The French know how to make everything an art form: romance, fashion, music. However, most culinary connoisseurs will agree the French’s true calling shines brightest in the kitchen.
Simply put, the French are foodie gods.
Their mix of subtle tastes and textures blend perfectly in dishes developed with such a rich roundedness that even the tiniest bite has diners talking for years to come.
Lucky for Angelenos, Esterel, housed in Beverly Hill’s Sofitel Hotel, has brought all the delicious French decadence and culinary creativity a little closer to home. The Sofitel Hotels are an international chain of luxury and boutique hotels dedicated to pampering their guest with every ounce of elegance and indulgence. Everything, from the plush carpet beneath your feet, to the traveling art exhibition lining the hallways, screams beauty. But you haven’t experienced half of what makes Sofitel so amazing, until you taste the food. Esterel has put Sofitel on the map with perfected dishes that combine the right amount of simple complexity through a blend of overseas accents and backyard organics.
Esterel has spent the last year crafting and creating its identity, bringing European influence to California dining. “We are using our French roots and culture while embracing the local culture. We are applying this philosophy to our guests experience,” said Esterel’s Executive Chef Marius Blin, who was voted Chef of the year in 2010 by the Chefs and Members of the French Club Culinaire of Southern California.
Esterel uses local California ingredients to create a simple twist on French staples. “The vision of Esterel is Mediterranean South of France food. Easy to understand, not pretentious, using local ingredients, and with a good influence of fish and seafood,” added Blin.
Blin drew inspiration from his past experience where he honed his culinary skills working with some of France’s most renowned and Michelin star awarded chefs, including Guy Savoy, Jacques Le Divellec, and Guy Martin. Blin, who puts an emphasis on the use of local ingredients to draw from regional inspiration works closely with local farmers and suppliers. His favorite past time is to go to farmers markets and teach his daughter and other kids how simple and good, healthy food can be.
While Esterel has always been aimed at bringing luxury to every experience around the clock, much of their earlier energy was focused on their evening menu. With success established, Blin decided to shift some of the focus to the early morning crowd, perfecting a brunch and breakfast menu that simply states: Esterel is elegant at any hour.
“Since the opening of Esterel late last year, a lot of focus was made toward dinner and creating our identity. We incorporated our menu and dishes to our new and now famous Riviera 31 lounge. It was of course time for breakfast to follow the same treatment.” Esterel has added and enhanced their brunch selection to cater to the specific needs of their health conscious cliental. “We enhanced our breakfast offering with a breakfast table including omelet station, De-Light low calorie items, cocktail juices, and much more while adding a touch of Mediterranean cuisine. Brunch was the natural transition. Our neighborhood clientele has been demanding for it.” And what Esterel offers are the perfect ingredients to make Sunday morning as scrumptious as possible. “For Brunch, I wanted to create generous, flavorful, and hearty dishes that I would prepare for my friends and family,” added Blin.
Sunday brunch at Esterel includes choice of one entrée, fresh fruit, cheese, charcuterie, cereal, French pastry, omelet prepared to order classic breakfast favorites and juice, French pressed coffee or tea. Entrée choices include: Toasted Croque Monsieur, a traditional French staple with ham, Swiss cheese on country bread, seasonal green salad, Crab Claws served with cocktail sauce, seasonal coleslaw, Eggs Benedict Florentine English muffin, Canadian bacon sautéed spinach, hollandaise and many other various dishes.
But lucky for the Edible Skinny we got our own private tour of the restaurant’s standout out dishes and exceptional service. Here’s a little bit of our experience, bite by bite.
The first thing you notice about Esterel, besides the charming “Bonjours” as you enter, is the calming atmosphere. Walking into Esterel is like walking into a mystical forest of calm and quiet. Banqueted tables and booths washed in softened colors of sand and sage are filled with guests quietly reading the newspaper and sipping coffee. Within seconds of sitting, we were greeted by our server, offered a variety of coffee beverages and water. We were also given a sampling of the smoothie of the day, a creamy pineapple and banana concoction, sweet and robust. As soon as the drinks arrived, our server dropped off various pastries made fresh daily and served with all breakfasts and brunches. The various baguettes and croissants embodied Esterel’s effort to blend the there and here. Traditional treats like chocolate croissants and baguettes are part of the selection, however Esterel also uses local ingredients like orange and agave to diversify the selection and honor the natural treasures of California cuisine.
Next we were severed an egg white vegetable frittata, layered with garden herbs ricotta cheese and assorted vegetable, asparagus, tomato, bell pepper, zucchini, squash flower, basil, from Esterel’s newest De-Light menu. This full-flavored dish has all the richness of a decadent dish with none of the guilt. The De-Light menu is described as, “A gastronomic adventure in healthy eating, De–Light by Sofitel is a pleasurable surprise of refined tastes with the freshest ingredients. De–Light by Sofitel reflects the innovative array of well–balanced, low–calorie meals to help you meet your health and weight goals in delicious style.” Other items offered on the De-Light menu are a Protein Scramble and McCann’s Irish Oatmeal. All items are the De-Light menu are flavor forward and under 200 calories.
For those with more of a sweet tooth, Esterel’s French toast is perhaps one of their most decadent signature dishes on the menu. Made on a Mini croissant, with vanilla whipped cream, Vermont maple syrup and marinated berries this dish showcases the idea that a simple twist can turn a staple into a standout. Not only is Esterel’s French toast swimming in the rich, buttery overtones of the croissant, but the flakiness offers a lightness to this dish that is traditionally on the heavier side.
Blin then prepared dishes that represented what we could expect when leaning more towards the late morning or lunch side of the menu. The first was a mouth-watering steak and eggs. While steak and eggs usually attracts a heartier, meat-eater crowd, this dish had an elegance that was both surprising and delicate. Esterel’s steak and eggs features a grilled prime flat iron steak topped with an over easy egg, truffle celery puree, red wine sauce. This is hands down one of Esterel’s most creative culinary creations, the simple additions of truffle and red wine, bring out deep complex flavors, making it one of the best dishes on the menu and arguably the best steak and eggs in all of Los Angeles.
Next we found that there is more than one way to cook an egg, but something this daring takes skill and delicate touch of a master. Served on top of a bed of wild arugula, prosciutto, fresh Burrata cheese we enjoyed a twice-cooked free range eggs topped roasted sun chokes “en robe des champs” (en robe des champs is a poetic way to describe unpeeled potatoes or other root vegetables). The twice-cooked egg was first poached and then breaded; its perfect presentation is a testament to the meticulous skill and attention to detail that goes into every dish at Esterel.
For those looking to make brunch a little more fun, Esterel has a list of fun and flirty cocktails. We enjoyed a light and refreshing Bellini, a mixture of sparkling wine, white peach which was the perfect compliment to the Egg White Frittata. On the sweeter side the Kir Royal, sparking wine and Chambord, paired perfectly to Esterel’s French toast or twice-cooked egg.
Esterel, and its varied menu of expressive and layered dishes, speaks highly of Blin’s dedication to perfection, the Sofitel’s definition of luxury and Los Angeles' ability to bring the best and the brightest of the culinary world to show diners just how delicious life can be.