Wednesday, September 09, 2009

BondSt (Beverly Hills, CA)

9360 Wilshire Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA 90212
Wed 09/09/2009, 08:20p-12:35a

Things were not looking up for BondSt: Trendy hotel location...check. Ubiquitous miso-marinated cod...check. "Beautiful" clientele...check. Pricey cocktails...check. "Scene-y" vibe...check. Attractive AMW waitstaff clad in black...check. Mediocre Asian "fusion" fare...well, not so fast.

Had I been here a year earlier, I'm sure that the last box would've been checked as well. BondSt started out, well, on Bond St, in New York that is. The place opened over a decade ago, and quickly established itself as one of the premier spots to go to for hip, trendy, Asian-inspired fare, thus paving the way for future outposts in Miami and here in Beverly Hills (opened in early 2008). But owners Jonathan Morr and Steven Durbahn made a grave miscalculation in simply importing the original BondSt to Los Angeles, largely unchanged--they even kept the same chef: Hiroshi Nakahara. But we Angelinos, raised in the birthplace of the Nobu empire--the sushi capital of the United States--were not impressed with the dated vittles, which apparently would've been considered cutting edge about ten years ago when the first location opened. The capstone of the duo's misstep here was arguably the gleaming zero-star review from The Notorious S.I.V.

Enter Brian Redzikowski, November 2008. The Long Island native comes from a family of chefs, and broke into the biz at the tender age of 15, working as a plongeur alongside his brother (the chef) at The Hollowbrook Inn in upstate New York. Redzikowski was eventually promoted to working the line, and subsequently enrolled at the CIA in 1999. He graduated in 2001 with honors, and had the opportunity to work at such leading NY restaurants as Le Cirque, Alain Ducasse at Essex House, Le Bernardin, and Christian Delouvrier's now-shuttered Lespinasse. Redzikowski then ventured south to Orlando, Florida to work as a sous chef at Epcot Center's Bistro de Paris, before embarking on a trip throughout Southeast Asia, an experience that would greatly shape his cooking style. Upon returning to the States, he landed at Matsuhisa's second location in Aspen, Colorado, where he spent two years learning the art of Japanese cuisine.

Joël Robuchon opened his eponymous restaurant in Las Vegas in 2005, and Redzikowski was eager to work for the French master. He successfully garnered a spot at Robuchon, and under the tutelage of Chef de Cuisine Tomonori Danzaki, achieved sous chef status in two years. Redzikowski's next move would be just up the Strip, to the Bellagio, where he would helm the kitchens at Yellowtail for one-and-a-half years. It was here that he would meet his future employers, Durbahn and Morr, who recruited him to revitalize the ailing BondSt. At BondSt, Redzikowski has focused on blending his classical French roots, modern cooking technique, and his passion for Asian cuisine to create a market-driven, seasonal, local, product-centric menu targeted toward the sophisticated LA palate. So far, it seems to be working.

But even with its new toque and revamped menu, BondSt probably wouldn't have appeared on my culinary radar had it not been for burgeoning restaurant review site FoodDigger, which sponsored this TastEvent. I was joined by a nonet of local food bloggers: Caroline of Caroline on Crack, Christine of Folie à Choisauce, Danny of Kung Food Panda, Evelina (sans Wes) of Two Hungry Pandas, H.C. of L.A. and O.C. Foodventures, Holly of The Michelin Project, Jackie of Citynitz, Liz of Food She Thought, and Sarah of The Delicious Life/TasteSpotting. Brian, Eddy, Marshal, and Will from FoodDigger were also in attendance. Given Redzikowski's pedigree, I was eager to see if he really had turned things around here. And if you've been following his Twitter, you'd know that Redzikowski himself had perhaps been even more excited, tweeting anxiously about the dinner for weeks prior to the event.

Rooftop Signage Lots of Glassware
BondSt is situated in the 107-room Thompson Beverly Hills, a luxury, "lifestyle" hotel that was known as the Best Western Beverly Pavilion in its past life, before it underwent a $10 million dollar renovation (on top of the $24 million price tag) at the hands of Dodd Mitchell Design and (fer) Studio. You can struggle with street parking, but I'd go for the valet, at $7. Though the 130-seat BondSt is located on the Thompson's ground floor, we were instead whisked away to the hotel's roof, home to the pool, private cabanas, the fitness center, and the guests-only ABH (Above Beverly Hills) bar/lounge. We were seated in ABH's 12-person "tasting room," where we were treated to gorgeous views of the BH as well as free wi-fi (so Caroline could get her live tweet on!).

