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EATS: Restaurant Reviews and News | FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Lapping Up the Luxury

Renovated L'Ermitage hotel extends its elegant touches to the menu.

July 16, 1998|S. IRENE VIRBILA | TIMES RESTAURANT CRITIC

The Beverly Hills hotel L'Ermitage has emerged from a radical make-over that turned the once-stodgy hideaway into a fabulously chic luxury hotel (at least from the looks of the lobby and public rooms). If you pull that taupe Armani from the closet, you'll fit right in to the minimalist decor.

The bar, with its groupings of chairs upholstered in a palette of browns and taupe, is understated and elegant. Just past the bar is the restaurant, which overlooks manicured greenery and a sheet of water falling, endlessly, into a rectangular pool. Everything about it, including the prices, spells luxury in capital letters.

The chef is Swiss-born Serge Falesitch, a Spago and Chinois alumnus who last cooked at Eclipse in West Hollywood. His claim to fame there was "Cuisine of the Sun" and he's stuck on the same theme here, but with some Asian elements too, including a Japanese bento box with tempura and a series of Japanese salads.

On a first visit, each dish is prettier than the last. I wish, though, the chef had worked as hard on the taste of the food as he does its presentation. That bento box, for example, is monotonous, the sashimi so-so, duck and lobster spring rolls decidedly bland. The best entree that night is the whole fennel-roasted sea bass because the fish was cooked whole, on the bone.

But when the chef comes around to the table after dinner, he seems like such a nice young man that when he asks if everything is all right, who is going to say anything but fine? Especially in light of the gracious, thoroughly professional service, which is a very big plus here. I'm hoping the chef just needs more time, because it's such a lovely restaurant, I'd like to come back again--next time, for lunch.

Pastry chef Angela Hunter's desserts are a notch up from the rest of the menu. There are the warm Valrhona chocolate cake with peppermint-infused syrup and the tangerine flan in pomegranate reduction she devised at Boxer. There's also a lovely chilled yellow watermelon soup with cherry sorbet that's as unusual as it is delicious.

BE THERE

L'Ermitage, 9291 Burton Way, Beverly Hills; (310) 278-3344. Open daily for lunch and dinner. Valet parking. Dinner appetizers $8 to $18; main courses $15 to $31.

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