Eating a great meal in a newly found restaurant is one of the ultimate pleasures of being a foodie and in the end it is what foodies strive for. For us it is not only the restaurant visit itself we are looking for but also the search for the gems, might it be an unusual high end restaurant or a hole in the wall. There are of course many different sources for good information about all kinds of restaurants starting from professional reviews, well known web pages as Chowhound or eGullet, discussions with other foodies to the ubiquitous foodblogs. There are rarely restaurants or chefs which get only positive reviews and posts but there are a few exceptions like Ludo Lefebvre with his pop-up restaurant concept LudoBites. Most recently a more unexpected restaurant appeared to get high marks from nearly everybody – Petrossian in West Hollywood with Chef Benjamin Bailly.
Petrossian has been well known for close to a century as a great source for many high-end food specialities, and in particular caviar. The company was founded in 1920 in Paris by the Armenian brothers Melkoum and Mouchegh Petrossian, who were born on the Iranian side of the Caspian Sea but were raised in Moscow, as a way to earn some money after they had to flee from the Russian Revolution in 1917. The business idea turned out to be successful early on also thanks to a large population of Russian emigrants. But the Petrossians were also pivotal to establish caviar as a delicacy in the gastronomy world with the 1929 World Exposition in Paris as a key event. Petrossian still remains to this day one of the largest players in the world of caviar importer but has started over the years to expand their offerings of high-end products like truffles, foie gras, smoked fish, teas, and coffee. As a consequence of the Iranian revolution and the dwindling Iranian caviar imports in 1980 Petrossian established a US subsidiary in New York followed in 2001 by a boutique in Los Angeles. For a long time the company saw their restaurants more as a marketing tool to make the Petrossian brand known to the public but didn’t put too much emphasis on it. This approach recently changed in Los Angeles with the remodeling of Petrossian Paris Boutique & Café which also included hiring new Chef Benjamin Bailly.
Benjamin Baill, born in Valenciennes in northeastern France, comes with an impressive background: After graduating from cooking school in Aulnoye-Aymeries he moved to London to work at the Sheraton Park Tower before working for Alain Ducasse at Spoon at the Hotel Byblos in Saint-Tropez. He stayed for a year before starting to work in 2004 in the Robuchon restaurant empire for the next five years in increasingly responsible roles beginning as Commis de Cuisine at Restaurant Joel Robuchon in Monaco, Chef de Partie at L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon in Paris and finally as Sous Chef at L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon in Las Vegas before moving to Los Angeles.
This combination of high reputation of Chef Bailly, excellent ingredients from Petrossian and numerous good reviews put this restaurant on top of our list and we finally contacted them to arrange some kind of tasting menu to get the best experience. After a few brief discussions we agreed that an eight course tasting menu at Petrossian would be a great way to get to know their cuisine.
Petrossian is located on a quiet part of Robinson Avenue and has more the feeling of a small café than a restaurant with several tables outside on the walkway.
The interior is kept in light colors and was nicely complemented with brightly colored flowers. We were quite surprised when we arrived on a Saturday night that besides us only one table outside was occupied which left soon after. We expected that more customers would come throughout the night but it turned out that we were the only guests that night and for the first time we had our own private chef in a way.
Cosmopolitan – Vodka, Patron Citronage, lemon twist. Hibiscus Champagne – Champagne, rhubarb syrup, hibiscus. We started the night with some cocktails. The cosmopolitan was a rather classical approach and had a nice balance between the alcohol and the lemon. Their signature hibiscus champagne had a similarly nice balance between the dryness of the champagne and the sweetness of the rhubarb syrup.
1st Course: Blinis with crème fraiche and three kind of roes (sturgeon, trout and salmon)
A great way to start a tasting menu at Petrossian with a classical presentation of tastings of different roes. Very good blinis served as the foundation for the interplay of tartness of the crème fraiche and the saltiness of the roes. It was interesting to taste the differences in saltiness and fishiness of the three different roes with trout being the mildest of the three.
2nd Course: Chilled borscht with caviar
Even though Petrossian is a French company it has due to its caviar business strong connections to Russia. And so it is no surprise to see a classical Russian dish on the menu – borscht. Chef Bailly’s variation is served chilled and much less rustic than what you would get it in Russia. It has a very smooth consistency not unlike Gazpacho with a nice earthyness from the beets and other blended vegetables. The caviar adds some saltiness and completes this light and refreshing course.
3rd Course: Cauliflower panna cotta with caviar
Another very strong dish – Nice balance between the sweetness of the panna cotta, which had a very slight cauliflower/vegetable aftertaste, and the saltiness of the caviar. The “popping” texture of the caviar also added some textural diversity.
4th Course: Steak tartare, caviar, quail egg, crostini
The ultimate “surf’n’turf” – Hand sliced hanger steak tartare topped with caviar and a fried quail egg. When we got this course we weren’t really sure if steak tartare and caviar would work together but after the first bite we were convinced. The meat and the caviar are a great match and the dish is perfected by the running yolk of the quail egg. It will be hard to ever again eat a regular steak tartare. At this point our excellent waitress mentioned that she can’t remember when Chef Bailly last time used such amounts of caviar in one tasting menu. And the caviar layer was indeed as thick as the meat layer.
5th Course: Crispy egg, cippolini onion soubise, caviar
Soubise is a bechamel based sauce but here it had more the consistency of a puree. Once you cracked the panko crusted egg the egg yolk mixed with the soubise and formed a smooth but slightly acidic foundation for the egg. And again the saltiness of the caviar really brought the dish together.
6th Course: Seared foie gras, strawberries, pistachio
A simple but successful variation on seared foie gras. Foie gras is normally accompanied by something sweet to counterbalance the richness of the foie gras. Often chefs use jams or fruit reductions which can be too sweet. Chef Bailly used instead the natural sweetness of ripe strawberries which just add the right amount of sweetness. The pistachios add some nice texture to the course.
7th Course: Halibut, lardon, english peas
Very moist fish with fresh peas which had a wonderful sweetness. The lardon was a good addition to the dish.
8th Course: Gianduja parfait, vanilla mascarpone and vanilla panna cotta, mango, pop rocks
Very rich parfait with great hazelnut flavor. The vanilla panna cotta was also excellent and very light. The pop rocks added an unusual twist.
Espresso to end the tasting menu
On the way out our waitress also gave us a small box of truffles which we later ate and they continued the high quality of everything served at Petrossian.
We had quite high expectations when we came to Petrossian and Chef Bailly easily met and exceeded them. It is impressive to see with which ease he combines often just a few ingredients and creates outstanding dishes. Especially considering that he is somehow limited by what he can use as key ingredients to reflect Petrossian’s business. We had caviar before at different restaurants but it never impressed us as a noteworthy ingredient, but the night we ate at Petrossian we started to love caviar. Just looking at the picture one could get the impression that the tasting menu was a caviar overkill but every single dish was perfectly balanced and had just the right amount of caviar.
We were first a little bit wary that being the only customers on that night would lead to a rushed and uninspired tasting menu but it became very clear from the beginning that everybody at Petrossian was just interested to provide us with the best possible experience. Therefore it is even more disappointing to see how empty Petrossian was on a Saturday night knowing that many restaurants around serve less impressive food but are packed. There is no doubt for us to return to Petrossian soon but hopefully more people will have found out that the hype around chef Benjamin Bailly is more than justified.
Petrossian Paris Boutique & Cafe
321 N Robertson Blvd
West Hollywood, CA 90048-2415