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The Gossiping Gourmet: Inventive, savory food at Savoy

May 16, 2012|By Elle Harrow and Terry Markowitz
  • Duroc pork tasting, with asso bucco plus braised cheek, smoked honey onion soubise, charred crows pass strawberries and braised rhubarb, at Savoy Restaurant and Lounge.
Duroc pork tasting, with asso bucco plus braised cheek,… (SCOTT SMELTZER,…)

Hotel restaurants are notorious for high prices and mediocre food, but there are exceptions, and we've found one just across the San Diego (405) freeway from South Coast Plaza.

What was once a decidedly unattractive Holiday Inn has been transformed into a handsome, modern boutique place called the Hotel Hanford. Surprisingly, its Savoy Restaurant & Lounge has delicious, inventive food at reasonable prices.

The restaurant, bar and lounge are all in a large room right off the lobby. There is also a small outdoor dining patio and several private dining rooms for groups. The area is tastefully decorated in tones of gray and black with a contemporary feel.

Chef David Fune has created an interesting menu, blending cuisines from the Savoy region, where France, Italy and Switzerland come together.

The appetizers are mostly designed for sharing or a light meal. Consider venison macaroni and cheese with Gorgonzola, cheddar and sour cherry demi-glace, or fried calamari with harissa marinara.

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We began with the Mediterranean nosh, served in a lovely four-part glass plate with a delicious spicy, slightly sweet hummus; a flavorful, subtle, lentil purée with garlic; an assortment of good olives; and a strange fourth item that was just called mozzarella (but was unlike any we've encountered). They were little balls of very dry cheese with an unpleasant vinegary taste.

We loved scooping up the two excellent dips with the thin wedges of olive oil brushed piadina in place of pita. Piadina is an Italian flatbread, which also provides the base for their pizza selections.

The chef's creativity is apparent in the Bonneville piadina, which is flatbread with fingerling potatoes, spicy savoy cabbage, Nueske's bacon, cheddar, onion marmalade, arugula and garlic cream sauce.

We went for the simpler preparation of taleggio and forest mushrooms. We asked for it extra crispy, and it was. The crust had just the right amount of tasty cheese that balanced but did not overwhelm the generous helping of earthy, wild mushrooms.

As good as it was, the pappardelle was even better. It was one of the best pastas we've had in a long time.

The thin wide noodles are housemade and were cooked to a perfect al dente texture. The dish was a composition of sweet, seasonal English peas and their tendrils, salty slivers of coppa ham, large shavings of pecorino and crunchy marcona almonds, all in a light butter sauce.

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