By Georgie!

BY Lesley Balla | August 25, 2016 | Feature Features

Geoffrey Zakarian's debut West Coast concept lightens up the Montage Beverly Hills from morning till night.
Handmade hen egg tagliolini ($26) with Santa Barbara sea urchin, Meyer lemon and chive blossoms

In the space formerly occupied by Scott Conant’s Scarpetta at the Montage Beverly Hills, Georgie feels lighter than its predecessor. Walk through a small bar area with pretty pink tiles, bistro tables and wicker chairs to the main dining room and the palette turns earthy with moss greens and light grays. The room feels more intimate now. Brass planters are filled with leafy green tendrils; giant ceramic bowls hold fig palms; and towering windows open to the garden, flood the room with light and seamlessly blend indoor and outdoor spaces.

I wouldn’t say Scarpetta was brooding, but it had a more masculine vibe. It felt serious. Georgie, on the other hand, is still refined (the jacketed servers are very good at what they do), but easily segues from juice-fueled breakfasts to daytime power lunches to cozy dinners for two. It’s the kind of place that attracts both hotel guests from places around the world, eager for a taste of Southern California; and locals gathering for lunch, drinks or a special night out. That’s a good hotel restaurant.

This one is the first West Coast location for Geoffrey Zakarian, who is known as much for his New York restaurants (The Lambs Club and The National) as he is as a Food Network personality. Tony hotel restaurants are his game, having opened several, not only in New York, but also Miami, so the scene is familiar to him. And, the transition for the Montage makes sense. Over the last few years, the adjacent Canon Gardens has become a bustling public space, so why not offer a destination for cocktails, small bites or a globe-trotting dinner?

At Georgie, Zakarian is delivering an eclectic menu—he calls it modern American. Having retained Chef de Cuisine Freddy Vargas from Scarpetta, the kitchen does solid work. Just about everything I’ve had is a crowd-pleaser, from the beet hummus, a lovely fresh spread with basil yogurt and spiced walnuts; to the halibut with miso aioli. Dishes are tricked-out with flavors and ingredients from as close at local farmers markets to as far as Italy, the Middle East, Japan and China. In one sitting, you can have kampachi tartare dressed in buttermilk with smoked trout roe and rye, za’atar-covered Parker House rolls, and Asian-inspired short ribs showered in peanuts.

The menu is varied enough to have a few snacks—vegetable crudite, perhaps, or herbed labne with seasonal fruit and a glass of wine; indulge with something from the Coravin wines-by-the-glass list, which features 3- and 5-ounce pours of high-end wines usually available only by the bottle. Or dig into heartier, homier fare, like the housemade spaghetti and veal meatballs. The roasted halibut, pan-seared and served with charred baby bok choy, was cooked so perfectly, I would go back for it any day.

Dessert runs the gamut, from a sweet summer fruit galette (peaches on the night I was there) to panna cotta with sweet and savory strawberry-balsamic compote. Listen to servers when they suggest the special macaron ice cream sandwich trio—sweet, soft meringue cookies filled with saffron, pistachio-rose and honey-orange blossom ice creams. It’s worth every calorie.

The lobby lounge, now called The Garden Bar, has also been transformed. No longer reserved for only afternoon tea service enjoyed by hotel guests, the space is filled with cozy nooks for cocktails at night, plus snacks, juices and teas during the day. On perfect weather nights, of which there are an abundance, there’s outdoor seating as well. Make it a night by hopping into the adjacent dining room for the full culinary experience, or meander across the garden to continue imbibing at Bar Bouchon.

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