It was an honor to meet chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, the man credited for reinventing French cuisine and pairing Asian herbs and spices with Western ingredients. As one of the world’s most famous chefs, he currently operates 38 restaurants around the world and is involved in every aspect of development, from concept to staff selection and menu choices.
We sat at a comfy table in his latest restaurant, Jean-Georges Beverly Hills inside the Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills. The restaurant’s décor is California chic, elegant but with a casual feel. Cool tones of beige and brown with splashes of green big plants and pillows fill the space, and there’s also a large outdoor dining area and a beautiful bar and lounge. Vongerichten heads his signature restaurant as well as unique rooftop poolside offerings, the lobby lounge menu, and afternoon tea.
As his first California restaurant, Vongerichten says, “I was excited to have a presence in California and when I saw plans for the Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills, I thought it would be the perfect fit for one of my restaurants.”
The menu is a hit list of favorite dishes from Vongerichten’s restaurants all over the world. “The exciting part for me is that there is so much fresh produce and food in Los Angeles,” said Vongerichten. “In New York, we get a few months of seasonal vegetables in spring and summer, but here, we have great raw shrimp, uni, and so much produce year-round. It’s exciting to be able to have such a great variety.”
Vongerichten has never been a traditional French chef. After working in Asia for five years, he started incorporating ginger and lemongrass into dishes back in New York. The result was revolutionary and changed American cuisine. Instead of the usual heavy creams and sauces, Vongerichten focuses on plant-based dishes to appeal to Angelenos’ lighter, often vegetarian, palate. “The food trend is definitely more plant based today,” he said. “After all, it takes two years to grow a steak and just two weeks to grow a radish.”
He also notices many younger diners than when he first started his empire more than 25 years ago. “Now with social media, young people instantly can see food that they want to go out and try,” said Vongerichten.
After sharing some DARS Japanese chocolate that I brought for Vongerichten, he left for the kitchen to prepare a one-night-only meal full of dishes auditioning for the menu. I was lucky enough to be one of the diners that night.
Our meal began with some delicious warm glazed potatoes with tapioca, herbs, and golden Ossetra caviar. We wanted more of these. Our next dish was a gorgeous Ahi tuna tartare with avocado and crackling rice housed in little lettuce cups, which were bright and full of flavor.
The seafood course was a perfectly roasted lobster that was plated so beautifully we sat and stared at it for a while before tasting. It was paired with romanesco cauliflower and a smoked chili-almond sauce.
The turf following our surf was delicious grilled Wagyu tenderloin with roasted cabbage, basil, and sesame. The beef was fork-tender. Then a palate cleanser of apple sorbet was served before dessert of a pear ice cream and a beautiful roasted apple.
I would go back for any of these dishes and to finally be able to enjoy a local restaurant that perfectly pairs an elegant comfortable ambiance with exquisite local food. Vongerichten doesn’t do it alone though. His team helps execute the vision and menu on a nightly basis.