Monday, February 15, 2010

Petrossian (West Hollywood, CA)

321 N Robertson Blvd, West Hollywood, CA 90048
Mon 02/15/2010, 06:40p-11:30p

Petrossian Exterior
The story of Petrossian caviar goes back nearly a century, back to two Armenian brothers, Melkoum and Mouchegh Petrossian. Born on the Iranian side of the Caspian but raised on the Russian side, the Petrossian brothers immigrated to Paris during the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. During the Roaring Twenties, the Petrossians took advantage of the influx of Russian natives to introduce caviar, little known at the time, to the French people. The roe quickly caught on, and since then, Petrossian, with its privileged ties to Russian fisheries, has remained one of the top caviar distributors in the world.

The company is now run by Armen Petrossian, Mouchegh's son, and has since expanded its offerings to include foie gras, smoked salmon, and chocolates, amongst other gourmet items. Petrossian also operates restaurants in New York, Las Vegas (at the Bellagio), and right here in West Hollywood. Formerly an outpost of caviar merchant Aristoff (which Petrossian acquired), Petrossian WeHo opened up as a retail shop in 2001. The place stayed under the radar for years, before closing for four months and reopening as the Petrossian Paris Boutique & Café in July 2009, this time with a full-fledged cafe, serving brunch, lunch, and dinner.

To helm the new restaurant, Petrossian tapped French native Benjamin Bailly. Hailing from Valenciennes in the Nord department of northeastern France, Bailly knew that he was destined to become a chef by the age of 14. After graduating from Lycée Hotelier Sainte-Jeanne D'arc in the commune of Aulnoye-Aymeries, the Chef eventually moved to London to work at the Sheraton Park Tower. In 2004, Bailly relocated to Saint-Tropez to cook at Alain Ducasse's Spoon at the Hotel Byblos. The next year, he transitioned to Restaurant de Joël Robuchon at Monaco's Hotel Metropole, working as a commis. Following a year-long stint there, Bailly moved to Paris, serving in an almost "corporate" capacity with Robuchon. During this period, he worked as a chef de partie at the Paris outpost of L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon, but also helped open up other Robuchon restaurants around the globe.

Eventually, Bailly transferred to Las Vegas, where he toqued at Joël Robuchon at the Mansion (in fact, he cooked for me during my January 2008 visit there--small world!) before becoming a Sous Chef at L'Atelier. In 2009, Bailly was lured to Los Angeles, where he served a brief tenure under Christophe Émé at Ortolan. Interestingly, it was here where Bailly would meet Michael Cherney, who regular readers may remember as the culinary student who invited me to dinner at Bistro 31; Cherney currently serves as a poissonnier at L'Atelier Las Vegas. In May 2009, Bailly joined the Petrossian team as Executive Chef.

Perhaps (probably) because of Bailly, Petrossian has been getting an inordinate amount of press over the past months, with seemingly every food blogger worth his or her salt taking a crack at the place. Given all the publicity, I figured that it was finally time for me to give the place a shot. However, since the praises of Bailly's Black Truffle "Mac 'n' Cheese" and Napoléon Tartare have been sung countless times, I yearned for something special, something that hadn't been done before. Thus, I inquired about a custom menu, to show off the full extent of Bailly's abilities, unhampered by the constraints of Petrossian corporate--the Chef was more than happy to oblige. He even agreed to come in on a Monday (due to scheduling constraints, it was the only day I could come), normally one of his days off!

Petrossian Interior
Petrossian Interior
The old Petrossian underwent a significant remodel at the hands of designer David Davis of Studio Davis, with the room shown in the first photo transformed from office space to a retail/dining area, replete with a tall communal table and display cases for the company's luxurious wares. The second room, a more formal affair, sports black leather banquettes, black-and-white Tinseltown photos, and galucha-covered walls.

Petrossian Custom Menu
As mentioned above, I wanted to experience a departure from the norm at Petrossian, so a custom degustation was in order. I set a $120 per person budget, but other than that, Chef Bailly had carte blanche to come up with whatever he wanted--the resultant 12-course feast, comprised of typical menu items, new twists on standard dishes, and completely novel preparations, is shown above. Click for a larger version.

Petrossian Wine List Petrossian Wine List
Petrossian offers a small selection of wine, and a smattering of beer. Apparently, they're working on getting a liquor license as well (martini with caviar-stuffed olive anyone?). Click for larger versions.

