Petrossian is synonymous with luxe, so it's no surprise that when the chef decides to do a mac 'n' cheese, he lavishes the orecchiete pasta with minced black truffles and Parmesan. It's extremely rich, a week's calories in a bowl.
Napoleon tartare is basically a thick rectangle of hand-chopped raw beef with a vein of caviar running down the middle. The piquant raw beef against the brine of the caviar really sings. What's bothering me, though, is the truffle oil that scents the salads and so many dishes, marring the clarity of the flavors. More than anything, it's faux luxe.
Despite a big banner plastered across the front announcing Sunday brunch, the cafe just doesn't seem to be on the radar yet. Maybe it's the parking -- no valet, and in that neighborhood, parking is tough and the meter enforcement hyper-vigilant. You can usually find something at night around the corner on Beverly Boulevard, though.
Petrossian has its own cold-smoked North Atlantic salmon, which you can order hand-sliced and served with toast points and creme fraiche. More unusual is the Tzar Cut Trio, thick sashimi-sized slices of each of three types of salmon: the buttery fillet from the center of the fish, another marinated in spices and smoked extra slowly, and one marinated in dill. This is a real feast.
Not everything works so well. Sturgeon confit in olive oil and a lemon grass emulsion is bland, much less exciting than it sounds. And scallops a la plancha (seared on the griddle) is quite awful, mostly due to an achingly sweet carrot puree.
However, the rib-eye with masses of shallot confit, a little baby spinach and sauteed mushrooms is a great deal for $28, and the prime short ribs in a silky, nuanced bourguignon or red wine sauce with a sunchoke puree gets my vote for the best main course.
When he's not dousing things with truffle oil, the chef's cooking is clean and classic, relying less on wacky flavor combinations than on expert technique and a feeling for his ingredients. Consider the menu a work in progress.
And that Sunday brunch? Quite a good deal -- appetizer, main dish, dessert, coffee or tea and a glass of Champagne to start for $35 per person. Or, you can order a la carte. I'd go with the poached eggs with spinach and sauce mornay or the croque madame. The omelet, which comes garnished with trout or salmon roe or smoked salmon, is very plain. And when I ordered it, overcooked.
Come dessert, don't pass up the dreamy creme brulee studded with Sicilian pistachios. White peach panna cotta is thickened cream at the bottom of a glass layered with white peaches in syrup and a peach foam. And for chocolate lovers, a glass holds a deep dark chocolate ganache topped with softly whipped cream.
Petrossian Cafe is a class act that despite a few missteps fits right into the neighborhood. The menu is flexible and contemporary. And if you focus on the caviar, smoked salmon and such, you'll be fine.
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Petrossian Paris Boutique and Cafe * 1/2
321 N. Robertson Blvd. (at Rosewood Avenue), West Hollywood; (310) 271-0576; www.petrossian.com
Casual cafe from Paris caviar purveyor Petrossian with a menu from former L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon sous chef Benjamin Bailly, just steps away from Robertson and Beverly boulevards' boutiques and design shops.
Earnest and charming.
Dinner appetizers, $6 to $16; egg dishes, $16 ($26 with caviar); sandwiches, $12 to $18 ($23 with caviar); other dishes, $12 to $24; main courses, $15 to $28; dessert, $8. Sunday brunch, $35 per person, includes glass of Champagne.
Classic cold borscht, wild mushroom cappuccino, Petrossian salad, Napoleon tartare, croque madame sandwich, Tzar Cut Trio of smoked salmon, entrecote a l'echalote, short ribs, Sicilian pistachio creme brulee.
Limited, and not very interesting. Corkage fee, $25.
One of the corner back tables.
Open from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sundays. Brunch is 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sundays and happy hour is 3 to 8 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays. Wine and beer. Street parking.
Rating is based on food, service and ambience, with price taken into account in relation to quality. ****: Outstanding on every level. ***: Excellent. **: Very good. *: Good. No star: Poor to satisfactory.