It's hard to keep secrets in the L.A. food world. Often we know about restaurants months or even years in advance. So it was particularly impressive that no one knew about legendary French chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten's West Coast debut until The New York Times reported it, buried in a news roundup in early March. And voila, yesterday not one but three restaurants bearing the Jean-Georges name opened, along with the hotel that spawned them, the Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills.
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Jean-Georges Beverly Hills serves as the hotel's main restaurant, with breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. The food is partially a greatest-hits list of dishes from other Vongerichten properties, with some additions showcasing local produce and seafood. It's also very much a hotel restaurant, meaning it sets out to please a wide range of tastes: The menu has everything from caviar to pizza to crab cakes to angel hair pasta with tomato sauce. The executive chef is Steve Benjamin, who previously worked at L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon in Las Vegas.
The other two restaurants are more casual. The Rooftop by JG overlooks the rooftop pool, and a cocktail-focused Jean-Georges Beverly Hills Bar serves small plates.
Vongerichten's L.A. debut is only the beginning of a march of high-profile restaurateurs from other cities who are clamoring to open here. This year alone we're getting the Nomad Hotel and restaurant, an April Bloomfield project, as well as expansions from San Fransisco's Slanted Door and Tartine Manufactory.
Will Jean-Georges Beverly Hills stand out in this crowded field? It's hard to say: Vongerichten has opened hotel restaurants in other cities (including Atlanta when I was there) that failed to make much of an impression. But with L.A. being the white-hot market it is right now, there's a lot of incentive to impress.