By Bob Schriner
Set as the house restaurant of the Andaz Hotel, RH feels like nothing you would expect from a Hyatt. The high ceilings and big open spaces made me suspect that we were going to be sort of detached from the rest of the room. Yet, when I was seated our waitress Lauren stopped by with a plate of fresh veggies and yogurt, I was assured this would be a homey affair. The simple collection of radishes, carrots, tomatoes and cauliflower were so fresh that I felt like they came from a garden in the back. The bread that arrived was freshly baked and still warm with a rather rich herbed butter.
The menu at RH gave an indecisive man fits, there were no easy choices. By a slight edge, I decided to start out with the Boothbay Harbor Lobster Parmentier with garlic, sea beans and salmon roe in a cream sauce. Lobster Parmentier can be hard to perfect as the heat needed to form and brown the dish could make the delicate lobster over-cooked or tough. Chef Sebastien Archambault pulled off a minor miracle here combining a nice crisp finish along with a rich, smooth potato filling and the lobster…oh the lobster. The large pieces of lobster in this mini-meal were overwhelming, so tender and flavorful.
Sitting in our corner booth in the back of the restaurant I was charmed by the sight of the kitchen…in plain view for all the patrons. The rather deliberately exposed kitchen was not showy or in your face. Being able to see all the tools, ingredients and kitchen staff, well it doesn’t get more honest than that.
For dinner, another tough choice. This time I nearly had to flip a coin to chose between the Suckling Pig and the Seared Diver Scallops. With a little advice from our faithful waitress Lauren, I opted for the Suckling Pig. The pig was cooked for 12 hours and served with roasted potatoes and artichokes in a rosemary au jus. You can’t go wrong cooking pork for 12 hours, but this dinner was still surprisingly wonderful.
For dessert, the Roasted Kingsburg Farm Apple Cinnamon Puff Pastry came highly recommended. Little did our waitress know that a warm baked apple treat hints right to the heart of my Pennsylvania Dutch roots. Delivered in a hot pan right out of the oven, this dessert affirmed all that is good in life. The apples were baked just right; still with a slight bit of resistance. The sweet cream and the tart apple made me feel like a boy basking in a mothers love, alright not my mothers love, more like the attractive host mother of my exchange student friend.
I’m eager to get back to RH soon. Their use of fresh local ingredients, endearing service and traditional French fare make me want to return with the menu I brought home with me as a checklist.
RH Restaurant at the Andaz Hotel
8401 Sunset Blvd
West Hollywood, CA 90069
Interview with chef Sebastien Archambault:
Q: What was the inspiration behind the menu you created at RH?
A: I created the market-to-table menu because of the variety of produce available in Southern California. With so many options, it allows for me to be very creative, especially with the changing seasons. It’s nice to be able to give guests freedom to choose what they want to eat and also a variety of options throughout the year.
Q: Who have you trained with?
A: My dad was the first to train me. He was the owner of two restaurants and I learned my first lessons from watching him. My mentor after my dad was Jean Francois Rouquette in Paris. He taught me more than just cooking skills. From Jean Francois, I learned management skills and how to create menus based on the produce that’s available.
Q: Did training with Alain Ducasse influence your cooking style?
A: The training with Ducasse was rigorous. He taught me organization, respect of the produce, and high cooking techniques. This has affected my cooking style because I don’t settle for just “okay.” I am constantly pushing myself and my team to strive for more, with their techniques, goals, and creativeness.
Q: It’s so fun being able to watch you and your staff cook with the open kitchen area. Can it be nerve racking knowing that your guests are watching you cook the whole time?
A: No, I don’t think it’s nerve-racking. In fact, I think it’s quite the opposite. I really enjoy the interaction between my team and the guests. It gives us a bit of an adrenaline rush. This also allows for us to get immediate feedback. Because the space is so open, I can see the faces of each of our guests. I know right away if they love it or not. We have nothing to hide and we are very open to welcome guests into our space so they can learn along with us.
Q: How do you keep your staff inspired?
A: I have a whip in the back! (hahaha). Unlike traditional kitchens where the chef might be barking the orders, I allow for my team to be very involved with the day-to-day planning and creative process. I give them goals each day and then encourage them to find their own way of solving each.
Q: What are some of your favorite items on the fixed RH menu?
A: This is easy. The beef cheek, the diver scallops and the field mushroom risotto.
Q: For an indecisive person (like me) it can be quite hard to choose what I want from a menu like the “market list” with so many delicious choices and ways to mix and match. What is your personal favorite mix and match?
A: Oooo, that is a tough one. For me, I like a fish option, seared, with green asparagus, baby spinach, broccolini, and boc choy. For a sauce, I really like the basil, pine nut and parmesan pesto, top with fresh olive oil sauce. It’s awesome!! Oh, and a side of mashed potatoes!
Q: What region offers some of the best food in the world?
A: It really all depends on the style of cuisine you are looking for. This isn’t a question that’s so easily answered.
Q: How different is the Parisian restaurant scene versus the Los Angeles dining scene?
A: The mentality of the guests is not the same. In my opinion, the guests that I’ve encountered here in Los Angeles are friendlier. They like the interaction between them and my team. I like it as well. It’s a nice feeling to know that I can go up to their table and be welcomed so warmly.