New Chef Takes Charge at Westwood's Nine Thirty
W Hotel, 930 Hilgard Avenue, Westwood, Los Angeles, CA 90024

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The W Hotel in Westwood is one of the trendiest hotels in Los Angeles, and any chef who takes the reigns there has to be on the ball. The dining room has been totally redesigned, and new man Jack Yoss who has just turned thirty, which is probably the perfect age for a chef, has certainly started his tenure there with a strong start judging by a dinner there last week. The new spot is called Nine Thirty, and the fall menu is now in full swing with a whole range of menu options that Jack learned primarily from his time as Chef de Cuisine at Postrio Restaurant in San Francisco.

He also worked for a year at Wolfgang Puck's exclusive Chinois restaurant in Las Vegas as Saucier, and clearly the knowledge he picked up there has carried over, Even though reservations are strongly advised, on this midweek night it was never more than half-full, allowing for the service, which was efficient without being stuffy or over attentive. I wanted to try more dishes than usual, and so a chef-selected tasting menu with much smaller portions was the order of the night, despite that option not being currently available on the menu.

Jack Yoss likes to get out front and greet the guests to explain the dishes, something he learned from the French chef Jacques Pepin. The décor of the restaurant is fairly low key and relaxing with light and dark woods and panels of screens made out of woven rattan and coconut shells. There is a nice buzz about the restaurant, the music playing ranging from Bob Dylan to the Stones to Elvis Costello, and the Pomegranate Martini is one of the best I have ever tasted.

Chef Jack Yoss is all about flavors and originality, and the very first dish I tried summed up his philosophy. Oysters on the half shell (6 of them) were superbly combined with a juicy cilantro vinaigrette and topped with American caviar. The breads however from La Brea bakery were pretty dull, and were wasted on the mixed baby sonoma green salad with a sharp tasting saba vinegar and cleverly selected roasted pistachios. The cast iron-seared diver scallops were one of the best dishes of the night, made even better by the very creative addition of roasted cauliflower and corn in brown butter and truffle oil. This savory delight was complemented by the sweet tasting sonoma foie gras with a wonderful port poached lady pear and a vanilla cognac foam. This is a classic French foie gras, and the presentation of this dish in particular would even have impressed the chef's peers.

Continuing with the appetizers, the house made salmon gravlax (cured for two hours) was slightly overpowered by the caviar vinaigrette which consisted of salt, sugar, all spice and more. The sweet corn bisque with Dungeness crab, lemon scented mascarpone and micro celery was sweet tasting and pleasant to the palate, but was lacking a bit in the consistency and could have been a bit thicker. No such problem with the kobe beef carpaccio, thinly sliced beef with a chanterelle mushroom salad and a horseradish crème fraiche.

After all this culinary delight, the main courses were slightly overshadowed, but the kurobuta pork chop that was presented in a Madeira-parmesan broth with confit shallots and chanterelles hit the mark. The pan-roasted Alaskan halibut was not quite as flavorful as hoped for, and the braised beef short rib with roasted carrots was cut across the grain, and is one of his signature dishes. It is apparent that the chef likes working with smaller specialist suppliers and artisan producers, and that is to be commended.

The restaurant does not have a separate pastry chef at this tine, but Jack Yoss seems more than capable of handling this chore as well, judging by the two desserts that we tried. They were the chocolate brownie with bailey's whipped cream and coffee ice cream, and the gianduja crème brulee.

The lunch menu here also looks pretty interesting with a really nice selection, as does the late night menu, and I shall have to try the beer battered fish & chips real soon.

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Restaurant hours: Open for lunch and dinner seven days a week
Reservations: Advised on weekends
Tel: 310 443 8211

Dinner for two w/wine $140
Parking: Valet 3 hour's free w/validation

Mike HepworthNovember 2005

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