Dry Saketini
Almost immediately upon being seated, this cocktail was thrust before me. It was a Lemon Saketini, comprised of Belvedere vodka, sake, and lemon sour; it was actually surprisingly palatable, with the sweetness and weight of the sake proving a great temper to the power of the vodka.

FoodDigger Flavor Match
The meal began with a discussion of FoodDigger's revised Flavor Match algorithm, which strives to match the food preferences of the site's users to create more meaningful restaurant review results. The newest results are shown in the matrix above; click for a larger version. I've summarized the matches in the table below, and have also reprinted the relevant results from the last event at LudoBites.

  Evelina Liz Will Brian Danny Eddy Caroline H.C. Holly Jackie Marshal Christine
Current Match V High V High V High High High High Med Med Med Med Med Low
Previous Match 79 n/a 79 73 97 n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a 61 n/a

Note that Sarah is conspicuously absent, as she did not answer the Flavor Match questionnaire in time. Note also the correlation between new and old matches--I'd say that the new version is a bit more true-to-life.

BondSt FoodDigger Menu
Above, we see the special 12-course FoodDigger degustation--click for a larger version. Apparently, Redzikowski is working on incorporating a daily tasting menu into BondSt's carte. Wine pairings were graciously provided by the FoodDigger staff, with Brian specifically taking the lead as sommelier.

Prosecco Sangria
Amuse Bouche: Prosecco Sangria | edible
We started with a course that Redzikowski had been developing the week prior to the event. It was a reimagined sparkling wine sangria, made from Rainier and Bing cherries, along with yuzu and lemon. The "sphere" itself was expectedly saccharine, and slightly creamy in fact, with a fascinating soft, dense consistency. It was balanced nicely by the light, tart citrus granita, though I would've preferred a stronger tinge of Prosecco to counter the abundant sweetness. Liz thought that it'd make a great intermezzo, a pre-dessert or palate cleanser, and I'd agree with her.

Quail Egg
1: Quail Egg | canadian chanterelles, parsley, prosciutto
Theo Minges 2007 Riesling Germany
Next was one of the table favorites: chanterelle mushrooms in chanterelle foam, on quail egg, with Prosciutto di Parma, on top of parsley purée. It was a multilayered, multifaceted affair, with the parsley coming in on the attack, which then gave way to the saltiness of the ham and earthiness of the mushroom, before leading to the creaminess of the egg, finally finishing with the bracing herbaceous tang of parsley. The key here was the vegetable, which effectively cut the gravity of the Prosciutto and chanterelles, though perhaps it was a touch too strong. Interestingly, Christine mentioned that the dish reminded her of the escargot at LudoBites.

Foie Gras
2: Foie Gras | spiced rice crispy treats, yogurt in three forms
Palari Faro 2003 Spain
Overly-sweet foie gras is a bane of mine, so I was naturally concerned when this came out: caramelized and seared foie gras over a Rice Krispies square, with lemon pepper, cacao, basil, and a yogurt three-way (plain, powder, and chip). It was quite sugary in fact, but I think that it was so sugary that it actually made the dish work! The Rice Krispies treat, with its subtle spice, was a superb accompaniment to the foie, both in terms of taste and texture, seemingly simultaneously supplementing, yet subduing it. The course was almost dessert-like initially, and it was only on the late midpalate that the essence of liver began to show its face, resulting in a long, lingering finish of foie.

Alaskan King Crab
3: Alaskan King Crab | in its butter, preserved meyer lemon
Zuiyo Junmai Sake
This was one of my favorites: king crab cooked in crab butter (innards), with meyer lemon. After enjoying the crab's heady bouquet, I first tasted the natural sweetness of the crustacean, which then gave way to an intense, briny savoriness, accentuated by the citrus. Superb texturally as well, with the crab's flesh firm, yet yielding, breaking apart upon mastication.

Santa Barbara Spot Prawn
4: Santa Barbara Spot Prawn | ravioli, beets, ultra mini onion, red pepper jus
Le Grand Vallon Condrieu 2007 France
Another strong course. Here, I first tried one "raviolo" by itself, and appreciated the natural sweetness of the shrimp, along with the pasta's crispy skin. Next, eating everything together, I enjoyed how the prawn's sapor was finished by the marked spiciness of the chili jus, and how the onion provided a distinct levity and tang to the dish.

5: Halibut | parsley, garlic, beurre rouge
Louis Latour 2006 Montagny Premier Cru France
Next was a lovely halibut, prepared sous vide, doused with Cabernet sauce, and served with compressed eggs and parsley/garlic chips. I quite liked the fish's flaky, somewhat buttery texture, as well as its mild, delicately briny smack. The egg yolks were great in adding creaminess and weight to the halibut, while the parsley formed a fitting vegetal contrast.

