Pardon the punctuation...residents of the San Fernando Valley you no longer have to drive over the hill for fine dining. "Top Chef Duels" winner Chef C.J. Jacobson has brought Girasol to Studio City for your foodie pleasure. At Girasol you'll try flavors you can't find anywhere else in Los Angeles. Things like Forrest Floor Vinaigrette, Cactus Ice, Fennel Pollen, White Fir, and Rosemary Ash Oil. Oh yeah...C.J. isn't messing around. If you're wondering where the heck the chef gets the ideas to incorporate these flavors...well he forages in southern California. That's right. He Forages! In other words the food at Girasol is connected to the land around it. Particularly Angeles National Forrest. Cool shit. It also doesn't hurt that C.J. worked and learned at arguably the best restaurant in the world. Noma in Denmark. I had the blessed experience of dining at Girasol recently and here's what went down.
Apple-Walnut Old Fashioned:
Bulleit Rye, Germain Robin Apple Brandy, Kuchan Nocino Walnut Liqueur, and Forbidden Bitters. Great spin on a the traditional cocktail. What's beautiful is that you never forget you're drinking an old fashioned. All of the other flavors are subtle enough that they just compliment the drink.
Market Pears and Burrata:
With crispy lentils, shiso basil, and forrest floor vinaigrette. Here's one of the flavor experiences you can't have anywhere else. Chef should bottle that vinaigrette and make a killing on it. not too tangy but tangy enough. The pears and burrata are a happy marriage of salt and sweet. The basil galvanized the dish and gave it the perfect finish.
Coastal Farms Cherry Tomatoes:
Marinated local tomatoes with cactus "ice" and market basil. Imagine fresh tomatoes with a cactus snow cone on top. A snow cone of goodness. Here's something that before having this dish I didn't know I didn't know...I love cactus ice.
Long Roasted Pumpkin:
With fuyu persimmon, condensed butter milk, raw walnut, CA juniper, and sherry vin. This dish was perfectly executed and presented like pumpkin art. Flavor wise it just wasn't to my taste. I loved components like the butter milk and California juniper and wanted to fall in love dish but it reminded me too much of potpourri. Pumpkin lovers are going to dig it.
Shrimp and Weiser Farms Melon:
Chili-crusted grilled shrimp, concord grapes, CA bay leaf, radish, and lime. Talk about a dish that is fresh and pops. The shrimp were cooked with sniper like precision. Not chewy and on point with the seasoning. Who knew that I'd love California bay leaf so much. Now I have to go find the stuff.
Marinated Grilled Pork Satay:
With caramelized onion puree, CA olive oil, grilled lemon, and fennel pollen. Juicy, juicy, juicy. Hit the spot after the lighter dishes I had before. The seasoning was unique and left me wanting more.
With long roasted eggplant, little gem, rosemary ash oil, sweet and sour chili, and toasted lovage. Those of you who follow me know that I love octopus and eat it whenever I see it on the menu. This is now in my top 3 octopus dishes in Los Angeles. It was so good that I forgot everything else on the plate and almost fought my wife for the last piece.
Sea beans, mouse melon, finger lime, white fir, and wild sorrel broth. Like octopus, hamachi is one of those dishes I always order if it's on a menu. Flavors were bright. The mouse melon is something I'd never had and added a nice facet to the dish.
Pork Loin Roasted in Hay:
With sweet corn puree, raw squash, and sweet clover reduction. Tender and moist...this pork tasted like it had been slow cooked for hours. The corn and squash enhanced the pork because of the sweetness and texture of the two. A healthy portion size and can be easily shared as a main course.
Sonoma jack cheese, crispy garlic, and chives. Worked well as an accompaniment to the pork. Can't go wrong with garlic and chives.
Chocolate Brownie Cake:
Salted caramel gelato, sable cookie, and chocolate pudding. If you like chocolate you'll chop off an arm to have this dish. If you like salted caramel too, you'll chop off both arms. Rich and sweet yet balanced by the salt. The gelato could be and amazing dessert on it's own.
If you're looking for a mind blowing dining experience in the valley Girasol is the top spot in my book. For those of you living in 310 you finally have a place in 818 you'll be proud to say you drove over the hill for. Sorry for the Los Angeles lingo but out of towners should get their toosh over there too.