Maude has everything going for it: posh Beverly Hills address, exclusive 25 seat dining room, uniquely themed monthly menu, and star power with its owner/chef, Curtis Stone. One of these qualities might be enough for a successful Los Angeles restaurant, but all of them together could be too good to be true. I went to find out.
Curtis Stone, the chef and extremely handsome and charming Aussie owner of Maude, has been cooking for years around the world, but how he got on most people's radars is through his hosting job on Top Chef Masters. It was long a dream of his to open his own restaurant, and finally the stars aligned for him to make his debut with his grandmother's namesake spot, Maude.
You can feel a little bit of grandma in some of the homey touches in the cozy dining room. There are mismatched plates, cups and saucers, and bright patterns and solid white dishes. Service is friendly, but polished with Curtis himself delivering dishes and greeting diners throughout the night.
Each month, Curtis chooses one ingredient and then creates a 9 course tasting menu featuring the star ingredient in each. This month featured morels and they have about 20 pounds flown in daily from the Pacific Northwest to make the evening's dinners.
Dinner started strong with cute bags of popcorn emptied on the table with dehydrated morels, salty Parmesan cheese and a freshly grated Australian truffle on top. A combination of flavors I had never had before, but hope to again soon.
A tiny dollop of rich risotto arrived next with a chicken broth stuffed morel that burst with flavor once bit into. It was everything you wanted in one bite.
A cream of morel soup was poured in beautiful antique tea cups, topped with rosemary oyster crackers. Full, robust with a hint of sweetness.
We moved into the seafood round with a cool Kampachi laced with icy passion fruit snow, served alongside a whipped avocado mousse with fresh notes of thai basil and mint. There were so many unique flavors on the tiny dish. It was like a full meal with just a few bites.
Then came the hot round with one large seared scallop in morel foam with a side of watermelon rind and roe. I wished the scallop was a bit more firm, but it was still decadent and intriguing with a unique mix of flavors.
More pomp appeared with the presentation of the duck egg. Smoke filled glass containers covered the dish, only to be lifted and whiffed in one motion. I felt like I was outside eating bacon and eggs, but outside on a really posh ranch, where people waited on you and thought up ideas like smoky duck eggs. It was one of my favorite dishes invoking all of the senses, especially the one that like really nice tasting things.
In case you didn't know when you receive one pasta filled purse, it is called a raviolo, and if you only have one, this one is a pretty good bet. It sits in a salty, flavorful consumme with watercress, a truffle crumble, and of course a few juicy morels.
Pork belly starts the meat round well with a nice fatty piece with a crisp exterior. Beautiful pieces of daikon and carrot are carved and cut on the plate next to a cilantro emulsion.
A perfect block of seared lamb shares a plate with an eggplant puree, tossed green garbanzos and yes, you guessed it, some more morels. I was hoping there might still be some morels left for the rest of the diners.
The cheese course featured one of my favorites, Taleggio, but in a new form that had a very light shell and a chewy interior. Pickled onion, charred peach and nasturtium rode side saddle on the pretty plate.
How do you end a meal like this? The dessert round started with a play on a dove bar, but they put creamy coffee ice cream inside and of course dusted it with, say it with me, morels.
Then there was the deconstructed black forest floor cake. All of the dark cherry, chocolate and hazelnut flavors were there, sitting beneath some sweetened morels and chocolate covered pretzels. Beautiful, rich and satisfying.
A final plate of petit fours sounded the grande finale bell and subsequent bill, which is never as much fun as the dinner. Was it expensive? Yes it was at $115 for just the food (other months it's been $75-$80), but the quality of the ingredients and the amount of high end morels we consumed was pretty extensive. The wine menu featured bottles mostly over $100 and glasses ran between $15 - $30 each and do rotate monthly. If this is all too expensive, don't worry, Curtis won't go hungry. The reservations are hard to come by. You need to call the 1st of the month to try and score one of the 25 seats in the restaurant for the following month, or check for cancelations periodically.
We were each given a tin of morel infused salt to take home with us to remember our meal. I can only hope throwing it on my eggs will bring me back to that magical smoky duck egg dish.
Maude is a very nice, special occasion Los Angeles restaurant with a rotating monthly menu which means you can experience more than one special occasion here, and it's definitely a place that would make your grandmother proud.