With restaurants opening all over town at the hands of skilled planners, deep pockets and great chefs; there is a real challenge for the old guard to maintain. Just the same, I was excited to visit the Polo Lounge and see if this LA landmark was worthy of the legend. Named after the celebrities who would meet there after Polo matches, The Polo Lounge has been host to just about every notable name you could imagine in the entertainment business for close to 100 years. To this day you will find a black and white photo-mural of polo players in action which originally went up when the restaurant first opened in 1912. The poster was subsequently covered after a refurbishment with the only evidence of it being an old photo of Marlene Dietrich smoking a cigar in the 30′s at the bar in front of the mural. After a more recent refurbishment, the cover-up was taken down, allowing the mural to be seen. Now the mural, an original artifact of the Polo Lounge of yore lends a sweet and historical air of authenticity to the lounge.
We were seated and the first thing I noticed was a man sitting alone at a table from us painstakingly reading through a thick manuscript. Seriously? Do they pay him to do that just like the girl who played Coldplay songs on the piano? Our waiter Alec suggested I try a pineapple infused Herradura tequila cocktail. This drink turned out to be advice I turned to a few more times through the night.
I started off with the chilled lobster salad, which came to the table with a strong visual presence. The lobster was leaning on the side of multi-colored grapefruit wedges set atop lamb’s lettuce, spicy sesame brittle and a Marie Rose sauce. I know you might be thinking the sauce is a bit kitsch, but it was subtle to the taste and gave the plate a nice color. The combination of lobster with grapefruit was rewarding in a Hamachi afterlife sort of way, just divine.
I have this issue where I really can’t reasonably turn down lobster or Foie Gras, so tonight, I had both. The Foie was a Hudson Valley foie gras with a smoked duck terrine with pear butter on a toasted brioche. My first instincts with this dish were that something had gone astray in the execution here. I know the terrine was smoked, but it also seemed a bit charred while the brioche was soggy. One of those setbacks alone is enough to destroy your average appetizer. Yet, this came out ok, not great mind you, but redeemable.
For my entrée I chose the diver scallops. The scallops were cooked to perfection giving them an ideal texture. While a bit over-salted, the accompanying white asparagus and green garlic risotto gave it a nice balance. With this dish I felt like each ingredient could be enjoyed on its own or in tandem.
To close out the meal our ordered-in-advance chocolate soufflés arrived. I’m a big fan of this dessert and knowing all night that this would be coming to me left a lingering sense of expectation. When the soufflé arrived I was struck by the size of it. This portion is meant for lovers no doubt. Now if I’d known there would be a chocolate layer poured over the top, I probably would have asked them not to bother with that excessive detail. What appeals to me most about this dish is the consistency, mainly the top. That was a pleasure I could not have with this one. Now all that criticism aside, the consistency of the inside as well as the outer crust was very pleasing. The level of dark chocolate was pronounced so the bitter and sweet chocolates were at just the right levels.
While some dishes were good, but not flat out amazing, I must say service in the Polo Lounge was exceptional. From top to bottom, all the staff were commendable for their attentiveness, product knowledge and providing the sense of being taken care of.
9641 Sunset Boulevard
Beverly Hills, CA 90210