Circa 55 @ The Beverly Hilton Hotel
The mega-million dollar renovation at The Beverly Hilton has been completed and the face lift is gorgeous. You enter to a big marble foyer with gleaming overhead lighting; a huge aquarium and bright, spanking new furniture everywhere. And when you descend one level, you will find the Trader Vic Lounge bustling with music, drinks and their famous appetizers in an absolutely lush, palm-treed, convivial setting. Or, as we did, you will enter the Circa 55 sanctuary, complete with banquettes and tables, a superb menu and a staff of the most gracious servers, busses and chefs, ready to delight your every foodie wish.
For those who can remember, this location was the former home of Griff's as in Merv Griffin, a previous owner. All that is Griffistory for the hotel has been sold, redone and even with the year set at '55, Circa 55 is a very California-Modern retreat.
They've divided the menu into four parts: Appetizers, Entrees From Our Grill, Features and Desserts. Because the Appetizer section of the menu whet our appetites, we decided, for the first time ever, to confine our entire dinner to this page. We cheated a little and ordered a tasting portion of the Hickory Smoked Pork Ribs in their citrus barbecue sauce, but more about that later.
– Chicken Soup ($9): A medium sized bowl of delicious clear vegetable soup with pork ravioli. thin-cut pieces of celery, carrots, mushrooms, chicken with two large won-tons (kreplach) filled with chopped pork. A most delightful beginning for anyone's dinner.
– Crab Cake ($16): One medium crab cake, light on the filling, heavy on the fresh crab. Tasted superb with a lovely salad of watercress, white asparagus and baby tomatoes. Yes, do try this one!
– Jumbo Shrimp with Green Papaya ($17): Three huge, properly cooked shrimp over a seaweed salad with a very special lime ginger mousseline (sauce). Each bite more savory than the previous one. If you like shrimp, you'll love these.
– Assorted Tropical Dim Sum ($16): Selected pieces in a scallion chili dipping sauce. This was truly the let-down of the appetizer brigade. The shells were quite thick and gooey and the fillings had neither character nor taste. Most disappointing from the same kitchen serving Trader Vic's. Read on!
– Roasted Crispy Duck ($14): Two steamed buns coated with hoisin sauce, filled with slices of the most heavenly roast duck you will ever taste. Fran discarded the char shu bao bun and enjoyed her duck sans the coating. I loved my duck sandwich.
– Lobster Tempura ($20): Four most unusual pieces, stuffed with vegetables and morsels of lobster. Joined by a crisp green salad and Ponzu sauce. While good, somewhat disappointing in the amount of lobster included in the tempura.
– Hickory Smoked Pork Ribs ($24): Fabulous ribs, honey-coated through and through with their very special citrus barbecue sauce, fries and grilled pineapple. P.F. Chang's are slightly better, but only slightly. They're meaty, cooked beautifully and quite tasty. Ahhh!
Their dessert menu is quite large but we settled on a plate of five miniature desserts: crème Brule, flourless chocolate cake, raspberry cheese cake, fruit tarte and a delicious concoction with Bavarian crème. Lovely, lovely lovely!
We will be planning to return to Circa 55 for Willie's service was as memorable as the food. It's a big, comfortable space with extra-wide chairs in a low-lighted, quiet space. And when you go, please remember the drill and tell them Joseph sent you.
Circa 55 at The Beverly Hilton, 9876 Wilshire Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA 90210, Tel. 310-274-7777 Open Daily