It's pretty rare when I'll venture to Beverly Hills on the weekend for dinner or nightlife. There's a strong business and tourist crowd in Beverly Hills during the week, but at night, there's not enough action to make it much of a destination for most. Then I heard about the hip Hakkasan landing on North Beverly and thought it could be worth a trip.
Hakkasan isn't a new name, and in fact, it got its start in London back in 2001. From there, expansion grew all over the world from Miami to Abu Dhabi and several points in between including Las Vegas just last year. I've heard that the Vegas location is quite the clubby scene, so I wondered if they could infuse any of that energy into the more sedate Beverly Hills.
Walking into the bottom floor of the MGM building, I was greeted by several young female hostesses all clad in a uniform of black, form fitting, short dresses. Sometimes they'd sail so silently around the dining room in their dark colors that I couldn't even seen them gliding past me. There was an army of servers, and all were more than eager to ensure that our visit was a good one.
Hakkasan utilizes its space well with a beautiful maze of elaborate Asian woodwork separating rooms into more intimate nooks for diners. Lighting was soft, but there were single drop fixtures that shone on top of each table so no iphone was needed to read the menu or see the food. The glass bar was breathtaking in its size and sleekness with backlit blue colors from below and a wave like rolling image imposed on the back wall.
The menu covers a wide range of high end Cantonese cuisine. There's a special dim sum selection at lunch and a sampler platter at dinner with dumplings, shumai and har gow - all well done with a range of sauce dipping opportunities including hot chili oil, soy sauce and sweet chili sauce. A nice way to start things off with a craft cocktail, sake, beer or wine from their extensive drink menu.
The salt and pepper squid could have gone the way of a deeply over fried chewy, calamari, but this is Beverly Hills dining, so the squid was delicately spiced and lightly battered making for a surprisingly light and flavorful dish.
The pork short ribs were fall off the bone, but our server still cut and served us so we'd barely have to lift our fork to eat the tea infused, sweet ribs with an exceptional tangy sauce.
These dishes were all on the "small eats" menu and all worth ordering again, but the one you must get is the crispy duck salad. They know what they're doing in the duck department here and you'll find it in a few forms on the menu. You can go for the whole crispy duck, but that'll set you back just under $300. The salad is "only" $28, but you still get a heaping pile of duck that is sweet, salty, crispy, chewy and expertly balanced with pomegranate and acidic greens. It's a must order.
On the fish and seafood menu, the roasted silver cod is delicately prepared with a soft champagne laced broth. After the previous bold flavors, it was almost too demure for me, but still well done.
Wild prawns kept the spice level high with its velvety, spicy curry sauce that showed adept preparation with its layers of flavors.
While the wok fried beef was beautifully served, I found it a bit lacking in flavor. It was tender and juicy, but the Mongolian sauce was barely traceable, making for a somewhat bland dish.
Truffle does make everything better, and it's no exception at Hakkasan where egg noodles are infused with generous amounts of truffle and tossed with enoki mushrooms. That alone was a great dish, but then it's stacked with perfectly seared scallops, truly making it a homerun.
We saved room for a selection of desserts like PB&J, not exactly Cantonese, but a dense peanut butter parfait included concord grape jam and a caramelized banana with a side of passion fruit sorbet. The childhood classic never tasted so good.
There was interesting gelato flavors, but this was all just preamble to the homemade macarons. A large tin of rainbow colored French pastries in a range of flavors brought me right back to Paris. Crisp wafers gave way to creamy filling like espresso, PB&J, chocolate and sea salt.
As the evening went on, the tables all filled up with more women in tiny dresses and the house music started beating a little harder. While maybe not my scene later in the evening, the food was all extremely well done and I'd come back for a meal anytime, or at least anytime before it turns too clubby. A note though that this isn't your cheap Chinese find. You will be paying more than you want to here, but I suppose that's what you get when you want good food and high energy in a nice Beverly Hills setting.