Fermented Black Garlic and Asparagus Financier
Santa Barbra Spot Prawn with Meyer Lemon Sabayon and Asparagus Paper
Foie Gras Mousse with White Asparagus Pain Perdu
White Asparagus Custard with Pickled Kohlrabi and Braised Beef Cheek
Grilled Asparagus with Smooth Buttermilk and Fermented Black Walnut Vinaigrette, Wild Greens
Kingfish Crudo with Avocado, Shaved Asparagus, Pickled Green Figs, Thai Basil
Pee Wee Potato in Forms, Geoduck, Tempura Asparagus, Mussels, Green Garlic
Tai Snapper with Brioche Crust over Fava Bean and Yuba in Asparagus-Oyster Emulsion
Asparagus Miso with Scallop Tofu, Crunchy Brown Rice, Asparagus Ribbons
Parmesan Soup Dumplings, Pork Belly, Peas, Asparagus Tips
Rolls with Onion Butter
Ribeye Cap, Sauce Bordelaise, Asparagus Puree, Braised Lettuce
Idiazabal Cheese Shaved on Goat Yogurt Asparagus Tart
Asparagus Sorbet with Strawberries and Opal Basil
Bitter Chocolate with White Asparagus Mousse, Pine Nuts, Frozen Yogurt
Asparagus Fondant, Gelee with Coriander Sugar, Asparagus Nougat with Honeycomb
Asparagus Curd with Rhubarb and Granola
Located amidst the fanciful shopping of Beverly Hills, and undeniably one of Los Angeles’ most coveted reservations since opening its doors, a visit to Curtis Stone’s “Maude” was a sort of serendipitous thing resulting from a pair of calls the day after seats for April became available, the monthly theme of Asparagus showing the kitchen’s proclivity for highlighting Southern California’s seasonal bounty with over a dozen courses presented across one-hundred and forty minutes at a cost of $125.
By now a known entity – the elegant space, old-timey tunes, celebrity chef, and monthly ingredient concept all discussed almost as much as the difficulty of securing a seat – our arrival at Maude was greeted by pleasant, if flippant, service and following the tasting menu only format without any dietary discretions it was mere minutes after deciding on no wine pairings and still water instead of sparkling that the flurry of four ‘snacks’ began, the aromatic financier and vegetal custard beneath braised beef and pickled starch proving the best of the bites while creamy duck liver and snappy spot prawn were ‘asparagus’ only in name, neither the pain perdu nor paper hinting at the ingredient’s flavor, though both admittedly tasted good.
Progressing, predictably, to salads and lighter flavors before featuring heavier plates like soup, pasta, protein, and bread, it was with simply grilled spears tinged in buttermilk and funky vinaigrette that the ‘proper’ menu began and transitioning from plate to plate in brisk intervals a follow-up of crudo meant to resemble the flavors of a fish taco proved to be amongst the night’s most inspired dishes, the pickled figs and light heat acting to enliven the meaty and mild white flesh.
Already discussing the fact that, although present in every plate, asparagus featured far less prominently than tones trending more sweet, it was unfortunate that both the geoduck bowl and the brioche crusted snapper could have just as easily featured chicken or tofu considering the masking of both proteins by all of the accoutrements and a bit too much sugar, but thankfully turning a corner with asparagus miso after the last bean beneath the fish was consumed each dish that followed was nothing shy of memorable, the asparagus often emerging as the star – or at least sharing the spotlight equally with bold seasoning and complex flavors galore.
No doubt moving to more ‘filling’ plates, both in size and constituents, course six featured two pockets of pasta, and warned that these were to be consumed either a la XLB or in one bite to avoid making a mess, the liquid parmesan interior immediately flooded the palate on mastication with the sort of pleasant linger that only seemed to enhance each subsequent bite, the briny belly finding its foil in fresh peas much as the final savory’s fork-tender ribeye and rich bordelaise did in the combination of gently warmed lettuce and silky asparagus puree.
Curious to see how desserts would play out, Stone’s pastry training and palate having already come to light with previous plates, it was with flakes of cheese over yogurt and asparagus tinged pastry that the menu progressed and unexpectedly highlighting the earthy notes of asparagus sorbet with icy berries and sweet basil in ‘pre-dessert,’ the night’s final dessert instead took the opposite approach as bitter chocolate ganache found extra ‘ooph’ when set against tangy yogurt and mellow white asparagus mousse with a flavor replicated by the mignardise described as nougat, which actually tasted quite a bit like vegetal marzipan.
Inspired, albeit imperfect, the night at Maude ended with a small parfait that diners were warned to refrigerate if it weren’t devoured that night, and although sated and smiling as we walked out the door with a souvenir menu in hand there was little doubt plenty of capacity left to sample the creamy curd topped with rhubarb, as well as a few pastas and pizzas with friends at Sotto just a few blocks away.