After enjoying an incredible food and wine pairing at Petrossian West Hollywood just a stone’s throw from my pad, it was time to explore the much anticipated Caviar 301 Menu. This actual caviar tasting menu leads guests through a tasting of some of Petrossian’s most expensive caviar along with an caviar infused seven course meal (with two expensive cocktails of your choice included).
We are seated in the elegant white formal room that sits off to the side of the casual restaurant with fellow foodie lovers. I have been looking forward to this special extravagant affair for quite some time. As the gracious, polite, and extremely knowledgeable General Manager Christopher Klapp plots our journey through caviar excellence, we learn about the history of caviar and every possible nuance of fish eggs. Each mother of pearl spoon is carefully laid out for us as we are told to flip the spoon in our mouths to really savor the flavors. In serving caviar, freshness is key. A caviar spoon should always be used because a metal spoon can affect the taste.
Starting with a Beluga Caviar martini we cheers our new foodie friends who also have been giddy for this special education. We learn that eggs from sturgeon with salt added are the only thing to you can call caviar. Pike roe comes from Canada. Salmon roe comes from Alaska. There are 28 species of sturgeon. 90% of sturgeon in the wild is critically endangered. If you happen to be eating caviar that is from Russia or the Black Sea region, then it is coming from the Black Market because in the last 15 years no delectable egg bursts will be twanging in your mouth from this area.
As we savor each spoonful, we learn that our fourth mouthful is the best selling one – Royal Transmontanus which goes for about $69 per 1 oz tin/30g. As the menu progresses, every sampling of fish eggs tastes smooth and buttery. We learn that there are levels of caviar quality, such as 1) Classic 2) Royal 3) Tsar Imperial 4)President 5) Special Reserve. Prices start to get hefty with the Ossetra President going for $255 an ounce and the Special Reserve Ossetra going for $645 for 50 g. I make sure to take my time with each savory, velvety, briny note and be present with my food, seeing if I can determine the differences in flavor and texture.
The royal ride of caviar history and the varietals of caviar leads us to comprehend some fascinating facts. Caviar originated with the ancient Persian fishing culture in 4000 BC. ‘Chav-jar’ means king of power as they considered caviar to be a stimulant that increased their endurance and force. Following the great commercial routes of Central Europe, caviar made its first appearance at the Russian court quickly becoming the preferred delicacy of their royal Czars. Caviar slowly acquired popularity in Europe, where it became a delicacy of Aristocrats.
FACT: You should never freeze caviar because if you try to defrost it, it will become a gummy mess. If you transport caviar, it must be kept cold. There is a joke that most of the money goes to FedEx when transporting caviar from China to LA since 20 pounds of caviar will need 80 pounds of ice.
Did you know that at the end of the 19th century in the US sturgeon eggs were sold in saloons in hopes that its saltiness would make bar patrons thirstier? Sturgeon, a major food source in the Hudson River, was commonly sold as “Albany Beef,” since it was so plentiful and affordable. During this same time, sturgeon harvesting was intense in the Gironde and the North and Baltic Seas, but since it wasn’t sold for much, the quality of caviar quickly declined.
In the 1920’s Paris became the largest caviar distributor in the world. Exiled Russian royalty, intellectuals and aristocrats who fled the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, with the assistance of the Petrossian house, revived the art of caviar. The Petrossian legend began by serving this fine delicacy at the world’s most grand tables, becoming a symbol of luxury and an indispensable ingredient for success.
Why Petrossian Caviar? Petrossian caviar has stood for excellence for almost 90 years. Two brothers named Melkoum and Mouchegh Petrossian moved to France and distributed caviar from the sturgeons of the bountiful Caspian Sea. Petrossian then expanded, with a restaurant in New York City and a product line that includes savory foie gras and sweet French chocolates. Petrossian became the first major distributor to work with sturgeon farms, providing gourmet sustainable options with a highly regarded taste, that sits next to the likes of beluga, sevruga and ossetra caviars. Today Petrossian is considered one of the finest.
Petrossian caviar is special because Petrossian allows the sturgeons to age, giving their caviar a fuller, more robust flavor. Working with specialists at the world’s finest caviar refineries, the roe undergoes a specific salting process, giving the caviar beads the delicate accent of “malossol” – meaning “little salt.” From there, Petrossian caviar is quickly refrigerated and stored fresh for sale. Due to their high output of caviar, it is delivered at a peak freshness direct to restaurants, fine eateries, and individual gourmands around the world.
For $125 you are getting a masterful experience that you will never forget. After the caviar sampling, you begin the 301 Tasting Caviar Infused Menu. For Starters, we sampled six bites of fish, some I have never heard of like Patagonian Toothfish. My favorite melt in your mouth bite was the Smoked Salmon, which I heard is divine on their breakfast menu. The First Course called the Bird’s Nest may be my favorite flavor combination including Soba Noodle, Yuzu, Scallion, Caviar, and Quail Egg. The Fourth Course of Maine Lobster in Herb Pasta Sheets, Lemon Grass Broth. Tomato, Corn, and Mushrooms provides hefty chunks of lobster that are not overpowered by the broth.
We end on another high note. The dessert is presented to us in a Petrossian caviar tin. The Vanilla Panna Cotta inside the tin is covered with Espresso Caviar, next to a Cardamom Shortbread Cookie. I sip my French bubbly (Nicolas Feullatte Brut Blue Label) and feel satisfied, beyond satisfied. Bon appetit!
This tasting takes over three hours. As I walk home I think how can I get back to Petrossian for brunch. I can already taste the Smoked Salmon Bagel on their beautiful outdoor patio.
Caviar 301 takes place on the third Thursday of each month. Reservations are required. The chef alternates the menu depending on what she feels, so you may have different food courses than shared here.
Petrossian also offers Happy Hour with a stellar menu every weekday from 4-7pm. Small bites include Caviar Burger Slider ($15), Mini Lobster Roll with Sea Urchin and Caviar ($15), Fried Zucchini Blooms with Olivade ($8), Hand Sliced Smoked Salmon for Two ($29), Tarte Aux Pommes de Terre (Potato Tart with Crème Fraiche and Caviar, $24), and Two Jicama Smoked Trout Tacos ($10).
321 North Robertson Boulevard (one block north of Beverly Boulevard)
West Hollywood, CA 90048
For reservations and more information, call (310) 271-6300.
Monday-Friday: 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Saturday: 10 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Sunday: 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Happy Hour: Monday – Friday, 4 to 7 p.m.
A beluga sturgeon that is 4,500 pounds can lay eggs that are 10-20 % of its body weight – 450 lb of eggs!
All photos courtesy of Melissa Curtin.