The 'Kitchen'
At this point in the meal, we took a brief intermission as Will took us to see the "kitchen," which Redzikowski described as a "closet." It couldn't have been more than 200 square feet, but utilizing the the main kitchen, on the ground floor, just wouldn't have been feasible. Two turntables and a microphone? More like two induction burners and an immersion circulator.

Japanese Bouillabaisse Japanese Bouillabaisse
6: Japanese Bouillabaisse | lobster, squid, uni rouille
Le Galatin Rose Bandol 2008
Here we have one of the restaurant's most vaunted dishes: a Japanese-style bouillabaisse with shrimp, squid, lobster, whitefish, and quenelles (a term that humorously flummoxed one of our servers) of sea urchin rouille, in a red pepper-based broth. I loved the dish's positively intoxicating aroma, saturated with the essence of the sea. This continued onto the palate, where I was able to enjoy the flavor of each of the various types of seafood presented, all deftly cooked. Furthermore, the rouille and broth created a fantastic, fiery foil to the other ingredients, and I eagerly drank down the left over soup, imbued with the briny essence of the seafood. I also appreciated the presentation, with the use of sand, stones, and other tchotchkes reminiscent of some of the plating I've seen at Joël Robuchon

'Vietnamese Sandwich' 'Vietnamese Sandwich'
7: "Vietnamese Sandwich" | baguette, pork, pickled carrots
Singha Beer
If you've been following the chef on Twitter, you'd've seen that this was a dish he'd been working on for some time. It was also the item that I was most looking forward to. Basically Redzikowski's interpretation of the classic Vietnamese banh mi sandwich, it consisted of soy-cured pork, hoisin, daikon, carrot, cucumber, cilantro, and serrano chile, all on a housemade mini-baguette. The meat itself was robust indeed, and further elevated by the sweet and spicy hoisin. However, it was superbly contrasted by the tart, crunchy pickled veggies, and the cilantro especially. Though Redzikowski's banh mi didn't stray too far from the original, it was nevertheless quite delicious; my only quibble was that the baguette could've been softer.

Before our final savory course, we took a quick trip to the bar, where I ordered up my classic Mojito (10-Cane Rum, Fresh Lime, Sugar, Mint & Club Soda), a solid though not stellar version. Holly had The Cartel (Belvedere Orange, Orange Juice, Cranberry Juice, Muddled Jalapeno, Sugar Rim), which was much more interesting, with a rather intense fire that persisted on my palate for nearly a minute.

Sonoma Lamb Shoulder
8: Sonoma Lamb Shoulder | potato puree, carrot-ginger "cappuccino"
Txakoli Xarmant Spain
And now, lamb shoulder, over potato purée, topped with a ginger-carrot foam. The lamb itself was superb--tender and supremely flavorful, it was reminiscent of a braised preparation. It easily stood on its own, but I also liked the sweet-spicy counterbalance provided by the foam, as well as the tempering effect of the potato.

Mochi Donuts
9: Mochi Donuts | candied rhubarb, yogurt, coconut ice cream
Domaine de Piaugier Sablet 2007 France
And now, for our first dessert: Redzikowski's famous mochi donuts. Their fame is well deserved; the mochi was heavy, dense, chewy, with a sweet, rich, delectable sapor (must be the ricotta in there). They were fun to eat alone, but even better with the coconut ice cream and yogurt, which formed an effective counter to the gravitas of the mochi. Excellent.

'Mango Lassi'
10: "Mango Lassi" | traditional flavors
Apparently, the mango lassi is one of the chef's favorite libations. It's originally a South Asian concoction, a yogurt-based drink mixed with cream and mango. Redzikowski's version uses mango chip, mango gelée, and mint oil, along with a yogurt sponge. The end result recalls the classic lassi, a refreshing blend of sweet and tart, though I would've liked a bit more yogurt to balance things out.

'Bazooka Joe' 'Bazooka Joe'
'Bazooka Joe' 'Bazooka Joe'
11: "Bazooka Joe" | on the rocks
We finished with a troika of treats. First up was the vermilion-tinted Bazooka Joe shot, made with strawberry, rhubarb, and Veev (and acai-based spirit); it mimicked the flavor of bubble gum, reminding me of Big Red soda in fact. Next was the curry popcorn, which was superb: think popcorn, but with a subtle curry kick; Christine went through several bags! Last was the strawberry bonbon, wrapped in an origami-inspired paper box.

Brian Redzikowski Brian Redzikowski
After the meal, Chef Redzikowski came out to chat with us for a while, also handing out and signing the menus.

