9882 Santa Monica Blvd.
Beverly Hills, CA 90212
By MICHAEL AUSHENKER | Contributing Writer
At the Peninsula Beverly Hills, The Belvedere’s Executive Chef David Codney puts on quite a kitchen show.
In January 2015, The Belvedere re-opened as a seafood-centric Mediterranean concept. Codney overhauled the offerings for a seasonally driven, locally sourced menu. What’s refreshing about every Belvedere plate is how fresh it tastes and how light on its feet it feels, not relying on any excesses of butter, oil, sodium or sauces to sell you on what you’re eating.
Codney believes in letting the produce’s inherent powers and the natural flavors of the meats and seafood shine through. In every bite, these ingredients stand out as individual notes, not blurred within a wall of sound.
The care that goes into a Codney plate is tremendous, as the chef explained how he actually flies in the fish from Dover, Delaware, for Wild English Dover Sole. However, that care extends to his spectacular and popular Harissa Lamb Tagine, dotted with Za’atar carrots and date-pine nut chutney, and Mary’s Natural Half Chicken, immersed in red quinoa, butternut squash and pepitas. Presentation here is formal; the meat, tender, moist and natural.
Fattoush, an Arabic salad made with fresh cucumber and parsley, Bulgarian feta cheese, and grilled pita bread, has a subtext of roasted shallot yogurt. As simple as this starter may appear on the menu, each and every ingredient here is vivid, as Codney maintains an ever-expanding rooftop garden at the Peninsula; all natural, no emulsifiers.
“Too many people over-think stuff,” Codney said, summing up his philosophy of approaching his dishes. A fresh and flavorful Dungeness Crab Flatbread appetizer followed, topped with confit tomatoes and garlic aioli.
We only tried two of the cocktails with our meal and both were delicious. The Aperol Spritz is a citrus-y affair co-mingling bright orange Aperol with St.-Germain liquor and lemon. For something blunter: The Smoking Gun (mezcal, elderflower, guava) is an excellent alternative to an Old Fashioned.
Dessert arrived in the form of a trio of vibrant plates topped by the crown jewel of restaurant desserts, the Fabergé Egg. This faux objet d’art—with its ornately hand-decorated and impressively detailed dark chocolate shell—was so visually dynamic, it begot a flurry of questions. We learned the Belvedere had its own in-house dessert overlord, Pastry Chef Stephanie Boswell.
What’s extra impressive about these chocolate eggs is that they are not made in advance but are made per order, and Boswell related how, on larger orders for this menu item, she and her crew will execute the eggs assembly line style in rapid succession.
Reluctantly, we cracked our egg and enjoyed its peanut butter, raspberry and sourdough yolk, with its sprinkling of Hawaiian black salt, as Boswell reflected on the thought behind this oxymoronic delight, with “the outside so austere [yet] playful on the inside with peanut butter and jelly.”
Boswell’s abstract expressionist take on two standards—Red Velvet Cake (with strawberries, balsamic vinegar and olive oil) and Baked Alaska Remembered—are as much a feast for the eyes as they are for the stomach. She explained how her version, Baked Alaska Remembered, served on a slab of charcoal in a splatter of dark chocolate and caramelized coconut, is basically a deconstructed version of the popular cruise-ship staple symbolizing the effects of global warming.
“Alaska is literally baking right now,” she said, pointing out how she wanted it to look all “black and industrial with some succulent plants growing through it. It’s tongue-in-cheek.”
If you intend to impress company with a spectacular dessert, this is the spot for that.
Out on the enclosed patio, in the perfect LA sunshine with the Mediterranean water fountain softly dribbling in the background, the Southern California restaurant experience doesn’t get any better than this.