What do Sean Connery, Chris Rock and Usher have in common? For those of you who are interested in where celebrities stay and eat, these venerable icons all like to spend time at the Park Hyatt Hotel in Century City in the Royal Suite. They are also very fond of eating at the hotel restaurant, the Park Grill. I was there last week on a relatively quiet weekday night, and was fully expecting to see groups of rowdy businessmen abusing their expense accounts, but instead saw a real mixed bag of guests. There were a few couples, some dressed in suits, others in tee shirts, a few families with very young kids in tow, and assorted others all there to check out the food. This is definitely not the place for young kids, and at least one had to be taken outside for a while, but the room is so spacious and serene, that not even a crying kid made much of an impact. The lighting is just about right, sultry, but not too bright as to diminish the atmosphere, and you can easily read the menu.
The service is exceptional and from the old school, very easily paced, showing that the kitchen takes time in ensuring that every dish is prepared just right. The wine selection is primarily all California, and a bit more emphasis on the "new world" might be a smart move for the restaurant, but the Pine Ridge Cabernet 2001 from Rutherford Napa Valley was more than adequate for the occasion. The martini's here are top notch, and instead of my usual Apple Martini I went for the Park Hyatt Chicago special Looking Glass Martini ($12), a combination of Absolut Raspberry, Triple Sec, Duetz Champagne and White Cranberry Juice.
Chef Robert Alicea runs the French inspired restaurant, and the Chicago chef brings his Italian and Puerto Rican heritage to the cuisine that can loosely be described as Mediterranean meets South America with a touch of "Inner City Chicago." His entire career has been with the Hyatt Group, most recently his stint as demi chef de cuisine at Nomi Park Hyatt in Chicago. A typical signature dish from the chef would be the chilled appetizer of Blue Fin Crab Meat ($16) with cognac mayonnaise, osetra caviar, croutons & olive oil. He will then follow that up with Milk fed Veal Chop with summer tart, garlic mashed potatoes, lobster mushrooms & veal jus.
Instead of starting with the Blue Fin appetizer I tried the Baby Greens ($14) with crisp Romaine lettuce, potato cup, tomato and a balsamic vinegar that did not overwhelm the dish, giving it and edge. There is of course an Asian fusion theme to some of the dishes, and that was the case with my next dish of albacore with peppercorns and oriental sauce, part of the sushi menu in the restaurant. The sushi or sashimi of the day is available Tuesday through Saturday till 9 pm in the lounge just outside the restaurant, and there is no telling who you might bump into in this elegant and sophisticated setting. Maybe some of the movers and shakers of Hollywood who hang out at Koi will start to discover this place. The Black Truffle Risotto ($20) with braised chicken is another of his signature dishes, and in this case the subtleties of the truffle oil gave the risotto in particular a lingering after taste.
The Basted Filet Mignon ($38) was as tender as you could get, and the beef jus broth was similar to all the sauces served in the restaurant, organic in flavor and very light. The glazed fingerling potatoes however were not the perfect complement to the meat; it just seemed like a combination that lacked the right visual and taste appeal. I also had a taste of the Seared Halibut ($30) with a tomato and olive chutney, fennel sauce and cilantro oil, ingredients that gave the lightly coated fish a fragrant offering.
Desserts here are prepared by the hotel pastry chef, the most popular being the Chocolate Mousse Cake with an expresso center, crunch hazelnut and dulce de leche ice cream. I tried the ice cream with rhubarb strips, and as in most cases provided an excellent ending to the meal.
Try the Park Grill if you are in the mood to be pampered, and let Chef Robert Alicea and his brigade show off their skills.
Tel: 310.277.1234 Mike Hepworth September 2005
Mike Hepworth September 2005