The mile and a half stretch of Sunset Boulevard between Havenhurst Drive in Hollywood and Sierra Drive in Beverly Hills, known as the Sunset Strip, has been a hub of nighttime activity since the 1920s. To this day, the Strip continues to be a destination for creatures of the night.
Oliver’s Prime, the sumptuous steakhouse positioned at street level inside the Grafton Hotel, has managed to channel the Hollywood razzle-dazzle of lore. The pampering began the moment we settled into the white, tufted banquettes of the intimate dining room. The simple act of opening the menus became ceremonial as they illuminated our softly lit nook. They were cleverly backlit to reveal just how difficult it was going to be to narrow down the mouth-watering options.
Sophisticated cocktails in hand, we managed the task with the expert guidance of our server. The timing of the Tuna Rolls couldn’t have been better. My Oliver’s Spicy Twist libation featured the dueling sensation of cooling cucumber paired with fresh jalapeño – the Tuna Rolls came in handy when the heat from the jalapeño lemongrass vinaigrette kicked in. The flaky Dungeness crab swaddled in thinly sliced melt-in-your-mouth tuna are a must-have. If you’re in a large group, be sure to order more than one serving.
Up next was an anomaly in Italian cuisine. There are more than a few purists out there who think it’s a crime to combine cheese with seafood, and I can think of several Italian dining establishments who will refuse the request for a dusting of Parmigiano over pasta with seafood. This next dish blows that theory out of the water.
The Lobster Caprese, topped with copious dollops of pesto and basil bouquet, was as pretty as it was delicious. Voluptuous morsels of lobster were layered over thick slices of Mozzarella. The entire dish was unified by a balsamic reduction.
Just as we were ooing over the Caprese, out came squash blossoms oozing with goat cheese. The delicate blooms were lightly battered and fried tempura-style with oven-roasted cherry tomatoes on top. Order it while you still can – the addition to the menu is as ephemeral as the flowers themselves.
The wine list signaled things were about to get heavy. We promptly ordered two glasses of 2011 Mount Veeder Napa Cabernet. The garnet-colored wine hinted at violet, ripe stone fruit and herbs – perfect to enhance our 35-Day Dry Aged New York Strip Steak and Filet of Bison.
The buxom Strip Steak, rife with marbling and robust flavor, melted in our mouths like butter. The Bison was sweeter in taste but equally tender. Both were served with accompanying ramekins of Creamy Horseradish Sauce and luxurious Bordelaise Sauce. A fragrant sprig of rosemary tucked into the roasted garlic bulb was a nice touch.
We christened it our “Happy Meal” as we smeared the caramelized garlic onto the flesh, immersing the bites in the Bordelaise. Sometimes our forkfuls needed no embellishment at all, as we alternated between the options.
We ordered sides of Pearl Onions and Applewood Bacon, a delectable dish I would ordinarily associate with the holiday season, and Thai Chili Broccolini. Broccolini is my favorite Brassica and a mandatory selection whenever possible.
When it came to dessert, Oliver Prime’s presentation includes olfactory theatricality. Other restaurants in the city are cashing in on this extreme approach to sight and smell and it works.
Our Bread Pudding with crème Anglaise and a scoop of ice cream resembled French toast. It was served on a plank with an inverted “empty” glass. Suddenly, the glass was lifted and waved in our faces, releasing a concentrated nutmeg/cinnamon scent in a flurry of smoke.
The magic must have carried over into the eating of our dessert – in a puff it was gone.
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