Hibiscus Champagne
Upon being seated, we were quickly provided complementary glasses of Hibiscus Champagne [$12]. The sugariness of the hibiscus formed a fitting counter to the otherwise dry bubbly, while the flower itself tasted not unlike a Fruit Roll-Up!

Caviar Surprise Caviar Surprise
1: Caviar Surprise | King crab, apple cider
We began with a decadent, seemingly Robuchon-inspired dish: crab in apple gelée, crème fraiche, and a generous portion of Transmontanus Classic Caviar, all layered in a Petrossian tin and served with blinis and brioche. I first tried a bite of the tiny ebony globules alone. Sourced from Sterling Caviar in Northern California, the white sturgeon roe was distinctly briny, yet subtle--very nice. I then broke through the stratum of eggs with the provided mother of pearl spoon, making sure to get a firm dollop of all three layers. I loved the interplay between the sweetness of the crab and cider, the salty roe, and the cool, mild crème fraiche. A mélange of classic flavors, but perfectly executed--this compared very favorably to Robuchon's version.

Steak Tartare
2: Steak Tartare | Sushi style, caviar
One of the most celebrated dishes at Petrossian is the Napoléon Tartare, composed of alternating layers of caviar and beef. For this very special dinner, Bailly turned to his love of sushi to create this makizushi-inspired steak tartare, served here wrapped in soy paper, with toasted bread, and topped with more of that fine Transmontanus Classic Caviar. As expected, the beef was suitably tender, and I really appreciated the meat's slight vegetal tang (in fact, I would've liked even more cilantro--it was a superb complement), set off by the delicate brininess of the caviar. This dish was rather difficult to eat, however; smaller pieces would be better.

Perrier-Jouet Grand Brut, France NV
To wash down all this caviar, Champagne was a natural pairing. We went with a bottle of the Perrier-Jouët Grand Brut, France NV [$82], fairly prototypical of the style, but perhaps with a bit more in terms of honey and ginger notes.

Foie Gras Crème Brûlée
3: Foie Gras Crème Brûlée | Green apple espuma
Now normally, Bailly serves his foie crème brûlée with an accoutrement of fig marmalade. This time, however, he used a green apple foam instead. This was a fantastic decision. The apple provided a light, gossamer tartness that formed a faultless foil to foie's gravity. To that, the brûlée's caramelized top contributed a delightfully bitter crunchiness, and the whole amalgam was almost dessert-like in character, reminding me somewhat of the foie gras parfait I had at Per Se. This was clearly one of the highlights of the meal, and one of the best preparations of foie gras I've ever had, in fact.

Shrimp Papillote
4: Shrimp Papillote | Passion fruit, chili ginger sauce
Next was a standby from the regular menu, and a favorite of my dining companions. Here, I really appreciated the texture of the shrimp--it was just about perfectly cooked, with a wonderfully snappy, meaty consistency, paired with a subtly sweet sapor. Meanwhile, the included passion fruit and chili added a smattering of saccharine spice into the mix. You can almost think of this as sweet & sour shrimp tempura!

Truffle Butter, Bread
At this point, we were presented with bread and butter--and what a butter! Interleaved with bits of black truffle, it was simply the most intense version that I'd ever tasted. This was the first time where I'd actually taken the bread and butter home with me.

Mona Lisa Potato
5: Mona Lisa Potato | Coddled egg, caviar
The "Mona Lisa" here actually refers to the type of potato, which I'd never encountered before. In any case, the potato was transformed into a silky smooth, delicately-flavored potage. Hiding below the surface, however, was a wonderfully runny, gently-cooked egg. Once I broke into it, the yolk spilled out, adding an fantastically immense heft to the dish, a perfect complement to the relative levity of the potato. The caviar, at the same time, punctuated the dish with its piercing saltiness. Gorgeous.

Maine Lobster Nage
6: Maine Lobster Nage | Cantaloupe, nectarine
This next gamboge-hued dish consisted of an entire lobster tail, bathed in an almost bisque-like nage, accompanied by fruit. The broth was teeming with the positively heady aroma of lobster, augmented by an opulent, decadent butteriness. The various fruits, meanwhile, acted as a surprisingly good temper to the immense savoriness of the crustacean, and made for a nice temperature contrast to boot. The lobster, though, was a bit overdone for my tastes.

Caviar Pizza
7: Caviar Pizza | Crème fraîche, capers, red onion
One of the more interesting items on Petrossian's menu is the caviar "pizza," served here in miniature form. The crème fraîche acted as the sauce, tying together all the other toppings. The caviar was quite apparent on the attack, but the finish was all about the tangy red onion. I quite enjoyed the "thin crust!"