With Redzikowski at the helm, I expected a unique, fun dining experience, and I got just that. With his considerable pedigree and experience, Redzikowski has successfully managed to blend French, Asian, Californian, and even molecular techniques here, creating dishes that are a departure from the norm, exciting, and even a bit avant garde, though I think he's still maturing as a chef, still defining his style, with room to grow. Since taking over the kitchens at BondSt, Redzikowski has made significant progress in erasing the mistakes of years past, and from what I've read, has been able to nearly double the number of reservations made at the restaurant--I can see why. After being panned by foodies and critics alike, let's hope that BondSt can survive and prosper under Redzikowski's newfound leadership.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

seems a little weird to me that he bounced around through that many kitchens. must be a quick learner...

Friday, September 11, 2009 12:20:00 AM  
Blogger joanh said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

Friday, September 11, 2009 2:05:00 AM  
Blogger joanh said...

looks like quite a memorable meal! i love the dessert in the origami box

Friday, September 11, 2009 2:09:00 AM  
Blogger Aaron said...

I didn't realize that Redzikowski was so young.

1. The amuse was "edible"?
2. That king crab dish reminds me of the hairy crab at the U.
3. What are compressed eggs?
4. Given a choice between a cheap banh mi from Little Saigon and the banh mi here, which would you prefer?

We'll see if SIV will give it another shot

Friday, September 11, 2009 7:47:00 AM  
Blogger FoodDigger said...

It was a pleasure to share another great meal with you and the others. Chef Redzikowksi showed us some great flavors and has elevated BondSt from the ashes of SIV's scathing review. Thanks again for coming out!

Friday, September 11, 2009 7:48:00 AM  
Blogger dhkm said...

That quite a meal you have there, I especially like to Amuse Bouche and Mango Lassi.

But I don't get how the Japanese Bouillabaisse being Japanese.
Since the most commond Japanese style Seafood base Bouillabaisse that made in Japan, which stock are made by Skipjack tuna, seaweed, mushroom and shellfish. While there are other local/fram verion that are less wellknow, know of which use pepper as the base stock.

With that aside, to classified as a Western Bouillabaisse, what show on the plate, need to at lease be part of the the stock, while base on your worte, it only serve with a red pepper-based broth.

Japanese Hotpot/Bouillabaisse

Friday, September 11, 2009 8:28:00 AM  
Blogger MyLastBite said...

I want the Foie Gras & Rice Crispy Treats!

Friday, September 11, 2009 9:50:00 AM  
Blogger Hall-e said...

Great post, Kevin! I'm still lost in the awesome pics you took of the food. Descriptive, and easily captured my interest all the way through. That was a nice touch at the end! Now i want some more mochi donuts...that was easily my fave of the night.

Friday, September 11, 2009 3:12:00 PM  
Blogger Food, she thought. said...

Do I sense disappointment in the foie? I wasn't crazy about it myself. Also, your thorough approack to research makes me feel like a slacker. And your photos are stunning.

Sunday, September 13, 2009 9:23:00 AM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Anon: I believe all those places in NY were stages.

Joan: About those boxes, our server told us that he and his colleagues were the ones stuck folding them!

Aaron: Yeah, I think Brian's actually younger than me--a rarity.
1) The original name was "Edible Prosecco Sangria," so I believe the "edible" part was just transposed to be consistent with the rest of the menu.
2) I can see that. Though delicious, it wasn't as profound as the dish at Urasawa.
3) Like a very dense egg yolk.
4) This issue actually came up during the meal. Obviously I'll go to Little Saigon for banh mi--they're half the price and thrice as big! I wouldn't come to BondSt for the sandwich, but it is tasty and I would order it again.

Will: Thanks again for organizing the event; we all had a fantastic time! What's up next? ;)

Dason: The "Japanese" I believe refers to the ingredients--amaebi, uni, and ika--used in the bouillabaisse, not the stock itself. That being said, I'd be very interested to see what could be done by incorporating dashi into the broth.

Jo: It might not be a bad idea to bring a tray out as dessert. ;)

Holly: Thanks Holly! The donuts were one of the highlights for me as well. When can we expect your full report?

Liz: I appreciate the kind words Liz! The foie was actually better than I thought it'd be. ;)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009 5:58:00 PM  
Blogger Kung Food Panda said...

We can alway count on for a great detailed review from you Kevin! LOL

I have to say that fried mochi and ice cream was fantastic. I was lucky enough to get a 2nd plate via Marshal! LOL

Wednesday, September 16, 2009 2:10:00 AM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

How come? Marshal didn't like his?!?

Friday, September 18, 2009 5:33:00 PM  
Blogger Kung Food Panda said...

He was on some sort of diet (I forgot the exact details), but pretty much I ate for two and enjoyed most of the dishes.

Thursday, October 01, 2009 2:21:00 AM  

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