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Succulent beef from Snake River Farms is accompanied by broccoli and potato rosti.
A Man for All Seasonsby Lesley Balla | Photography by Andrea Bricco | Angeleno magazine | March 27, 2014
With the magic of television, you don’t always get the sense that reality-show chefs know how to cook in real life. But when tall-drink-of-water, Aussie chef Curtis Stone checks plates at the pass or grates salted egg over a small garden salad at his new Beverly Hills restaurant, Maude, it seems more natural than watching him play cooking show host on Top Chef Masters. He’s serious yet quick with the smiles, happily chats with diners and fans, and seems quite at ease in the open kitchen. It’s immediately apparent that this is his show.
What most people don’t know, especially those who only recognize Stone from the small screen, is that he is actually a chef with a very impressive pedigree. He began his career at a young age in Melbourne, worked through top restaurants in Australia, and eventually landed in the London kitchens of Marco Pierre White, a godfather of modern cuisine who also worked with Gordon Ramsay.
For a celebrity chef with so much recognition, Stone could’ve gone big. Huge. Think: a Vegas-scale hot spot with a small army running the place while he popped in from time to time. But Maude, named for the grandmother who instilled a love of food and cooking in Stone, is a charming, intimate restaurant. Decorated in warm gray hues with pops of turquoise and shiny silver, dried roses on the walls, fresh flowers in vases and photos of Maude herself, it’s as comfortable as the chef’s own home. With only 25 seats, the experience feels even more personal, whether you’re sitting along the banquette or at the chef’s counter.
Following a recent trend of high-profile chefs serving prix fixe-only menus in diminutive restaurants—Ludo Lefebvre does it at Trois Mec and Josef Centeno at Orsa & Winston—dining here is an experience more than a quick bite. And while any chef worth his or her Hedley & Bennett apron features local, seasonal ingredients, Stone throws the spotlight on one different vegetable or fruit each month. When he opened in February, it was citrus; March was artichokes; and April is peas. The ingredients aren’t overly emphasized. Rather, the kitchen at Maude focuses on versatility. Whether one ingredient is the star of a dish, or merely a featured component, the restaurant knows what to use and when to use it.
Stone is clearly all about the details. He regularly scours local flea markets for the vintage tableware: pretty gold-rimmed floral patterns mismatched with purpose. His wife’s name, Lindsay (as in actress Lindsay Price), is even carved in the cement floor by her favorite table. And when he’s there, which is every day (unless he’s off taping an episode of The Chew), he’s front and center in the small kitchen. While he has a strong team executing his menus, he created the vision, weaving in the monthly seasonal theme.
That’s nowhere more apparent than on the plate. Stone sources local farmers markets for nasturtium, and plucks peas and herbs from his own garden. Menu items may subtly change through the month, but it’s usually the same offering. When he was wowed by citrus this past winter—there were finger limes, Buddha’s hands, Meyer lemons, satsumas and oro blanco grapefruit everywhere—sometimes he would showcase it front and center, as in the lime sorbet, a palate-cleansing fresh start for the wave of dishes about to hit the table for the next two and a half hours. Other times, it was as subtle as a whisper, like the rosé cava gelee on top of a freshly shucked oyster with a dot of caviar.
Dishes are described by a simple list of ingredients on the menu, so you really have no idea what you’re getting on the plate. “Carrot soup, smoked parsnip, orange, Serrano ham” turns out to be a small cup of orange soup under a cloud of parsnip foam; a thin stick of dried ham sticking out of it. I loved it. It was so soothing, sweet and smoky at the same time. “Lobster” is a small bed of ceviche topped with crimson turnips and micro herbs. A swish of aioli lies underneath, pink from the turnips, perfectly matching the floral pattern on the plate.
Course after course goes like that: chicken terrine studded with black trumpet mushroom; a gorgeous ravioli filled with duck confit; a piece of pink, juicy Snake River Farms beef coulotte atop broccoli puree and potato rosti; a slice of Abbaye de Belloc cheese served with mostarda and crisp semolina crackers. The citrus theme wasn’t always apparent with that menu, but once the parade of dishes started, it didn’t seem to matter.
A menu that changes monthly means you probably won’t go to Maude twice a week, but you could definitely make plans to visit several times a year. It also means that the kitchen and servers really know their business—the ingredients and presentation, the timing of dishes, how everything comes to a table. Dining here is neither rushed nor meandering. It’s as comfortable as dinner at your best friend’s Beverly Hills cottage.
Because there are only 25 seats, the restaurant only takes reservations (no walk-ins) and cannot accommodate parties larger than six.
Where to Sit
The chef’s counter puts you front and center with the cooks, including Stone, who often leans over to help plate something in front of you.
What to Drink
Only beer and wine are served. A full pairing starts at $55, which could be a lovely French viognier with one plate, a Junmai Daiginjo sake with another.
212 S. Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills
Hours: Tue.-Sat., 5-9pm
Dinner: $75 per person for nine courses