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Apple -- a new hang in hard partying West Hollywood?
THE sprawling space at 665 N. Robertson Blvd. in West Hollywood has had so many names over the years that I can't recall them all. Each one promised an elegant restaurant and hip lounge experience, soldiered on for a while, then faded.
Now, Apple Restaurant & Lounge steps up to the plate with Bryan Ogden, son of San Francisco's Bradley Ogden (Lark Creek Inn), as executive chef and co-owner. The 30-year-old most recently cooked with his father in Vegas at the restaurant Bradley Ogden in Caesars Palace, a critical success and a favorite with visiting foodies. But he's also spent time in the kitchens of Alice Waters, Charlie Trotter and Michael Mina.
Given that it is set amid party central and has an attached lounge, run by co-owner Allison Melnick, with its own separate entrance, you might expect something more casual than this seriously upscale restaurant. (It has a dress code, which I'm now assured includes jeans. In case you were wondering.)
Water slithers down sheets of glass behind the bar upstairs and in the wraparound patio, where diners are sheltered under a banquette that rears up like a cobra behind them. The restaurant has an understated glamour, at least outside, but is notably short on the bling that usually draws the trendy crowd like moths.
The restaurant telegraphs "serious" on every front: main-course prices in the high 30s, an extensive wine list with big markups and only a handful of relative bargains, the fussy service, the porcelain in myriad shapes.
The tasting menu starts at $115, $30 more than Gordon Ramsay's at the London NYC hotel. And if you want the Full Monty, the nine-course tasting menu, it will set you back $175.
A meal begins with an amuse bouche that lives up to its name: a white porcelain platter with three spoons per person, each holding a different amusing bite, that fit between the platter's ridges like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.
Ogden changes the menu almost daily, but you can expect to find starters such as a fresh, delicious organic corn soup topped with lobsters agnolotti and chive blossoms, crispy frog leg balls with rolled up kalamata olive crepes or pan-roasted scallops in a chowder sauce. Seared foie gras served on oatmeal with flame grapes is original, but it's rather rich and heavy.
The menu flirts with seldom-seen fish, such as hake (slow-cooked with rock shrimp and served with a runner bean ragout and sprigs of fleshy purslane) or sturgeon (pan-roasted and served with grilled cuttlefish and buttery wild rice). But for those who just want a steak, there's a grilled black angus or Japanese Wagyu strip loin. Big spenders will go for the Wagyu and won't ask the price; they also won't mind that the valet asks for the $8 upfront.
It's very early days yet, too soon to tell whether the foodies will outnumber the party seekers at this WeHo newcomer. But if Ogden (and dad) could wow them in Vegas, maybe he can do it here too.
Apple Restaurant & Lounge, 665 N. Robertson Blvd., West Hollywood. 6 to 10 p.m. Wed. to Sun. Prices: starters, $14 to $29; main courses, $28 to $46; desserts, $10 to $12; five-course tasting menu, $115 per person; nine-course tasting menu, $175. Full bar. (310) 358-9191, www.applerestaurantlounge.com.