The first thing you should probably know about Citrus at Social, Jeffrey Chodorow's just-retooled restaurant dropped into the former Hollywood Athletic Club, is that the French fries are cooked in clarified butter. Let me repeat that: French fries sizzled in butter. The fries are crisp and brown on the outside, practically liquid within, and may be the best you've ever tasted in your life. The suggested serving size is one fry, maybe two, because you can actually feel the arterial plaque accumulate with every delicious bite. Do we live in the best of all possible times? Possibly, yes. Although the fries at Citrus at Social are available as a side order, they generally come with the 72-hour short ribs, slow-cooked into a quivering gelatinous mass, quickly seared, and formed into lozenges that resemble cut sushi rolls. There is a red-wine reduction. There are those fries, assembled into a rough log cabin constructed of potatoes and cholesterol.
The consulting chef is Michel Richard, whose original Citrus, on Melrose, went a long way toward defining the slicker end of California cooking in the 1980s — he has since moved to Washington, D.C., where as the chef of the revered and popular Citronelle he walks as a god among men. He, not incidentally, was the chef who introduced Los Angeles to the idea of mashed spuds enriched to the point where they became basically potato-flavored butter, so he is more or less stepping in here right where he left off.
Richard's menus have always kept up with the latest techniques, so while fans of the old Citrus will recognize the style of cooking, they will often find it bent into new guises, frizzled leeks, complex beurres blanc, oversized plates and all. Richard was the first American chef to useketayif, a kind of Middle-Eastern shredded wheat that he wraps around seafood for an extra crunch. But where the crunchy scallop is familiar, the bed of scrambled “eggs” on which it now lies, fashioned from shredded scallops bound with a yellow saffron emulsion, are not. Lobster with couscous is tricked out to resemble a serving of caviar. Shredded cuttlefish, familiar to Matsuhisa regulars as squid pasta, is finished like spaghetti carbonara. Little ramekins of snails broiled with pureed herbs under a hazelnut crust have all the garlicky punch of the classic dish but with an added crunch. The tarte tatin, on Richard's signature caramelized wafer, has all of the sensations of the traditional dessert but involves a whole poached apple instead of the usual thin slices. And the crowd? Imagine the late-'80s Citrus regulars squeezed into even higher heels and even shorter skirts. Progress will not be denied. 6525 Sunset Blvd., Hlywd. (323) 462-5222 or www.citrusatsocial.com.