost invigorating nature of the cactus--helped out by tart raspberries--played foil to the crustacean. At the same time, Allium oil provided further oomph to the dish, and I liked the crunch from that dehydrated cactus "tuile" on top, too.

2008 Larmandier-Bernier, 'Vieille Vigne du Levant,' Grand Cru, Cramant
To drink, I opted for a bottle of Champagne, the 2008 Larmandier-Bernier, "Vieille Vigne du Levant," Grand Cru, Cramant [$220]. The wine displayed a super concentrated nose brimming with earthy, oxidative, toasty nuances and orchard fruit. On the palate, I found a vibrant acidity, along with more nutty, oxidative elements, as well as barnyard, brioche, bitter citrus, and a honeyed sweetness. A lovely bubbly, with tons of character.

Ranched Purple Sea Urchin
3: Ranched Purple Sea Urchin | Sea Lettuce Sabayón, White Sturgeon Caviar, Honey Mandarin
Here, the cool, mineral-y brine of yuzu-glazed uni was proudly conveyed, but just as crucial were the pinpricks of salt from the caviar, while even better was that Codium sabayon, which had this wonderfully lingering kombu-esque taste that really meshed like clockwork with the sea urchin.

Tutti Frutti Snap Peas
4: Tutti Frutti Snap Peas | Jamón Iberico, Golden Kaluga Caviar, Pea Tendril
I'm a huge fan of peas in general, and this dish reminded me why. I loved the legumes' firm, gratifying crunch and bright, sweet flavors, and how that all combined with the salty kick of caviar, savory slivers of jamón ibérico, and that mouthwateringly smoky, comforting ibérico broth. A fantastic juxtaposition.

House Made Bread & Butter
House Made Bread (Cross Section)
5: House Made Bread & Butter
Homemade bread incorporating Tehachapi Grain Project grain was superb, arriving steaming hot, crusty-yet-fluffy, and super flavorful, with a robust nuttiness and some delectable popcorn-like bits. The loaf was accompanied by a rich, nearly cheesy house-cultured butter that definitely hit the spot.

Shinkei-Jime Halibut
6: Shinkei-Jime Halibut | Triticale, Escabeche Mussels, Swarnadwipa
The most rectangular cut of halibut I'd ever seen showcased an elegant, gentle brine that was augmented by the salinity of those West Coast mussels. The fish paired better than I expected with the warm, yellow curry-esque flavors of Swarnadwipa and the dish's ginger-y aromatics, and I liked that fennel zing in the background, too. However, the most unexpected component here was the triticale, which offered both texture and a well-placed nuttiness--very smart.

The Cultured Abalone
The Cultured Abalone–Green & White Asparagus
7: The Cultured Abalone | Kokuho Rose Rice, Pistachio Miso, Green & White Asparagus
In the first part of this course, abalone came out tender and toothsome, its considerable amount of umami melding beautifully with the light, crunchy, super-thin cuts of raw asparagus, all while that savory, cozy rice grounded the dish. Part two, meanwhile, brought out some lightly tempura'd green and white asparagus, and was even more intriguing. I loved how the earthiness of awabi kimo played with the brightness of the veggies, while a squirt of limequat opened things up even more (especially with the sweeter white varietal). I don't think I've had abalone and asparagus together before, but the combo works really damn well it seems.

Wolfe Ranch Quail
8: Wolfe Ranch Quail | Purple Carrot, Artichoke, Morel
Next came a contender for the best preparation of quail I've ever had. I was enamored with the marriage of dainty breast meat with the more in-your-face, nearly sausage-like savoriness of a farce made from the bird's legs and tenders. However, even more masterful was the surrounding Swiss chard and daubs of tarragon jus, which offered up a bevy of bitter, zippy nuances that counteracted the quail perfectly. Also appreciated were the various vegetables, with their smoky 'n' sweet qualities that added further facets to the dish.

