11647 San Vicente Blvd | Los Angeles, CA 90049 | (424) 273-1660 | Baltaire.com | Prices: $$$$
By ANGELA DE FELICE | Food and Style Writer
The exterior fireplace at the entrance of Brentwood’s happening new steakhouse, Baltaire, flickers like a beacon calling all carnivores. The experience on the other side of the oversized double-door entry, however, stretches beyond the limits of what you might expect.
The trio of owners, best known for the adjacent Coral Tree Café, along with Executive Chef Travis Strickland, has created an inclusive menu to please just about everyone. Determined to explore every element of the enlightened contemporary menu, my accomplice and I settled onto a bench at a table smack dab in the center of the cavernous main dining room.
We were astonished the former location of the humble Cheesecake Factory had been transformed into a Mid-Century Modern atmosphere worthy of a leisurely meal a la Mad Men. Thanks to Beverage Director and certified Sommelier David Vaughn, they have the hooch to back such a fantasy.
Harmonious design elements including Carrera marble, parquet wood flooring, another fireplace, leather chairs, and Edison bulbs twinkling in the chandeliers make up the main dining room – which also features a clear view into the glass enclosed kitchen; while the expansive terrace is made up of sofas draped with throws around a fireplace and tables arranged under a fully retractable roof. The über-clubby bar area, which serves a limited linner menu between 3-5, boasts yet another fireplace, wood paneling, tall leather stools and tufted sofas, punctuated by brass fixtures. There are even three private dining rooms accommodating up to 60, 40, and 20 people respectively.
We eased into lunch with a couple of signature dishes. A smoky trio of nicely charred Grilled Artichokes was tasty on their own, but over-the-top delicious dipped in the accompanying Meyer lemon aioli. My partner-in-crime got to the heart faster than anyone I’ve ever seen.
The Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail was beautifully presented. This classic consists of three hearty shrimp that are more like six considering the scale.
L.A.’s current obsession with Ahi Tuna Poke was made sophisticated and sweet christened with yuzu and a dash of black sesame and macadamia. The accompanying taro root chips served as a crunchy delivery system for each morsel of tender tuna and avocado.
Vaughn appointed a delectable flight of wine to enhance the light appetizers. The Stift Goettweig Messwein Rosé was my favorite of the threesome. This fresh and fruity wine has been made exactly the same way for centuries, by permission of the Bishop, in an Austrian monastery. As Vaughn so acutely expressed, “Made by monks, approved by God – you can’t go wrong.”
One by one the plates from the next course crowded the table for four. Highlights included the creamiest, most decadent Crab Mac And Cheese side order I’ve ever had the good fortune to savor. An accompanying glass of 2011 Pernand-Vergelesses Burgundy seemed to be made of crushed rubies. The sour cherry notes cut the richness of the mac and cheese. The wine eventually opened revealing a spiciness, which made it the perfect pairing to the Steak Frites entrée, which is available on both lunch and dinner menus.
About that beautiful slab of sirloin, it is a prime cut. Considering his provenance Chef Travis knows exactly what to do with a steak like that. Having cut his teeth in top steakhouses in the Windy City, where flavor profiles are mostly salt and fat, Chef Travis’ face lit up when he compared shopping our farmers markets versus the farmers market in Chicago. In the Mid-West the stalls would still be filled with root vegetables, whereas we’re already into a bounty that includes stone fruit. I likened it to being an artist who suddenly has all the colors of the spectrum available to him and he agreed.
The Lobster Grilled Cheese is another masterful signature lunch dish. The pillowy brioche bread is spread with tarragon aioli, giving off an almost perfumed flavor. The copious stack of lobster is tender and buttery, and the side of bread and butter pickles is a nice touch.
The final round began with Matcha Tea prepared tableside by Vaughn. The Matcha, which is known to be helpful in digestion and loaded with antioxidants, was ceremoniously whisked and served in a beautiful piece of pottery handmade by a local artisan.
Matcha is not the only menu item prepared tableside, Dover sole is deboned and Greek salad is tossed with classy old-school élan.
The theme of decadence continued into dessert with German Chocolate Cake and Beignets. Coconut sorbet, cacao nibs and chocolate sauce served alongside the cake added a modern twist to this classic. The beignets were not greasy in the least. We alternated between dunking them in the crème Anglaise, coffee and chocolate sauces as we sipped organic lattes.
The terrace sofas and throws beckoned as the restaurant, long empty save for our table, dressed up for the evening rush in linens and candles.
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