WP24: Hanging out with Wolfgang Puck
What started out as a typical media dinner at WP24 turned into a really fun night when Chef Wolfgang Puck showed up and hung out with us. I was invited to check out WP24’s bar menu and beverages and we were just about to get dessert when Chef Wolfgang sat down and helped himself to our cooling nibbles. He is a man with a camera-ready smile and was in fine form, regaling us tales of where he first lived in Los Angeles (quite near his gleaming 24th floor restaurant, WP24) and most of us just sat in awe. Then he said, “Have you seen the kitchen?” No! Let’s go then. And so the twenty or so food writers trailed after Chef Wolfgang into a relatively small kitchen. We saw the famous Peking ducks and talked with Chef de Cuisine Sara Johannes and Pastry Chef Sally Camacho.
I wasn’t impressed the first time I ventured to WP24. It was right after it opened and probably was experiencing growing pains. My dining companion and I vowed to not go back except for cocktails and bar nibbles. I suppose someone heard (erm, read the review) and this time around, I had a great time. Was it because Wolfgang Puck was in the house? Maybe. He’s definitely the game-changer. If your boss is around, I’m sure you would want to step up your game.
I may have changed my mind on Wolfgang Puck’s food though my opinion of my first experience still stands. Everyone has an off night, I suppose. And that was before the current chefs Sara and Sally were at the helm.
For cocktails, I sampled the Kalamansi Lemonade, Passion Cosmo, Hemingway Daiquiri, Ginny Hendricks and Sweet Basil Pinarita. My favorites were basically all of them but if I had to pick one, I’d probably go with either the Sweet Basil Pinarita or the Ginny Hendricks.
We tried a selection of sushi rolls which would be good for a group to share.
Of the initial offerings from the bar menu, I was most impressed with the chow fueng (rice noodle) rolls. Growing up, I ate dim sum at least twice a week. I invariably wanted shrimp chow fueng because the beef never seemed very interesting to me. If they had made it with Kobe beef cheeks, that would have been a different story. I also liked the baby bao buns and everyone raved about the crystal dumplings.
I really liked the prawn toast the first time I had it and was glad to see it on the bar menu.I also liked the tempura green beans.
Currently the main dining room menu is set up a bit differently than I first tried it last year. It’s now mostly tasting menus (3 courses for $80 or 4 courses for $110) though you can choose what you’d like and then get extra sides.
We had a taste of the quail, scallops and chili prawns. I’ll have to go back to try their famous whole roasted Peking duck which Chef Wolfgang enjoys so much.
When we were in the kitchen, Chef Sally said she almost had a feeling Wolfgang would bring us in and had some desserts for us ready to go. First we tried her version of key lime pie but made with kalamansi (calamansi).
Hot out of the oven and into our mouths did these green tea cakes go.
Back at our table, the desserts were no less exciting. I liked the light raspberry cake and the chocolate cake was really good. That’s what you get when Sally Camacho is one of the best pastry chefs in the world. She won the semi-finals of Valrhona C3 Culinary Competition in Paris last month and will represent the US in next year’s finals in Madrid.
I recently met Sally again at a Marcel’s Quantum Kitchen viewing party. She’s been on several episodes of MQK and shows off her prowess in pastry with a modernist slant.
As if we didn’t have enough sweets, we were given some mignardises- cookies! I enjoyed the nutty ones.
It was one of those nights that you just had to be there to believe. Incredible. For more pictures of the night, check out my flickr page or these blogs:
WP24 at the Ritz-Carlton
900 West Olympic Blvd. 24th Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90015-1328 – (213) 743-8824