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RESTAURANTS / FIRST LOOK

In Beverly Hills, Paperfish creates a new wave of sophisticated seafood

December 20, 2007|S. Irene Virbila

Joachim SPLICHAL, the chef/entrepreneur behind the Patina Restaurant Group -- which owns myriad restaurants in Los Angeles, Las Vegas and New York -- has quietly opened a new restaurant in the old Maple Drive space in Beverly Hills.

No, it's not called Pinot something. This time he got creative and named the new spot Paperfish for both a tropical fish and the French way of cooking fish en papillote -- in parchment paper. The menu, which is almost entirely seafood, is a direct challenge to Water Grill and Providence.

For his chef, Splichal has tapped Yianni Koufodontis, who did a terrific job as chef at Petros in Manhattan Beach. The 35-year-old Greek American chef worked at Maple Drive under chef Eric Klein, so he knows the way -- and the kitchen. And Splichal and Koufodontis have come up with a beguiling menu of raw, warm and chilled appetizers followed by main courses grouped under categories "round," "flat," and "shell" fish. Those who don't eat fish -- and I know a couple -- can find a roasted chicken and a couple of steaks listed on the menu under "farm."

Architect Clive Wilkinson, who designed Google headquarters, takes on his first restaurant with Paperfish. He's opened up the space and given it a quirky retro-futuristic look with a wavy bar and ovoid-shaped orange chairs. The real luxury is the space between tables -- and a carpet on the floor -- that dampens the sound.

How does Splichal do fish? California-Mediterranean. Perfectly chilled oysters, the shells propped up on blue salt, are delicious with a pomegranate-ginger granita. So is the kampachi sashimi jacked up with jalapeno sauce and garnished with crispy shallots and a scattering of sesame seeds.

But what about that fish in paper? There's just one on the menu, a New Zealand snapper in Thai fish broth. But when it comes, it looks like fish in cellophane gift wrap knotted at the top. The waiter scissors off the knot, and there's the fish, in what looks very much like a plastic shower cap (but is, in actual fact, a special paper). Why the change? Our waiter tells us the parchment scorched and people complained. People, I want to say, are nuts.

Open only for lunch right now, Paperfish will begin offering dinner in the new year. But with the bar open for happy hour and more until 8 p.m., who needs dinner?

-- S. Irene Virbila

virbila@latimes.com

--

PAPERFISH

WHERE: 345 N. Maple Drive, Beverly Hills

WHEN: Open for lunch Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; bar hours are noon to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday. Dinner starts in the new year. Full bar. Valet parking.

PRICE: Lunch appetizers, $10 to $15; main courses, $18 to $29; desserts, $9.

INFO: (310) 858-6030; www.patinagroup.com

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