by Chrissy Iley
I remember years ago stumbling across a basement restaurant tucked away in a tiny street in London. Hanway Place had nothing elegant about it until Hakkasan arrived. It was Chinese food that was distinctive, clean, modern and delicious. It was the start of a Michelin-starred empire.
Other Hakkasans came in Mayfair, Miami, Shanghai, Dubai, San Francisco and New York and Las Vegas. And now the newest has arrived in Beverly Hills.
The dining area features oak accents. Each space is separated by intricately carved Chinese screens, known as the cage, which is a signature Hakkasan Beverly Hills design element. It makes a big space feel cosy like the very first Hakkasan.
I remember distinctly the first time I went there and tried the noodles. My friend and I ordered a second portion of the same kind because they were so outstanding. You don’t expect a place so modern and so design conscious to offer food of equal calibre. But the food is indeed lovely.
This time I went with two friends and shared a vegetarian feast; a beautiful plate of stir-fried mushrooms with pistachios and pine nuts and a lettuce wrap and a sumptuous dim sum platter with bean curd, lettuce rolls and edamame dumplings, which looked pretty and bright in their primary colours. The star of the show was the vegetarian chicken with black pepper sauce and sugar snap peas.
I have tasted many versions of mock chicken and they were always more mock than chicken. But this was better than chicken. The texture was perfect, not too dense or woolly. The black pepper sauce was moreish and edgy and the contrast with the crispy sweet sugar snap peas was a delight.
After that we had stir-fried lotus root with lily bulb and asparagus, which was strangely refreshing, and a tofu and aubergine clay pot with black bean sauce and shitake mushrooms, which was remarkabely cosy.
The Hakka Noodles with Chinese chives was still the world`s most perfect noodles.
Hakkasan Beverly Hills is a restaurant of contrasts where extremes meet. It is chic but cosy. The food is comforting and the cocktail menu can out mix a nightclub.
I had the Chinese Mule which was a standout mix of vodka, sake, coriander, ginger, lime and ginger beer. It was so perfect that I did not want to try another. My friend had Green Destiny, which was a mix of Bison Grass vodka, cucumber, kiwi and Granny Smith apple juice. My other friend tried the Strawberry Basil Martini, which was set off with the inclusion of white balsamic vinegar and Thai basil.
The cocktails are carefully constructed, all of them with an Eastern edge and an incredible lift. I would have been quite happy with another cocktail for dessert. One of my friends finished off with an Espresso Martini. But I could not resist the Black Sesame, a dark chocolate sesame mousse with yuzu ice cream and sesame Florentine. My friend had the Chocolate Mandarin, which was chocolate mousse with orange frozen yoghurt inside it. I am not sure you can call anything with chocolate refreshing but this made a good attempt at it.
Throughout the evening the service was informed and excellent, just the right amount of attention, without being too in your face.
I always find it interesting when a restaurant you know well goes viral; you expect it to lose some of its uniqueness and charm but Hakkasan Beverly Hills is indeed still truly itself, located at 233 North Beverly Hills Drive, Bevery Hills, Califonia CA90210. Reservations at www.hakkasanbh.com.
Book for Mayfair or Hanway Place at www.hakkasan.com.