You meet someone who lights up your life. You meet someone who darkens your day. You meet someone and take a leap of faith. You meet someone and wish someone else had stopped you from jumping.
What was I thinking?! And more importantly, how did I get to a place where I let someone else screw up the way I feel about myself? I’ve had a few what-was-I-thinking days in my life but this one honestly takes the cupcake. On a day when everything went wrong, as always, I turned to food… to find a place where everything promised to be right.
Culina, if hotel insiders are to be believed, is Four Seasons first foray into cool dining. These hoteliers are not exactly known for food innovation; but with this LA hotspot they definitely know what they are doing. Beverly Hills isn’t exactly the kind of neighbourhood you would think of as having a ‘local’. But if they had to have one, I vote for Chef Victor Casanova’s Culina. They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner at less than five star prices, and you are almost always assured of pretty diners in the room. (This is LA after all.) The restaurant is as fancy, or not, as you’d like it to be. An open crudo bar where you can see the chefs at work, servers that look like movie stars, a waterfall and a fireplace (for the two days of the year it gets cold in LA) – this restaurant definitely has the look.
I was seated at a table outside surrounded by beautiful foliage, hypnotised by the warble from the waterfall jumbled with gentle sounds of piped music. The menu was longer than I wanted to deal with and so let my perfectly capable server Caroline make most of my dining decisions, while I enjoyed their softest rosemary bread.
It is almost rude not to start with their crudo. First there was Tonno ($12), ahi tuna tartare delicately laced with ginger and lemon, and then Cappesante ($14), scallops with black truffle. Both arrived looking like jewels on a plate and disappeared before I realised. I resisted ordering the burrata and went with Granchio ($16) a dungeness crab salad with endives and grapefruit. I was tubing down the slopes in Vail not two days ago, and here I was eating a salad that was like summer on a plate. The glass of Erbaluce ($13) Caroline recommended couldn’t have been a more perfect accompaniment.
The menu also has a decent vegetarian section, pizzas, main courses (Kobe meatballs looked especially good), and of course dessert. But today was a day that deserved pasta. I ordered the Spaghetti alla Chittara ($17) – pasta, that was definitely not shop bought, with the most wholesome, delicious, perfect san marzano tomato and basil sauce.
It isn’t like I haven’t eaten better Italian food before. Nor is this the coolest/prettiest restaurant I have been to. A great meal, like a wonderful life, is rarely about one or the other. To quote a cliché, the whole is always greater than the sum of its parts. And so, at Culina, its universe – of food, décor, service, and spirit – comes together to create an experience where everything worked beautifully. Culina definitely got it right.