Nancy Dorman-Hickson 2016-09-01 06:35:33
Glamorous and inviting, chef Geoffrey Zakarian’s restaurants, Georgie and The Garden Bar, are striking additions to Montage Beverly Hills. “It’s not about me. It’s about the customer—always.” That’s chef Geoffrey Zakarian’s take on the creation of Georgie and The Garden Bar, both of which opened this past summer at Montage Beverly Hills. Even recipes don’t take precedence for the “Iron Chef” celebrity when it comes to creating a food venue. “I start with the people, the mood, the feel, what I can envision coming to life,” Zakarian says. “From that, the food follows naturally.” DYNAMIC DESIGN For Zakarian’s West Coast launch, Montage Beverly Hills with the Beverly Canon Gardens setting next to it proved to be the perfect location to open his newest restaurants. “[It’s] such a departure for me from New York where every restaurant has a busy street running directly in front of it with cars honking and traffic,” he says. “Here, I had the opportunity to bring this beautiful green space inside.” He cites terraces, flowers and trees, all “lending this feeling of inside-outside fluidity.” Gachot Studios brought the storyline of Georgie and The Garden Bar to life, the chef says. “The small vignettes that they have created all over just make you want to stay all day,” he praises. “The patterns and textures make it fresh, rather than too ‘done.’ … [In Georgie,] I have completely fallen for the pink cement tiles. When you enter, it gives such a bright, happy feeling, setting the mood … . They make these geometric patterns that match so well with the vaulted ceilings and moldings.” In the private dining room, he adds, “they hand-drew a pattern, converted it to wallpaper, and added this huge pop of interest … .” METICULOUS MENUS The Garden Bar features light options that are equally distinctive to the Modern American cuisine at Georgie. Health conscious yet indulgent, the menus offer decadent dining with “no morning-after guilt,” as the chef explains. “I filled the menu with produce that is at the height of the seasonal offerings, then we treat them with expert technique to draw out and showcase their inherent flavors,” Zakarian says. He delightedly tells about working with a forager named Dragon: “I envision him slaying anything that stands in his way to get us the best he can get his hands on.” The chef notes the same care has been shown toward menu entrees: “We seek the most premier proteins as well, flying in Dover sole from Brittany, [France,] and aged beef from Creekstone Farms.” Every aspect of the dining experience is meticulously considered at the restaurants, from the cuisine to the dinnerware. Zakarian explains that his wife, marketing executive Margaret Anne Williams, along with himself and Chief Operating Officer Eric Haugen “worked together extensively to curate the tabletop.” “Margaret went on a trip to Portugal last year and came back having made friends with a fabulous tabletop manufacturer, Vista Alegre,” Zakarian says. “They make phenomenal items, ranging from fine china to whimsical earthenware. We had some fun selecting everything— departing from traditional shapes and embracing bold patterns. … [The china in The Garden Bar] makes a statement and causes the guests to stop and take notice. Very glamorous, yet at the same time carefree.” LAVISH LIBATIONS The same consideration that goes into obtaining the best quality ingredients for dishes applies to the cocktails, as well. “The fruits and produce are the freshest and most pristine items we can get our hands on,” Zakarian says. “The entire bar team was trained by master mixologist and cocktail historian Brian Van Flandern, who has a deep understanding for the life of cocktailing. These drinks are handcrafted each and every time.” All beverages play an integral role at the restaurants. “In Georgie, we put an equal amount of time and effort into the drinks—alcoholic, nonalcoholic, hot or cold—as we have into the food,” Zakarian notes. The chef believes rules about dining out are changing. “Someone may want to just have a delicious, vitamin-packed beverage and one food item … [for] their meal,” he says. For that reason, Montage’s latest culinary venues “have blurred the distinction between eat and drink,” he explains. “ … It’s our job to give the guest what they want.” Georgie and The Garden Bar have been described as being “a little bit Hollywood,” an assessment with which Zakarian agrees: “What is Hollywood about? Entertainment—check. Excitement—check.” He adds, “What could be more Hollywood than a server in a shawl-collared jacket rolling up to your table with a martini cart overflowing with frozen gin and Sicilian lemons?” And, he notes, “both the restaurant and bar have been magnets for the power players around town.” DELICIOUS DETAILS CHEF GEOFFREY ZAKARIAN SHARES THE MOTIVATION BEHIND SOME OF THE MENU CHOICES AT GEORGIE AND THE GARDEN BAR. CRUDITE AND DIPS “The inspiration was to display the bounty of local product in its raw form and incorporate memories of afternoons in the south of France with a large, cold bottle of rose,” Zakarian says. Accompanying dips reminded him of his Armenian childhood and gatherings with friends and family, a similar vision he has for Georgie and The Garden Bar. STEAK “One thing I love about Beverly Hills is the sheer power and force congregated into one small area for the creative arts industry,” Zakarian notes. “At Georgie, we serve a 32-ounce tomahawk steak (bone-in rib-eye) from Creekstone Farms. It is dry-aged in the cellars of famed butcher Pat LaFrieda and flown out to Georgie daily. I rub it with a spice mix and then char it to achieve a caramelized crust. It’s unbeatable. Just like Beverly Hills.” CUSTOMIZED MARTINIS “I am enamored by the interaction of table-side service, and I think there is nothing sexier than a cart full of frozen alcohol wheeling up to offer you a customized martini,” Zakarian says. “Our cart offers gin and vodka at full strength or shaken with a choice of Sicilian lemon twist or Castelvetrano olive garnish. If I could pick one cocktail to drink for the rest of my life, it would be from this cart, for sure.”
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