Enjoy the food. Savor the conversation.

Wally's Beverly Hills

Wally's Beverly Hills
447 N Canon Dr, Beverly Hills, CA 90210 ($$$)

Drink, then Eat.

Being a 'critic' can be difficult at times.  A critic doesn't get to take personal opinion and simply make it public. There's a need to be level headed; try to remove a little ego before writing about the topic. Being a critic means using a bar to measure everything against that has little to do with whether I personally enjoy the Beverly Hills scene and more to do with what makes a good wine list or an upscale kitchen. It takes visiting a place often at various times of day to find out what they do consistently and what was a fluke.  It takes more fortitude and patience than I have. And yet, for that neighbor, I keep trying. 

On a personal note (sshhh, this isn't part of the review right?), Wally's isn't my vibe. I become enamored with restaurants that are quaint, small, not scene-y, but still deliver good food and/or drinks. I like to go to the local Pescadaro and order a whole fried fish with Micheladas while listening to the clientele sing Mexican pop music on the karaoke machine. I enjoy Italian restaurants that boast one of the best wine cellars in the nation with food to match. It is just unfortunate that their ambiance isn't hip and their clientele a little past retirement age. Going there makes me feel young again!  

Wally's isn't that type of restaurant. Wally's has hipness and location and showy clientele.  They don't take reservations (unless you know someone, then maybe they do; but when you arrive the front desk will assure you they DON'T take reservations until you drop the right name, suddenly they're friendly and gushing and everything changes).  They have many communal tables and a few small party tables. I didn't notice a line up for tables while we were there, everyone was seated as they walked in either alone or mixed in with other groups at the communal tables (I think there was a bridal shower happening, think loud moments in a restaurant not known for shots). They surround  you with their wines; lining the walls, lining the room dividers, with a cubby hole room cut out for harder liquor. They present food options that are teetering on the sublime (Green Lentils du Puy Raguote, Osso Buco as the casserole of the day, Black truffle pizzas). Wally's is hip and now and classy and refined. 

The wine cellar is magnificent with a plethora of wines offered by the glass, more than your average purveyor. They use an Enomatic (or similar) machine to assure that opening bottles remains profitable and the wine fresh. You won't find happy hour deals here (I think the lowest price I saw for a glass of wine was around $13 and went upwards past $250), but you will find a breadth of availability not found in many places (4 pages of wines by the glass). Have you wanted to know what an Amarone tastes like before you plop down $200 for a bottle? You can find a few options by the glass. Been interested in learning about Italian or French varietals or maybe catching up on wines from Mexico?  This is a GREAT place to work on those wine tasting notes and to enjoy the breadth of the wine cellar's coverage. The sommelier will help you figure out the best wine for your meal and will admit when you've found a great deal in the "wines by the glass" as opposed to buying a full bottle (hello Sauternes by the glass!).    

The food is showy and beautiful. Everything we ordered (or rather, Heather ordered...and she ordered and ordered and ordered) was gorgeously plated, with well balanced colors and shapes and textures. Flowers were added for appeal and color splashes. The serving dishes for the pizzas were organically shaped slabs. They know how to appeal to the visual senses.   

I found the flavors a little less exciting.  It's hard to make a Burrata salad anything but milky, fatty, smooth...but maybe one adjacent flavor would have been helpful; a touch of lemon/acid to help cut through the fat? White asparagus can be tricky, without much flavor and only a touch of texture; and the plate we sampled wasn't inspiring but it was adequate. I found most of the items we ordered well prepared, never under or over cooked. I don't remember being wowed by anything though. Nothing grabbed my attention away from the company I was keeping, nothing made me look at it a second time for a deeper understanding of what I was eating. 

Except the Wild King Salmon, I think I got the corner of our serving where the chef haphazardly dropped all the coarse finishing salt ...I couldn't feel the side of my tongue for a good 10 minutes after eating it!   WAY TOO MUCH SALT.  The first bite, was delicate and flaky.   Perfectly cooked and adding a little of the crisped skin to the vegetables made for another delicious taste. Just that second unfortunate bite with the salt crystals killed this dish for me.  

Wild King Salmon

I've already said that I love truffles. Black, white - any way they are served. And so I did love the Pizzetta Black Truffle which does not skimp on shaved truffles. And after drinking a gallon of water to drown out the salt from the previous course, this little bit of bread and cheese and truffle was a good palate cleanser. Errr...palate re-shaper.  

Pizzetta Black Truffle

At some point I'll find myself back at Wally's. I'm sure I will enjoy the wine. I'll find the food tasty enough and will certainly have many menu items to choose from that will fit my liking.   I'll hope I'm there with great companions again, to keep the meal entertaining, where the flavors are adequate but not exciting.