Crispy Egg Crispy Egg
8: Crispy Egg | Cippolini onion soubise, caviar
The Crispy Egg came in two versions: one using Pressed Caviar, and one using the same Transmontanus Classic that we'd be having. The pressed version was much more concentrated in flavor, with a firm, paste-like consistency--I preferred the standard roe. Getting back to the rest of the dish, I adored the luscious, runny egg yolk and its interaction with its crispy, savory, panko-esque batter, and how the onion contributed a lingering astringency to the dish. Superb.

Skate Wing Grenobloise
9: Skate Wing Grenobloise | Crushed potato, brown butter, caper, sherry vinegar
Traditionally, Grenobloise refers to a preparation in which beurre noisette, capers, lemon, and parsley are used. Bailly's version was delightfully savory, with an absolutely marvelous pepperiness, perked up by the smack of the capers and vinegar gelée. The best part, though, was the fish's ridiculously tender consistency--it literally fell apart on my fork! My only issue was that the brown butter could be a bit overwhelming in certain bites. One of my dining companions even preferred this skate to a version at Le Bernardin--I'd agree.

Veal Sweet Bread
10: Veal Sweet Bread | Baby spinach, hen of the wood, parmesan
Our last savory course consisted of sautéed throat sweetbreads, complemented with mushrooms, spinach, and Parmigiano-Reggiano. The sweetbreads were beautifully savory at first taste, transitioning to a mild, slightly gamy savor on the close. I loved the use of spinach in moderating the power of the thymus, while the maitakes contributed an earthy weight to the dish. My only complaint was that I would've liked a crisper consistency.

Tsar Imperial Ossetra Caviar
Pre-Dessert: Tsar Imperial Ossetra Caviar | Crème fraîche, blini
Chef Bailly surprised us with this "pre-dessert" course, comprised of dollops of Tsar Imperial Ossetra Caviar, a pricey roe retailing for $208 an ounce. Compared to the other caviar that we had, these tiny beads, awash in beautiful shades of onyx and olive, were much more refined in flavor, with a marked buttery, nutty character that was simply stupendous.

Pistachio Crème Brûlée
11: Pistachio Crème Brûlée | Macerated strawberry, hibiscus
The first dessert course was a remarkable crème brûlée, imbued with the ethereal essence of pistachio nut. The sweetness of the hibiscus and strawberry combined with the bitterness of the caramel to form a superb complement to the delectable, beautifully-flavored custard.

Gianduja Parfait
12: Gianduja Parfait | Hazelnut biscuit, vanilla mascarpone
Gianduja is, of course, a hazelnut-infused preparation of chocolate. Here, it's lip-smackingly sweet-nutty flavor was nicely balanced by the relatively mild mascarpone, while the hazelnut biscuit provided a wonderfully crisp textural element. The whole thing reminded me of a Ferrero Rocher!

G.E. Massenez Poire Williams
As a digestif, Chef Bailly poured us complementary shots from his personal bottle of G.E. Massenez's Poire Williams, a pear-flavored eau de vie (fruit brandy) from Distillateur à Bassemberg in Alsace. The brandy's nose gave away pure, sweet hints of pear fruit, but on the palate, the eau de vie was suitably hot, yet refreshing, with a long, lingering finish. Nice!

Petrossian Kitchen
After dinner, we were given a brief tour of Petrossian's rather small kitchen. With only four burners and not too much else, we were told that things can get rather hectic on busy nights. The limitations of the kitchen, unfortunately, also limit what can make it on the menu.

All in all, Bailly crafted a masterful, memorable experience for all of us, in the form of a 12-course extravaganza. The young chef clearly has technique in spades, and a clean, refined but relaxed style. The issue I see is that Bailly is not free to cook what he wants--everything must be scrutinized by headquarters. Famously, the Chef created a small plates menu (probably a wise choice, given the times), only to have the concept nixed. I was able to catch a glimpse of what Bailly is capable of when he's freed from the bondage of his corporate handlers. The higher-ups at Petrossian would be wise to loosen their grip on him and let the Chef do his thing, lest they lose Bailly for good.

Chef Benjamin Bailly


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post, Kevin. Interesting to see some new plays on his dishes. The tartare is a complete departure. When we went, we did a 9 course tasting including small plate versions of some of the standard menu dishes and I agree. A small plates menu would be welcomed. Good to see a pic of the foie creme brulee too. I need to go back, if nothing else, for that.

