Stephane Bombet, who is a partner in Terrine with Kris Morningstar, has now teamed up with Chef Michael Hung, who made a name for himself with his impeccable cooking at Faith & Flower. The new restaurant, Viviane, opened its doors yesterday at the Proper Hospitality’s Avalon Hotel Beverly Hills. The restaurant will serve breakfast, lunch, happy hour, dinner, and weekend brunch.
We attended a soft opening, and were thrilled with the delicious meal. The Kelly Wearstler-designed room is influenced by mid-century modern, with clean lines and not too much fuss with a touch of whimsy here and there. Original pieces are scattered here and there, like the sleek wood and brass dining chairs by American mid-century designer Dan Johnson. It felt upscale yet casual, without a smidgen of stuffiness. The room was bustling, but relatively quiet. The servers floated gracefully through the dining room, attentive but not intrusive, with just enough conversation to make you feel special and a little spoiled.
Viviane aims to present a modern take on classic American and Continental cuisine. Chef Michael Hung honed his craft in New York and San Francisco at Michelin-starred and James Beard award-winning restaurants. He draws upon his memories of enjoying Continental classics like Duck à l’Orange at the 21 Club when he was young, and adds “the California touch of personally-sourced, seasonal ingredients.”
The chef’s experience definitely showed in his elegant and restrained dishes. Although each one had innovative touches, everything was clean and direct without any clutter, much like the Danish modern furniture that filled the room. The dishes were standard, like the Foie Gras au Torchon, but he gave it a little oomph with Candied Butternut Squash, Cider Gelee and Walnuts. New and interesting flavors, true, but nothing to frighten the neighbors.
Chef Hung focuses on using only the best ingredients and perfecting the most basic elements of a dish rather than concentrating on bells and whistles. Nowhere was this style more evident than the Handmade Linguine with Marinated Geoduck Clams, Manila Clams and Chardonnay Sauce. The linguine fell into delicate strands, and you could tell that they were made by loving hands. Perhaps that’s a tad romantic, but the pasta reminded me of something my mother would make for me, infusing every part of the process with affection. The geoduck slices were tender, with a briny taste of the sea. The Manila clams were a bit more delicate, and the simple but flavorful sauce married perfectly with them.
We had already heard the buzz around Mary’s Chicken & Dumplings with Parisian Gnocchi, Young Carrots, Cipollini Onions, and Natural Jus. It did not disappoint. The crispy, perfectly seasoned chicken skin dripping with the robust au jus was the perfect first bite. If the tenderness of the meat was any indication of its treatment, these chickens were not only free-range, and antibiotic-free, but they were hand-fed only the finest organic corn while being gently rocked in loving hands to Brahm’s lullabye.
Again, Crispy Pork Belly was a traditional and unsurprising dish, but it was cooked to perfection, falling into unctuous strips at the mere hint of a fork. There was just enugh fat to melt down the sides of the pork belly without ever getting an unpleasant mouthful of blubbery lard. I will confess that I abstained from the Brussels Sprouts Kraut, not being a fan of cruciferous vegetables. But the Apple Onion Compote, and Rosemary Jus elevated the pork belly to something truly swoon-worthy.
The dessert selection was exciting. I ordered the Sweet Potato Toffee Pudding with compressed Asian pear, Ice Milk, and Warm Spices. It was like a cross between a traditional English pudding and a sweet potato quick bread. You could not tell that it was not accompanied by full-fat ice cream, which we scooped up with bits of the pear. My favorite part was the sheet of glassy sugar adorning the top that turned out to be very intense candied ginger.
The wine list has been co-curated by Managing Partner and Wine Director François Renaud and General Manager Emmanuel Faure, the focus is on French wines and California varietals, although it is much heavier on the French side than most local restaurants. Wines by the glass are extremely reasonable, maxing out at $20. I had a lovely Crémant de Limoux brut, philippe collin for only $10. Bar Director Ryan Wainwright’s cocktail menu is also influenced by the mid-20th century. Gimlets, I enjoyed a fantastic Lime Rickey with Haymans Old Tom Gin, Lime Cordial, and Club Soda.
Other diners raved about the 12 oz. Grilled Piedmontese Ribeye Steak with Bone Marrow Gremolata and Smoked Potato Puree, Sauce Bordelaise, especially the bone marrow gremolata. I almost wanted an order of gremolata and toast points, but I didn’t want to mess with the chef on such an intense night. The steak gives us one of many reasons to return, along with the skate wing and shellfish boudin blanc. Not to mention the reasonable prices. It’s an upscale Beverly Hills restaurant with stunning plates that a couple can easily enjoy for under $100. And that pool. I might book a room next time just to dive into that beautiful low-lit swimming pool.