Scarpetta at the Montage was a night to remember. The food was near perfect and my experience here was a positive one. Who would have thought, as I was making reservations weeks in advance, that I would be meeting Scott Connant on that night? My girlfriend and I were enjoying drinks at the bar as we were waiting for our table to open up. From the kitchen doors walked Scott Connant, owner of Scarpetta and a star from the Food Network. A fan of Chopped and everything Food Network, I was elated to see him in the flesh. After small talk and a group picture, my night was made. I was prepared for a night of good food and great memories.
Things started off at the bar. There, we were given some spice mixed almonds and housemade potato chips. The nuts were quite addicting as the coating was spicy and crusty. It was great with our drinks. The housemade chips on the other hand, weer kind of bland. A litte more salt or a dipping sauce of some kind would have been better. It was complimentary at the bar so I was not complaining. Just the almonds would have sufficed, but the addition of potato chips was a nice touch.
Once we were seated, we were ready for an amazing dinner. To start off, we were given dinner rolls — house made focaccia, filone, and ciabatta. The array of different kinds were a treat, but the best part were the add-ons. The eggplant caponata, mascarpone butter, and citrus-infused olive oil all played a key role in accompanying the delicious bread. Though the eggplant caponata was delicious, my favorite was the mascarpone butter. It was soft and creamy, and had a hint of mascarpone that was subtle.
For my appetizer, I opted for the beet salad. I don’t have enough beats in my diet, so I ordered it. I was quite happy with my selection. The variety of different kinds of beats was interesting. Some were pickled, and some were whole. The port poached pears were bright and had a lot of flavor. My favorite in the salad was goat cheese fonduta and pistachio. It gave a nice creamy, tangy flavor married with a nice balance of the pistachio. I think frisee was a perfect choice for the greens. It had a nice bitter taste that was balanced out by the sweetness of the beets.
The creamy polenta was rich and creamy, and quite possibly the favorite of the appetizers. The bed of polenta was topped with a fricassee of truffled mushrooms. Served with its own sauce, the polenta was perfectly balanced in flavor and texture. The dish was unctuous and addicting. The earthiness of the mushrooms had a nice bite to it and the truffle flavor was full bodied.
Before we dug into the entrees, we decided to try the spaghetti. Scott Contant’s spaghetti from Scarpetta is touted to be the best spaghetti amongst foodies. It was on Food Network’s Best Thing I Ever Ate as well numerous accounts of how amazing it is. It has definately created a fan base for this dish. At $24 or a full order and $12 for a half, it is questionable as to whether it is worth it or not. Well, I was here at Scarpetta and my interest was piqued. Was it worth it? For me, it was worth it, and here is why. The ingredients itself could not have added up to more than maybe $3. The time and technique that made the dish covers the rest. The noodles were cooked perfectly al dente like. It didn’t quite have a bite to it, but more of a chew and made for a nice mouth feel. The sauce was pure in tomato flavor and wasn’t overly complexed. Basil really shined in this dish as it was strong and gave the spagehtti dish a new dimension. The garlic and red pepper flakes are subtle, but there. The spaghetti beats mine out of the water, and any other one out there. This is definately the best I ever had. After looking online, I found the recipe on Serious Eats where Scott Connant shows us how to make this dish. I will definately be making my spaghetti like this from now on.
For the entree, I had some of the short rib agnolotti. Agnolotti are typically smaller than ravioli, and the ones at Scarpetta were house made into almost a tiny dumpling. The sauce consisted of brown butter sauteed with hon shimeji, a Japanese mushroom. Tossed in a little horseradish, each bite had a noticeable amount of “heat” to it. The hazelnuts were a nice addition as the dish needed some crunch. To me, the dish tasted good, but it was missing someting. Possibly tossing with some root vegetables or greens would have colored the dish more and balance everything out more.
I ordered the roasted jidori chicken and was impressed with the dish. Though the chicken was salty, it was balanced out by the puereed parsnips and farro. The currants were a bit missing. The sweet and sour would have made this dish more interesting. The chestnuts gave it a good bite and fished off the dish quite nicely. I liked that the chicken was boneless instead of bone in. It was easier to eat and I didn’t have to saw around the bone. Even with the bone off, it still remained juicy and perfectly cooked. It didn’t have that “chickeny” flavor and may possibly be the best chicken dishes I have had in a while. Granted, I don’t often order the chicken when it comes to high end restaurants, so this was a nice change for me.
To me, dessert has to be killer. A bad dessert can ruin a great dinner — A good dessert can save a so-so dinner. Dessert at Scarpetta was great and an awesome ending to a great night. The chocolate cake was decadent and rich and the burnt orange-caramel smeared on the plate was strong. The warm chocolate cake with the gelato made a nice contrast in textures and mouth feel. Espresso sauce was drizzled and helped balance out he sweetness a little. I liked the chocolate cookie crumbles that housed the ice cream. This dessert was a chocolate lovers dream.
The vanila caramel budino was perfect, and quite possibly the best dessert I had. The caramel was sweet and the custardy vanila pudding was sweet but not too sweet. Taken the extra step to sweetness was the addicting and perfect caramel. This was married perfectly with the gianduja chocolate sable cookies. The gianduja chocolate, containing hazelnut paste gave the cookies a taste of Nutella. The cookeis were perfect and as a proud lover of Nutella, these cookies were dead on. It was soft, chewy, and dense — my kind of cookie. The combination of the velvety smooth budino and the addicting “Nutella” cookies was a perfect combination.
Even eating the food as objective as possible, I still found myself in love with it. I kept telling myself, “you did not just meet Scott Connant, pretend this is just a regular restaurant.” I didn’t want any of these things making me think the food is good in a subjective way. I did enjoy the food and the spaghetti was one of the best I ever had. With the addition of Scarpetta and Bouchon in Montage Beverly Hills, the property is beautiful and has some of the best resraurants inside. I enjoyed the food and meeting the Food Network star was just a plus. That night, I went home quite satisfied.