Despite what you think of Gordon Ramsay, I like the guy. You can’t push a team to their absolute limit and achieve a level of unparalleled perfection by smiling, giving out hugs, how you doin’, and being a nice guy. I enjoy watching Kitchen Nightmares and Hells Kitchen and more so, I secretly enjoy watching him unleash his signature temper on any unfortunate underlings who didn’t meet his standards. I made it a life goal to see if I can get a proper raging from him and get a friend to film it. So when I was in LA for a certain conference, I made it a priority to swing by his one Michelin star gastronomic hangout, where I had a chance to do just that……
…except he wasn’t home. Probably busy counting money in one of his 10+ restaurants around the world (or lack of). So let’s just get on with the food.
Once we arrived, we realized this was definitely a high-end venue, the type of place James Bond would stay at. We didn’t pack our tuxedos, suits or Walter PPKs, but we were in our business casual gear, and still we felt we’re under-dressed. Despite this, I felt that the matire’D still treated us like a VIP. After we were seated, he immediately tried to connect with us by moving toward a younger, casual tone (we have a party of three guys of twenty-something). He continued by patiently explaining the menu in detail while making light jokes with us. I have never seen anyone from any restaurant that went above and beyond their prescribed level of service such as this. This was a big plus for me, and I will always remember this level of service over their great food which I will get into now.
My friends went for the three courses set menu while I opted for the four. I started with the Risotto, Duck Confit, Mascarpone Cheese for the starter. It was divine. The rice was cooked perfectly. The duck was tender to the point where it will almost melt in your mouth. The highlight of the dish was that it was PACK full of flavors. Once the spoon entered my mouth, it felt as if a flavor nuclear bomb exploded. Amazing stuff, I’ve never experienced anything quite like it.
My friend had the Handmade Linguini Pasta, Clams and Parsley and he said it was good. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to taste it so I can’t comment on it, but here’s a picture.
Having already had a lamb and a steak dish on the past two days, I wanted to try something different, so I had the Sauteed John Dory next for the main. Presentation was precise. It looked like something out of an art gallery. The fish tasted kind of bland – both on the skin and the inside, and to be honest I wasn’t blown away. I was expecting more of a wow factor in terms of taste, beyond the presentation. I then noticed the sides on the same dish – the Spanish chorizo, red cabbage puree, lyonnaise potato. I had a go and another flavor bomb went off. Then I realized I was suppose to eat them together. I’m an idiot.
My friends had the Roasted Lamb Rib-Eye and The London Burger, Grafton Cheddar, Fries. I didn’t try the burger as I had already been to In-And-Out and Five Guys just a day or two before, so my friend offered me a piece of the lamb. By the time I got it, it had gone cold, so it would be unfair if I criticize it. It did look absolutely exquisite. Here are some pictures before it got cold:
For dessert, I had the Praline and Chocolate Crunch. There were lots going on in there. There was the bitterness of the sorbet, the sweetness from the caramel, and the savory from the cake itself. It took me a moment to take in all the flavors, and I think that’s what this restaurant was trying to do. It’s not just about getting fed, it’s about enjoying and figuring out the tastes and this is exactly what I’m looking for. To top it off, there was a small edible gold leaf. Now this was interesting. Was this there to enhance the taste (didn’t taste it)? Or to enhance the presentation (too small to notice)? Either way, I thought this is a gimmick, but still it was a great wow factor.
My friends had the Pumpkin Soufflé. Once again, I didn’t have the honor of tasting it:
Once the waiter took away our dessert plates, we stayed for a good hour to an hour and a half. We were just sitting there, chatting away while drinking water. Now most restaurants had a certain turnover rate to maintain and would train their staff to shoo us away, but we didn’t get that. Our matre’D just happily asked if we needed any more water or drinks and let us stay as long as we like. We didn’t feel we were rushed at all or over stayed our welcome. Another big plus.
This restaurant completely redefined my boundaries of what good taste can be. Come here once, and you will realize the food you ate all your life are for peasants. But to me, this is not what I will remember this restaurant by: it is the impeccable service that they have where they treat everyone like a CEO. Props to the them for having a phenomenal team both in the kitchen and front-of-house, and for ending my LA trip on a high note. This is definitely……the Heavens Kitchen.