You can’t always eat in a restaurant named after or owned by a celebrity chef and expect to have that celebrity chef in the kitchen cooking. Of course that would be nice, but once you reach a certain point it is understandable that you can only be in so many places at once. What you should expect to find is a restaurant that really upholds the standards that made that celebrity chef famous – namely, excellent food (or possibly dive-style food if you’re eating a particular NYC restaurant owned by a bleached-blonde celebrity chef that got a lousy review in the NY Times recently).
The Gordon Ramsay at the London in West Hollywood definitely delivers the experience that you would expect from a restaurant that Chef Ramsay lent his name to. The restaurant features a recently revamped menu of small plate dishes designed for sharing – much larger than tapas, but small enough that you can get a good sampling of different dishes during the meal. The hotel describes the cuisine as being “contemporary Western European cuisine with subtle Asian influences.” They’re definitely right about the Asian influences, but this description really doesn’t do the food justice because the dishes are very imaginative and really packed with flavor (Asian and otherwise).
On a recent visit, I was able to try more than a few of the dishes on the menu. I should note that the menu chances all the time, so while you might not find these exact dishes, I tasted enough to say with confidence that you won’t be disappointed. The lighting was low in the gorgeous dining room, but I had just enough light to snap a few pictures. You’ll have to visit yourself to get the full effect of the stunning views of LA that you can get at the hotel – and, of course, see how much better the food looks in person.
First up was rustic homemade bread, which came with butter (so good) and homemade hummus (good, but the butter was even better).
Steak Tartar is a classic appetizer, served with hot, fresh horseradish puree. I’m not usually a big tartar fan, but this one was very well seasoned and had a great texture to it. It was served with duck fat fries, which are also on the menu as a side in their own right and worth a taste, especially if you like thick cut steak fries. If you just like duck fat, know that the lobster roll is served with some almost criminally good duck fat potato chips.
Risotto is another menu item, with a rotating array of vegetables in it depending on what is in season. This one had a medley of mushrooms, that gave it a wonderfully earthy taste. It goes without saying, but the rice was perfectly cooked. It’s been a while since I’ve had a nice risotto dish in a restaurant that wasn’t overly heavy or over-cooked, so this one stood out a little bit just for that with me.
The menu is heavy on seafood, including tuna, crab, oysters, octopus and lobster (just to name a few). This gives the menu a lot of variety because almost every dish can use a different protein, rather than doing many variations on just pork or beef. This particular dish was Shrimp Agnolotti, in homemade pasta wrappers, served with crisp brussel sprouts. The sprouts, by the way, are also a side dish that is well worth getting on its own.
The Beef Fillet with Peppercorn Sauce was not only perfectly cooked, but came extremely close to melting in my mouth. The sweet-spicy sauce was perfectly balanced, and I rarely say no to onion rings. Steak fans should put this on the short list.
The steak was near the top of my list, but my favorite dish was probably the Braised Pork Belly with Curried Noodles that is pictured at the very top of this post. It was very meaty and tender, and it had a great crust on it. The chicharron on top was a fun, crunchy element. The scallop and clam on the plate were good, but I honestly wouldn’t have missed them because the pork was definitely the star (and I also happen to prefer pork to scallops and clams).
Chef Anthony told me that this Glazed Hamachi Collar was a specialty, not yet on the menu, and one of his favorite dishes. This is one worth asking about if you’re eating there, even if you’re not usually a big fan of fish. The Korean-spiced glaze is addictive.
The dessert menu is a bit smaller than the rest of the menu, but the same idea of small and sharable plates applies. Naturally, it is my favorite part of any menu! I liked the twist on Pineapple Upside Down Cake, especially the cherry ice cream that came with it (a nod to the maraschino cherries that are often placed in the center of pineapple rings on a homestyle pineapple upside down cake).
Even better was the Sticky Toffee Pudding, served with Browned Butter Ice Cream. The browned butter ice cream alone would be enough to make you want to order it, but the ultra-moist pudding and the toffee sauce that came with it were truly the stars here. This one is so good that it is almost hard to share with other people at your table.
A happy and very full diner.
Now, Gordon isn’t in the kitchen here. Executive Chef Anthony Keene (pictured above) put the fantastic menu together and I had a chance to meet with him in the kitchen. He is definitely committed to top-notch ingredients and you can taste that in every bite of the food. I’ll also note that his kitchen staff – working in a fantastically huge kitchen in the hotel – seems to not only be very capable, but to love working there. I didn’t miss Gordon during my meal, but I suspect that Chef Keene’s menu is so good that it will keep people (like me!) coming back again and again – celebrity chef or no.
Gordon Ramsay at The London
1020 N. San Vicente BLVD.,
West Hollywood, CA 90069