When I first heard that a new restaurant was taking over Oliverio at the Avalon Hotel in Beverly Hills, I was kind of bummed. I could always find a solid meal there in a sleek setting without having to endure a “scene.”
So when I heard that local French restauranteurs Stephane Bombet and Francois Renaud were taking over the space to open Viviane, I was both excited and sad. On the one hand, Bombet and Renaud have a good track record with Terrine, and Bombet and Chef Michael Hung found success together at Faith & Flower. On the other hand, I have great memories from Oliverio, including having my bridal brunch there.
After having dinner at Viviane soon after its official opening, I’m intrigued enough to want to return. The menu focuses on contemporary takes on the classics in both food and drink. Chef Michael Hung offers seasonal, elevated versions of well-known dishes such as linguine and clams, steak tartare, and chicken and dumplings. And barman Ryan Wainwright, he of The Tasting Kitchen and Terrine fame who designed Viviane’s cocktail menu, has variations on the Manhattan, Cosmopolitan and even Long Island Iced Tea.
While not every dish I tried was a standout, there were some that stuck with me. Chef Hung’s handmade linguine with geoduck and Manila clams, Chardonnay sauce and pan-fried breadcrumbs was my favorite of the night. I could have eaten this entire plate of buttery goodness myself. The crispy pork belly was a pleasant surprise; its crackling skin and tender meat paired nicely with the Brussels sprouts kraut, apple onion compote and rosemary jus.
The soft-cooked duck egg served over caramelized endive, roasted corn and quinoa, was another good dish, though I kind of wanted more flavor from it. The seasonal fuyu persimmon and pomegranate salad, with arugula, sunflower seeds and a honey-thyme vinaigrette, features my favorite fall fruit and offered a pop of freshness to the meal.
The two dishes that I could take or leave bookended my meal. The yellowfin tuna tartare, served with pinenut crema and pickled onion, came with ciabatta crostini, which I found too oily as a complement to the fish. And the roasted Mary’s chicken and dumplings just wasn’t anything to write home about. (It also cost the same as the linguine, so given the choice, I’d definitely choose the pasta.)
When it came to drinks, Wainwright’s three takes on the classic Manhattan — versions made with rye, scotch and rum — were my dream come true. I love dark, stirred cocktails, so getting a trio of them will get you two thumbs up from me every time. (I still prefer the traditional Manhattan made with rye, but Wainwright’s Cuban version, with Bacardi 8 year rum, Hamilton Guyana rum, Cocchi vermouth and bitters, is definitely interesting.)
While not every dish wowed me at this early visit, I can’t wait to go back to see how Chef Hung’s menu evolves.
Note: This meal was hosted.