Thursday, February 18, 2010 2:40:00 AM  
Blogger MyLastBite said...

Ben Bailly = ROCK STAR.

Plus he can COOK.

Thursday, February 18, 2010 5:52:00 AM  
Blogger Kung Food Panda said...

Damn Kevin, damn! You had to just top us all at Petrossian huh? :)

As what Jo said, Ben Bailly = Rock Star!

I need to post my last visit, and you beat me to it with the Caviar Surprise :P If you go back, let me know, k?

Thursday, February 18, 2010 6:53:00 AM  
Anonymous fel said...

When you tweeted that you had dined at Petrossian, I was wondering what you had ordered. Now I see - and I am ridiculously jealous.

It's also great to see what else Ben has up his sleeve. If this is a reflection of what else he can cook, Corporate should definitely let him loose. (I just want to be able try some of this stuff!)

Thursday, February 18, 2010 8:05:00 AM  
Blogger Charlie Fu said...

good price for the meal Kevin, looks tasty.

Thursday, February 18, 2010 8:35:00 AM  
Blogger nelehelen said...

12 course custom?! *jealous*

food looks amazing... petrossian has been on my go to list for some time.. dont' know why i never go, especially when it's near where i live!

Thursday, February 18, 2010 10:56:00 AM  
Blogger Christie Bishop said...

Excellent post. The steak tartare and crispy egg look incredible. And agreed, it would be great for Petrossian to let Bailly transform the menu on his own terms.

Thursday, February 18, 2010 3:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Elan Evron said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Friday, February 19, 2010 7:04:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The "bondage" of Chef Bailly by his "handlers"? Really! 8 dishes out of 12 already are on the Petrossian menu! I failed to see where or how Mr Bailly's creativity is being stifled.

Friday, February 19, 2010 8:17:00 AM  
Blogger stuffycheaks said...

Your post makes me want to head back, STAT! Foie creme brulee, mona lisa potato, caviar innovative and obviously delicious. Thanks for sharing!

Friday, February 19, 2010 9:56:00 AM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Linden: Your post got me quite excited about my meal here. I'd like to see Bailly replace the current foie brulee with the version that we had.

Jo: We were, of course, talking about you during the meal. ;)

Danny: Come on now, you should know by now. Over-the-top is my bread and (truffle) butter. ;)

Fel: Though it's not exactly a challenging or particularly inventive dish, I still do need to try the legendary mac+cheese that you (and seemingly everybody else!) had.

Charlie: Great price indeed, especially considering all the caviar. Portions were extremely generous, so generous in fact that we asked Bailly to only make two servings of each dish instead of three at the end.

Helen: I'm wondering the same thing!

Christie: Yep, you got it. Get yourself here, and Lazy Ox too! ;)

Anon: 8/12? Perhaps if you count variations of a dish as the same dish. That's really not the point though. The bigger issue is that, despite being the Executive Chef, Bailly can't really do what he wants with the menu. This notion has been expressed by the Chef numerous times, and is lamented by members of the foodie community.

Stuffy: I just reread your post on Petrossian. It's worth coming back for some of the other items that you missed.

Friday, February 19, 2010 5:55:00 PM  
Blogger food je t'aime said...

Mmm everything looks so yummy. I'm super jealous! I guess it serves me right for choosing to eat at Petrossian for the first time during DineLA week. I'll definitely have to go back and give it another try!

Saturday, February 20, 2010 3:00:00 AM  
Blogger Fred said...

Excellent post as usual!
The parisian version of Restaurant Petrossian is not that much fun.

and funny grammatical mistake in french in the chef's signature :)

Sunday, February 21, 2010 6:06:00 AM  
Blogger gourmetpigs said...

I second KFP, you just had to outdo us all :P
Good thing my review was on their brunch and no one else did that haha

But lucky you getting this special tasting menu, it looks amazing and seems like he made some notable improvements on some standby dishes!

Sunday, February 21, 2010 9:12:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Christina: That's why I don't do DineLA. ;)

Fred: Ha! Can you point out the error?

Fiona: During our meal, Ben actually mentioned you. He said that you were one of the first bloggers to visit Petrossian last year!

Monday, February 22, 2010 1:26:00 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Nice Kevin!
Awesome Ben!

P.S. I work fish station now :p Hope all is well guys!!