Cypress Grove Midnight Moon
9: Cypress Grove Midnight Moon | Feuille de Brick, Black Truffle, Celeriac
This reimagined cheese course was another winner. I was a huge fan of the creamy, funky nature of the chèvre espuma, and how that played with the crunch and bittersweetness of the sautéed celery root brunoise at the bottom of the bowl. Meanwhile, an overarching truffle-fueled woodsiness completed the equation, and I liked the temperature contrast here, too. Super neat, and one of the strongest composed cheese dishes I've encountered.

Maude Wine Loft
Following fromage, we retired into Maude's "wine loft" for dessert and postprandial libations.

Sweets here are the responsibility of Pastry Chef Mitzi Reyes (née Mitzi F. Sosa), a native of Mexico City who attended culinary school in Southern California at Le Cordon Bleu (c/o '08). After cutting her teeth at Salt Creek Grille in Valencia for five years, she transitioned into the world of hotels in June 2012 when she began working at the SLS Beverly Hills, eventually rising to the position of pastry sous in 2015. In 2017, she left to help open Dominique Ansel Bakery, but by February 2018, she was back at the SLS, this time as head pâtissière. From there, Reyes went over to Catch as Executive Pastry Chef (June 2021) before taking on a similar role at The West Hollywood EDITION (January 2023). She joined the team at Maude (and Gwen) in the middle of last year, replacing Isabell Manibusan.

Maude Beer List & Non-Alcoholic Beverage List Maude Sweet & Fortified Wines by the Glass List Maude Sweet & Fortified Wines by the Bottle List Maude Sweet & Fortified Wines by the Bottle List Maude Tea List Maude Coffee List
Here we see Maude's selection of sundry after-dinner beverages. Click for larger versions.

Barbagelata Cherry
10: Barbagelata Cherry | Port Reduction, Douglas Fir Granita, Chocolate Mint
Up first was a sort of pre-dessert. I was smitten by the Douglas fir granité here, which had this wonderful freshness reminiscent of a Christmas tree. This pine-y character linked up flawlessly with the sweet-tartness of port reduction-macerated cherries, making for quite an effective palate cleanser.

Santa Barbara Pistachio Co.
11: Santa Barbara Pistachio Co. | Pistachio Crémeux, Lemongrass Namelaka, Buttermilk Gelato
Miniature white chocolate ravioli masterfully conveyed the nutty sweetness of pistachio, set against buttermilk ice cream, with the mint serving as a refreshing accent.

2008 Château Climens, 1er Cru, Barsac, Sauternes
I was in a dessert wine mood, so I requested a pour of the 2008 Château Climens, 1er Cru, Barsac, Sauternes [$32]. The nose here was all about pineapple and honey, basically what you'd expect. On the palate, the Sauternes veered soft and smooth, with a restrained acidity that helped even out the pineapple and stone fruit flavors present, though the wine's Botrytis character was fairly mild.

12: Truffle | Black Truffle Mousse, Milk Chocolate Ganache, Feuilletine
This next dessert was a bit of a showstopper, and quite possibly the best truffle dessert I've tasted. The hero here was of course that faux truffe, which comprised a chocolate shell filled with a delightfully light, airy, musky black truffle mousse. This was joined by a ganache made from both milk and dark chocolate, and I just loved the texture of the feuilletine disk on the bottom. Very cool.

Choux Pastries
Last up was a trio of mignardises. I began with the tart, juicy blackberries encased in shattery, nearly nutty sugar glass. We then had caramels with jammy guava and strawberry, enveloped in edible wrappers. Finally, there were choux pastries, stuffed with the very harmonious duet of Madagascar vanilla and caramel.

Butter Cookies
To take home: a tiny tin of buttery cookies dusted in sugar.

It'd been over seven years since my last visit to Maude, but I'm happy to report that the restaurant is better than ever. Chef Gastelum pretty much has free rein over the kitchen these days, and he's using this autonomy to delicious effect, putting out dishes that deftly combine innovation and comfort, the novel with the familiar. In addition, the level of service seems to have undergone a slight upgrade as well. In fact, I'd say that this experience represents the best meal I've had in LA thus far in 2024. People don't really talk about Maude much anymore, which is a shame, because the place deserves more attention than it gets.