Delphine: Mediterranean Indulgence
Rome counts as the Mediterranean, right? Because the press meal held at Delphine last week held such an embarassment of riches I felt as if we should have been eating reclined on one elbow wearing crowns of laurel.
Delphine is the tenth Los Angeles venue owned by the Innovative Dining Group, who also brought us Sushi Roku, Katana and Boa. Housed in the W Hotel on Hollywood Boulevard, it brings a lot of glamour to a run-down section of town. We like the Frolic Room for drinks, but Delphine will provide a much-needed spot for post-Pantages noshing.
When we were first told that Delphine was a brasserie with a Mediterranean menu encompassing the Côte d’Azur, Costa Brava and the Italian Riviera because there were already too many bistros in town, it was a little nervous-making. Sometimes I can be a bit naive when it comes to the business side of things. I like to imagine a restaurant has a certain vision because the chef grew up spending summers on a little beach, not because of the profit margin. Call me a romantic. But this is no corporate chain. Chef Sascha Lyon has a clarity of vision as sharp as a diamond. Nothing was muddled, confused, or fusioned to death. The menu was intriguing and rich with possibility.
The evening started at Station Hollywood, the outdoor lounge area. Actually, for two of us the evening started upstairs on a really cool bridge admiring a giant chandelier that looks like it is made out of spun sugar. There were so many groups meeting that night, the hostesses had trouble figuring out which group we were with. We didn't mind because that bridge was pretty cool.
In spite of the romance of Station, there were only a few couples on the deck. It appears to be the new place to hold hip business meetings in town. Station will definitely host a number of events. With cabanas, large seating areas, fire pits and a nice cocktail menu, this place was made for the next Angeleno party. We enjoyed a variety of cocktails, heavy on citrus, fresh fruit and muddling. The cocktail menu leans towards the girly side of the spectrum. There are also a number of snacks and starters available at Station.
Once inside the restaurant, the mid-20s and 30s crowd was so attractive it was like a room full of walking head shots. The room was decorated in a comfortable yet fashionable style that was reminiscent of the lobby of a European boutique hotel near the seaside.
A variety of starters arrived at the table for sharing: a Caesar Salad, Bacalo with toasted bread, and crostini rubbed with tomato (inspired by pan con tomate, a typical Spanish snack) and piled high with serrano ham and drunken goat cheese. I admit to preferring bacala in croquetas, in spite of the salt cod dip being executed flawlessly. The Crostini was closer to my ideal, and I may have hogged some of the delectable ham. More cocktails arrived and we did not resist.
We all had to ooh and ahh over was the beautiful seafood platter. I believe the seafood assortment was tailored to our party, because Yelp reviews mention that The Grand Delphine features lobster and clams, which were not evident. But our platter did include whelks and cockles, with the typical LA diner might not welcome on their plate. A seafood salad rested in a radicchio cup with endive leaves to scoop up the salad - do-it-yourself doots. As might be expected, the seafood was unimaginably fresh, encouraging even the bivalve-curious to dig in and enjoy.
It was suggested we choose our own main courses, which is more difficult than it sounds with a menu including escargot, steak frites, trout meuniere, mushroom ravioli and macaroni gratin (mac and cheese!). I didn't want to be the first one to choose the very appealing whole roasted lobster, as I was brought up to always order from the middle of the menu when being treated. But once someone got up the nerve to order, a number of us jumped on the bandwagon and went for the lobster.
Sides were recommended, so another journalist and I chose to split the escargot, and the diner across from us chose the highly recommended goat cheese petatou. The escargot were lovely in the buttery, garlic sauce but now that I am in love with Rivera's escargot, it was kind of like cheating. The petatou was similar to potatoes au gratin with goat cheese and olives. It was unbelievable. If you show up on a budget and only order one thing, this dish is worth it. Actully, the petatou is worth driving across town for. In the rain. The olives are a little unusual, but easy to pick out.
Now, the main event - an entire Maine lobster, immaculately cleaned and coated in breadcrumbs. I requested drawn butter on the side and was in pure ecstacy. I soon abandoned utensils and ate gluttonously with my hands, as if I really were at a Roman banquet.
It was time to curl up for a nap outside, but then desserts began to arrive, randomly strewn around the table. At this point is was total dubauchery and they naturally became communal plates shared between us, clashing forks and all.
Even though Chef Sascha Lyon comes with impessive credentials, Executive Pastry Chef Lee Smith seems to have no trouble keeping up at all. The Asiette Chocolat Maison Delphine is a cookie-lover's dream. A Black Forest Sundae was like an upscale Cherry Garcia, and the Pistachio and Blackberry Clafoutis was slightly outshone by the pistachio ice cream accompaniment. Other than the ice creams, the favorite dessert was doubtlessly the rich, dark Chocolate Hazelnut Dacquoise cake with icing that was a cross between ganache and gooey fudge, leaving a stiff peak of chocolate whenever the fork was pulled away.
It is a common belief that new restaurants need a while to get their sea legs, to find their voice. But Delphine runs as smoothly as a seasoned restaurant and the chef's voice rings out loud and clear.
Previously on LAist: Chef Chat with Sascha Lyon W Hotel Hollywood's Delphine is Beautiful, but How's the Food?