~Michael Cherney

Monday, February 22, 2010 12:34:00 PM  
Blogger nelehelen said...

a couple of my gfs are taking me here for the champagne brunch for my bday in march.. so.. pfffffffft =P haha! how mature of me.. i'm sure it won't compare to your custom 12 course, but great food is great food! :) i'm very excited!

Monday, February 22, 2010 4:33:00 PM  
Blogger Banana Wonder said...

i'd go just for the bread and butter...and that pistachio creme brule.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010 12:21:00 AM  
Blogger Higarachi said...

Wow, sounds a like a great meal. I've been itching for a full caviar experience, this place sounds great!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010 10:31:00 AM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Mike: Good to hear from you--congrats on the promotion! I've made the update.

Helen: Nice! Are you getting the Champagne Brunch or the Caviar & Champagne Brunch? Where else are you going for your birthday?

Anna: You might not be able to resist ordering more. ;)

Josh: If you've got a craving for caviar, this would be the first place to consider.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010 1:18:00 AM  
Blogger Frequent Traveler said...

Good Thursday to you Kevin.
I find your taste impeccable and you've sent me to some excellent restaurants via your reviews.
We're going to try Petrossian Saturday night because of you:)

Thursday, February 25, 2010 1:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you have the best food blog in L.A.

I was wondering what food sites or blogs you regularly read?

Saturday, February 27, 2010 3:57:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Annie: How did your meal here turn out?

Anon: Thanks. Surprisingly, I actually don't read too much regularly, perhaps Eater LA if anything. That being said, I tend to just browse around and read stuff that piques my interest. This works out pretty well.

Sunday, February 28, 2010 5:44:00 AM  
Blogger Aaron said...

I was wandering around Midtown the other day and noticed a rather fancy looking restaurant. Lo and behold, this was the New York Petrossian. I'll have to try the one here sometime, although a caviar tasting menu seems more like the type of thing to do once I have a job.

Monday, March 01, 2010 6:58:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Aaron, I'd save your first Petrossian experience for WeHo. The NY restaurant's menu doesn't seem nearly as interesting.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010 12:08:00 AM  
Blogger Frequent Traveler said...

Good Tuesday morning to you, Kevin.

The foie gras creme brulee was outstanding.

The green bean salad and the frisee au lardons were VERY good.

My parents loved their shortribs, calimari, and scallops.

I found the hangar steak tartare with caviar tough and unappetizing, actually sent it back.
It simply can't compare to Cut's Kobe steak tartare.

Dessert (the pistachio creme brulee) was okay.
I liked the combInation of the pistachio and the strawberry, but it was a bit heavy compared to a a feather light classic creme brulee that has been well prepared.

Service was very good.

We'll definitely be going back.

Surprisingly enough, at 8:00 p.m. on Saturday night there were only 3 tables seated... It was a ghost town. Frankly, that was fine with me, because it meant the noise level was down low enough we could easily hear one another talk at our table.

Thank you for the recommendation:)

Tuesday, March 02, 2010 8:58:00 AM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Great to hear that you had a good time here--I'm surprised about the tartare though!

Thursday, March 04, 2010 1:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ahh... very interesting combination with the caviar + onion soubise. i'm a big, big fan of anything egg since my youth and your photo of the "crispy egg" is amazing. [drool]

thank you for sharing~ have been reading your blog for nearly 3 hours long [crazy] ...if i'm ever back in LA, will definately try Petrossian out! -Mariejean

Saturday, March 13, 2010 12:39:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Wow, three years? Now that's dedication--you must've started out when I was still posting on Myspace!

Sunday, March 14, 2010 3:32:00 AM  
Blogger nelehelen said...

i'm finally going for dinner this friday!! woohoo!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010 8:07:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

You cancelled your Grace reservation? Are you going to talk to Chef Bailly about PbP?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010 8:15:00 PM  
Blogger nelehelen said...

Yep. I switched out Grace for Petrossian... Guess I'll just have to wait for Grace when they reopen in dtla! I'm going to see if Petrossian would be willing to donate caviar for our VIP lounge. :) Hopefully, they will agree!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010 8:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post Kevin. Thanks to you, I am now craving caviar and I never thought I'd say that. Thanks to my mom forcing me to eat it as a child (for the fish vitamins), I am not a fan. But now I want some.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010 5:07:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Compared to what I was forced to eat as a child, caviar doesn't sound too bad!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010 7:18:00 PM  

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