Culina is far more than just your ordinary L.A. restaurant. Boasting Los Angeles’ only “live action” crudo bar where chefs perform their magical genius behind a massive and eye-catching counter of fresh and flavorful delicacies is just one of the many benefits of experiencing this lavish, yet approachable establishment. A fine selection of concurrent and flavorsome Italian fare and Mediterranean raw seafood creations stir the air of this establishment with excitement, intrigue, and fulfillment. On our last visit, we were enchanted by the ambiance, the romantic feel of the dining space indoors, and of course, by the main attraction…the delicious Italian fare that was meticulously prepared and presented to us throughout the evening. Upon entering the restaurant, we were immediately set at ease by the establishment’s elegant garden theme. From the flowering potted topiary trees to fresh ornamental leafy wreathes on a patio wall we passed as we approached the hostess station to a quick peek through a large multi-paned glass window previewing another part of the restaurant, we were pleased the moment we stepped onto the property. A polished and proficient hostess greeted us warmly, offered kind conversation, and immediately showed us to our table without hesitation.
Above, stunning illuminated glass sculptures seemed to float effortlessly overhead as we were seated at a cozy spacious booth overlooking the restaurant. (See all photos at SavorHour.com) A lighted sign at the restaurant’s main entry welcomes diners after dark, while another sign notified passers-by of the restaurant’s location on a nearby corner. At the table, towering crackers are presented in lieu of traditional breads offering a delightful and artistic effect while being back-lit by a flickering candle casting its dim glow across the table.
With two lounges, two private rooms, an intriguing main dining space, and a spacious outdoor dining patio, Culina offers something for everyone. The restaurant excels in culinary perfection both with specialties at the crudo bar, as well as with inventive presentations from the kitchen. On Wednesdays, the establishment celebrates their appreciation of the vine by hosting their weekly “Wine Wednesdays” all day long with $13 four-ounce tastings, $20 glasses, and $80 bottles from a hand selected menu sure to satisfy any palate.
We started with a couple of cocktails from the restaurant’s mixologist behind the bar. I delighted in the smooth, yet vibrant flavored Blueberry Martini, which professed all the delicate flavor of a fruity martini, yet delivered a rewarding level of spirituous addition as well. My husband chose a simple Bacardi and Coke as his starting libation of the evening, while our bottle of 2009 Gary Farrell Pinot Noir was corked and allowed to breathe for a few minutes while we perused the Culina menu and indulged in the mixed olive offering at our table.
The first appetizer that we selected was the A Modo Mio, which was comprised of local burrata cheese, heirloom Rosso Bruno tomatoes, an excellent extra virgin olive oil, and refreshing basil. Pure Italian gourmet delight! We loved how the flavor of the tomatoes was enhanced by the creamy burrata and pop of refreshing basil. The tomatoes were succulent tasting, and were filled with bursts of fresh flavor that we will definitely be returning to experience again.
We’ve enjoyed squash blossoms before at several establishments. All have been delightfully presented and stuffed with some form of heavenly concoction inside. However, the squash blossoms we tasted at Culina on this particular visit were fried so lightly, it almost seemed as though they weren’t. It was more of a crisp cloud of savory goodness that encapsulated a center of warm ricotta cheese, which was enhanced even more by a tomato and mint side addition.
For his entrée, my husband selected the Stracotto, which was a flavorful presentation of short ribs braised in a savory Barolo wine accompanied by various root vegetables and a spinach-horseradish gremolata condiment. The short ribs were extremely tender and while the dish proposed an amazing beefy and marinated flavor, the vegetables and gremolata added a complimentary flavoring to this hearty dish.
I indulged in one of Culina’s signature pasta dishes. Pasta dough is house-made daily behind the scenes in the kitchen where all of the culinary enchantment occurs. This specific evening, I had the opportunity to taste the Lasagna Verdi. Thin layers of spinach pasta intermingled with layers of ragu antico, then creaminess is added with a fantastic besciamella sauce and buffalo mozzarella. I don’t remember how many levels of happiness I experienced when eating this incredible menu item. I lost track with the first bite!
Just when we believed we had not an ounce of space left for another bite, we succumbed to Culina’s homemade Limoncello for after dinner drinks, and a couple of desserts in addition. Somehow, we were able to enjoy three scoops of the in-house prepared Blackberry-Pomegranate, Raspberry, and Grapefruit-Compari sorbet, as well as the Tortino, a warm molten chocolate cake with amaretto and a salted caramel gelato. Every bite of the Tortino literally melted in our mouths, while the potent Limoncello was a refreshing change of pace. The Sorbetti flavors were mouthwatering and bursting with flavor.
We can’t wait to return to Culina to experience their crudo bar, which is a main event in the establishment where chefs perform behind the eye-catching crudo bar while displaying their talents and presenting their inventive creations for unassuming patrons. We also look forward to dining al fresco on our next visit, as well as delight in many newer menu items outside on the garden patio in front of the floating fireplace surrounded by the serene sound of flowing water. Welcome accompaniments to any fine meal at Culina.
◾ ESTABLISHMENT / DECOR: Modern and trendy feel with enhancements of culinary expertise at every turn. Comfortable large booths and nicely-appointed dinner tables offer a cozy intimate setting inside beneath ornamental glass chandeliers overhead, while an expansive garden dining patio features quite a show with its “floating fireplace” and water feature. Action is lively at the crudo bar upon entering the venue where cocktails and fresh seafood compilations entice diners and satisfy even the most discriminative gourmet.
◾FOOD / DRINK: A wide selection of upscale presentations will delight the palate, and fascinate the visual perception of all who enter the restaurant. Fine Italian fare is elegantly prepared and distributed from the kitchen with poised perfection.
◾LOCATION: Culina Modern Italian restaurant is located inside the Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills at 300 South Doheny Drive in Los Angeles, CA 90048.
◾HOURS: Serving phenomenal meals daily, Culina is available for breakfast Monday through Saturday from 6:30 AM to 11 AM, brunch on Sundays from 10 AM until 2 PM, lunch is offered Monday through Saturday from 11:30 AM to 2:30 PM, while dinner hours run Sunday through Wednesday from 6 PM until 10:30 PM, as well as Thursday through Saturday from 6 PM until 11 PM.
◾SERVICE / STAFF: Both management and the service staff were extremely efficient, attentive at every turn, and gracious. At no point did we feel that we were forgotten during our evening of dining at Culina.
◾PRICE / VALUE: Reasonable in our opinion for the stunning display of attractive fare prepared and presented, the romantic and eye-catching elegant, yet modern décor throughout, and the overall feel of warmth and intimacy throughout the entire venue.
◾CORKAGE FEE: $25 per 750mL bottle.
◾CONTACT INFO: Phone: (310) 860-4000, Website: www.culinarestaurant.com
◾PARKING: We chose to allow the hotel’s valet service take care of our vehicle for the evening while we dined at Culina.
◾PRICING: The A Modo Mio and Fiorni Di Zuppa starters are priced reasonably at $14 each, while the Stracatto entrée was a solid $35. The Lasagna Verdi came in at a reasonable $19, while a Blueberry Stoli Martini will cost about $18 along with an additional $14 for a Bacardi Rum & Coke cocktail. The Tortino and Sorbetti desserts are each a soothing $9, and each bottle of wine you bring to enjoy with your meal will add a charge of $25. All fair pricing, and well worth the splurge in our opinion.