Chef Laurent Quenioux is perhaps best known for his 7th Street Bistro, and most recently, Bistro K in Pasadena. Now, with a full kitchen (not to mention air conditioning and a wine list) at his disposal, he seems determined to show off his entire, sophisticated repertoire at his new restaurant on Beverly Boulevard, Bistro LQ.
The mid-size dining room is splashed in soothing neutral tones, muted even further by white table cloths and simple orchid arrangements, as if to provide no distraction from the complex tasting experience.
Quenioux is a native of France's Loire Valley, and he cooks with many of the same meats he hunted as a boy, like duck, partridge and rabbit, as well as the rich goose liver foie gras he learned to prepare while training in the south of France. His foie gras "three ways" transforms the rich meat with a torchon-style terrine between bars of violet-scented bitter chocolate, another sliced thinly between homemade quince marshmallow, and finally a tender piece sautéed with roasted unagi (eel) with a semi-sweet smoked green apple infusion.
The dark meat practically falls from the bone of delicate frog legs with a spicy violet and begonia chutney; and the "oatmeal" infused with fresh fennel broth served with a chunk of cinnamon-roasted Maine lobster combines the most improbably complementary flavors into a syngergistic mouth masterpiece. The huge mussels come with a crispy chickpea pancake, Mexican saffron, pungent epazote, and deeply earthy black huitlacoche.
We opted to try several entrees in half-portion sizes (a great feature of the menu), so that we could have the crisp, pink salmon with bone marrow "royale," chicharrones ragu with chipotle and epazote on the side, and tender strips of baby abalone served in the shell; veal cheeks whose gelatinous richness dissolves in your mouth, along with the perfectly glazed young carrots and chanterelles served over a starchy sunchoke puree; and finally a chunky noisette of Berkshire pork filet with a cardamom Port wine glaze, kinh gioi herb and a confit Meyer lemon infusion that gives the meat a seductively fleeting citrus undertone.
The wine list is surprisingly affordable for a restaurant with such a gourmet trajectory, and contains some interesting choices from around the world, including the house red and white, which come from Quenioux's brother's winery in the Loire.
You have to order dessert ahead of time, so go for one of the compositions like the peaches in a nutmeg-caramelized crumble with peach-herb marmalade, and peach-cardamom ice cream; or the composition around dark chocolate that comes in soufflé style with Szechuan peppercorn, a chocolate pancake with mascarpone and chocolate oil, and a molé chocolate mousse.
If you've partaken of the dozens-strong cheese cart with options that range from creamy mildness to blue-mold-mottled potency, however, perhaps you should just sample the plate of petit fours that end your meal. There are also several chef-directed tea infusions to help you with digestion that have the same complex flavor profiles as Quenioux's food, like the "Nocturne" with sureau, hibiscus, lemon, orange bark, mint, star anise, sweet briar, bergamot, and bitter orange.
Though perhaps not accessible to every palate (after all, the menu has duck hearts, lamb's tongue, and head cheese on it), Quenioux's cuisine is inventive, challenging, and most importantly, distinctive.
Address: 8009 Beverly Blvd.
Cross Street: Laurel Ave.
Neighborhood: West Hollywood
Phone: (323) 951-1088
Hours: Tuesday-Thursday, 6:00-10:30pm, Friday-Saturday 6:00-11:00pm
Type: Continental, French, Fusion