By: Ashley Berry
Sofitel is a name that has represented French elegance and luxury throughout the world for decades, so when I was invited to experience chef Marius Blin’s new “De-Light” Menu at Simon L.A., one of Los Angeles’ top restaurants located in the Beverly Hills Sofitel, I jumped at the opportunity. Upon arrival, the hosts bid me a warm, “Bonjour!” and escorted me to the back patio where I was immediately transported to a courtyard garden in the South of France. While it was sunny and unusually warm for an October day in Los Angeles, I had no problem staying cool under the canvas canopies that shaded the mixture of lounge-style seating and more formal dining areas.
As the various attendees sipped on Perrier Ace signature cocktails the color of the ocean and effervescent glasses of Laurent Perrier Ultra Brut champagne, we were treated to a parade of tantalizing hors d’ouevres. We enjoyed truffle mushroom eggs that were softly scrambled in the classic French style and a light Faro grain tabbouleh. My favorites included a smoked salmon rillette that was rich, creamy, and perfectly balanced by the crisp bitterness of the Belgian endive that served as its bed and a frothy Sungold tomato gazpacho that imparted a refreshingly bright acidity.
While the De-Light Menu was created for the health-minded and calorie-conscious, it still delivers all of the taste and artistry that one would expect from fine French cuisine. Executive Chef Marius Blin introduced the three-course meal and let us in on some of his secrets for creating food that is both delicious and healthy. He explained the importance of simple, but high-quality ingredients and whet out appetites for the culinary journey we were about to undertake.
The meal began with an appetizer of Spanish shrimp resting delicately on a bed of sauteed Tuscan kale. The shrimp were baked with a touch of fennel pollen and the kale was earthy, savory, and tender. As an accompaniment, velvety chanterelle mushrooms added a pop of cool tanginess with light peppery notes and just enough resistance in the bite. An artfully herbed tomato and a dab of mustard seed cream rounded out the plate to create something that was just as pleasing visually as it was mouth-watering.
The star of the show was certainly the main course, which was beautiful in its simplicity: a hearty portion of perfectly grilled Halibut with compressed basil and sangria watermelon and mache, also known as lamb’s greens. The smokiness of the Halibut’s grilled exterior gave way to flaky, moist, white flesh that found an elegant contrast against the deep rose of the watermelon and vibrant green of the mache. Basil and sangria gave the melon simultaneous hints of fresh herb and deep plum and cherry flavors, while the mache greens were bright, delicate and drizzled with a dressing that was surprising in its light, honey sweetness and citrusy spice.
No French meal would be complete without at least a touch of dessert, and even a menu focus on low-calorie gastronomy is no exception. Our final course was a panna cotta-style dessert made with silken tofu that had the flavors of a decadent vanilla cheesecake and the texture of an airy, but rich mousse. The panna cotta was paired with an array of macerated market berries that were sweet and tart and ended the meal on the perfect note.
As the luncheon came to a close, I couldn’t help but feel that, for a few hours, I had just escaped to another world where pleasure and well-being come together in an experience that the French have aptly named the “art de vivre”. It was time to go back to real life, but while it lasted, it was certainly delightful.