Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Maude

How is it almost February already? Did January really disappear so quickly?

Reminiscing about the past isn't something I do outside of life as a food blogger, but there are times that I'm really, really glad that I reminisce about the meals I had because they were just damn awesome. And my credit card statement really does force me to think about some of them, like this one.

Due to quite a bit of coincidence, M and I managed to score a NYE reservation at the tiny, tiny restaurant Maude in Beverly Hills, LA. With a new menu every month focusing on a single star seasonal ingredient and headed up by Curtis Stone, this was a must try as soon as  we discovered its existence. 

The NYE menu was always going to be extra special (with an extra special/expensive price tag of $250 per head excluding tax and tips to match of course), and there was no better way to start than a glass of Krug. 

Krug
When I say Maude is tiny, I mean it's really tiny. At a maximum it seats 25 people and there's a clear view into the kitchen area.

Maude
Maude
This creates a comfortable sense of intimacy. The mellow lighting and vintage silverware and crockery also adds to this (although contributes to some less than perfect photos so you'll have to excuse me).

Being a fine dining restaurant, the menu started off with some amuse-bouche.

Pumpkin Packet
Eel
Uni
Oyster
Straight up we were incredibly impressed by how much flavour and texture each of these small dishes had, and the obvious care that had gone into crafting them. How can you not have fun with packets that burst with liquid flavour (the pumpkin packets) or foam (accenting oyster).

From there we moved onto pancakes.

Traditional Caviar
Yep, tiny fluffy pancakes (blini?). I prefer to think pancakes are the star of the show here because they're just too darn cute, but of course they're overshadowed by the indulgently delicious generous heaping of salty cavier. In keeping with a winter theme, there was some pumpkin puree to lend a touch of sweetness to the dish. 

Next up was a squash salad. 

Squash salad with farro, watercress and pumpkin
The presentation of these dishes really are beautiful. The composition is beautiful to look at and the colours were so much more vibrant in person (curse that yellow lighting). The textures also played nicely in this dish with the crunch of the farro contrasting nicely with the lightness of the squash foam and the crispness of the watercress.

Course 4 (if you count the amuse-bouche as a single course) was a Hiramasa Crudo.

Hiramasa Crudo with Bottarga, Pumpkin Cured Salmon Roe and Dashi Gel
The hiramasa, otherwise known as yellowtail kingfish, was delicately soft and a deceptively large serve. Accented with two types of roe, it was a great reflection of fresh seafood. The dashi gel is always great fun, although in this instance I'll admit it didn't have much of a flavour. 

More seafood for the next course:

Striped Bass with Little Gem, Anchovy and Chicken
Take a lightly seared fillet of bass with some little gem lettuce and chicken skin and you have another good tasting dish. I probably liked the other dishes more than this one, but it's not like this was skimping on taste or presentation in any sense.  

Lobster, Carrot, Buttermilk and Curry
How could I not like this next dish? Sweet, tender lobster, with slightly crisp/crunchy carrots and a slightly tangy sauce. I've only just started cooking with lobster myself, and am now determined to get my hands on some incredibly fresh lobster. Pity it's the wrong season though.  

When they brought the next dish out, I had flashbacks to Chemistry courses in university. 

Consomme
Isn't that coffee siphon? Indeed it was, but the creative minds at Maude had appropriated it to make a consomme.

Consomme
A ramen-style broth (without any pork) heated heated through a combination of herbs including fennel and beech was entertaining to watch (and isn't fine dining about classy entertainment?). 

It was then poured over a combination of dried mushrooms (enoki & oyster) and squid to create a moorish Japanese-inspired broth. 

Consomme with Squid, Mushrooms, Fennel and Beech
I will take a detour and say that this was 'wine-matched' with sake. Different but somehow it worked!

The next dish was simply glorious. 

Truffle Ravioli with White Alba Truffle
Look at that ridiculous amount of white truffle! It was shaved at the table and the scent was overwhelmingly indulgent. M was in positive ecstasy, but then again he loves truffles more than the average person. 

The dish was comforting, and indulgent and made us incredibly happy. It had the side effect of making us incredibly full as it was unsurprisingly filling, not that we really cared.

We did have to soldier on through three other courses, not including dessert!

Pheasant with Kabocha Squash, Parsley Root and Pearl Onion
The next dish really couldn't hit the lofty heights of the truffle dish, but that was to be expected. It was nevertheless well balanced with pheasant cooked two ways, another riff on the squash theme and a slight tang from pickled onions.  Can we also just take another moment to appreciate the beauty of vintage silverware? Time to hit up some markets myself I think.

Wagyu Cheek with Nori, Radish and Turnip 
Whilst the puffy white thing is reminiscent of pork crackling, it's not. It was in fact beef tendon. Just let that sink in a bit. Beef tendon? How did they manage to do that to something that's meant to be tough and inedible until it's stewed to death? It worked incredibly well with the Australian Wagyu and so we had another great dish. 

Wrapping up a meal, it's almost expected that there'll be a cheese dish and indeed there was.

Vacherin with Pumpkin 'Caviar'
I'll admit that this was the only dish that I couldn't finish. After all, there's only so much rich dairy that I can take. The cheese was reminiscent of Camembert, but with a stronger flavour and was paired beautifully with the slightly sweet pumpkin 'caviar'. Once again, I have no idea what magic they used to turn pumpkin into tiny little balls of flavour, but it was gleefully impressive.  

Then it was on to dessert.

Pomegranate Sorbet
As a foreshadowing of the January menu, the first dessert was a refreshing pomegranate sorbet. Slightly bitter, it was nevertheless interesting and delicious.

The second dessert was significantly heavier. 

Kuri Squash Beignet with Rice Sorbet, Carmel & Cinnamon
A rich, rich dessert that had plenty of sweetness, it was perfectly accompanied by a bitter coffee.

Espresso
After all, this grandma needs some caffeine if staying up till midnight was required. 

Petit Fours
As a final bookend to our meal, we were served petit fours (or should it be petit threes?). The macarons could have rivaled any good bakery, and the gellies were a perfect sweet ending.

All that was left after this was a midnight champagne toast to celebrate the new year with other diners and the hardworking staff.   

Nightcap
We had a great time at Maude: it was our first fine dining NYE experience, first degustation experience in the USA and it did not disappoint. While expensive, it was a worthy investment for a night of culinary alchemy/magic, the best service you could hope for, and of course, great tasting food with plenty of indulgences sprinkled throughout. This is by no means a typical menu (because really, NYE is special) but looking at the menu for 2015, there's plenty to look forward to - truffles in November and December anyone? 

Maude Restaurant
212 South Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills, CA
Tue-Sat 530pm-10pm (reservations required)

Maude on Urbanspoon