Co-Owner Introduces New Chef and Maitre’d
The Draycott is a lovely, spacious restaurant adjacent to the little green park in the center of Caruso’s Palisades Village.
When Circling the News learned that the restaurant had hired a new chef, we contacted co-owner Marissa Hermer for more information, and she invited us to join her for a lunch interview and to sample some of their new menu dishes.
Hermer insisted that I bring along Bill Bruns, the CTN adviser and former Palisadian-Post editor, and also meet the new chef, Josh Mason, who started work on June 13.
Mason is from Great Britain and trained under English chef Richard “Rick” Stein, whose passion is seafood. When the executive chef of Bar Boulud (Knightsbridge, London), came to Los Angeles to work at the Chateau Marmont, he brought his sous chef Mason with him.
Now Mason, 29, is the executive chef at The Draycott and his influence is already being felt as he fine tunes the favorites, such as fish and chips and the crab salad, while adding tasty new items such as chicken liver mousse (with clarified butter).
Bruns had dined at the restaurant four times since it opened last September and had been disappointed by the fish and chips, but Mason has changed the batter to produce a thin, crisp crust over succulent cod. Our adviser raved about the improvement.
Every dish has undergone a subtle change with Mason’s expert hand, and the result is uniformly delicious, with just the right amount of seasoning and mixing of flavors.
The chilled pea and mint soup with crème fraiche ($12) was light with the subtle taste of mint. Next we tried the British shrimp cocktail ($20), which bears little resemblance to the U.S. version. The shrimp is tossed with a Marie Rose sauce, and served on Bibb lettuce. The flavors are not as jarring as the U.S. dish.
The chicken liver mousse ($14) was served in a small mason jar with clarified butter on top, accompanied by toast. The combination was smooth and yummy, and the portion is large enough for people to share.
We were told that many regulars loved the crab salad. Chef Mason has improved on the offering, which features fresh Dungeness crab meat on a bed of avocado, cucumber and herb mayonnaise ($25). Although the star of the dish is the crab, the other ingredients serve to enhance the crab’s flavor.
The sea bass ($29), served on a spinach bed with sun choke puree and tomato vinaigrette, was moist with just the right combination of flavors. Other fish offerings include seared salmon, pan-roasted trout and moules-frites (PEI mussels and fries).
For vegans, there are numerous options, including eggplant caviar ($18). The eggplant is spiced and cooked with red peppers and sesame seeds, producing a rich and satisfying flavor.
The roasted lamb rack ($40), perfectly prepared, melted in our mouths, and was served with crispy polenta and confit tomato rosemary.
Chef Mason prepared two special desserts: a grilled peach with crème fraiche and Eton Mess, a traditional English dessert of strawberries, broken meringue and whipped cream. Both were light and wonderful.
Mason said that he is working on a new bar and lounge menu that he hopes to implement over the next few months, but “I want to get the lunch and dinner menu done first. I want to make sure that we’re ‘hitting’ every dish that comes out.”
If the sampling was any indication, not only is he hitting every dish, he’s knocking it out of the park.
“It is sometimes hard when there is a new chef [in a restaurant],” Mason said. “But the team has been welcoming. I’ve told them to come to me with ideas.”
He praised the kitchen staff, which he says are some of the hardest workers he’s been with. Mason’s objective for the restaurant is to “get this place pumping day and night.”
In addition to Chef Mason, Juan Ramirez has joined the staff as the new maitre’d.
Said Hermer: “My husband Matt and I feel so lucky to have both gentlemen at The Draycott, leading the kitchen and the front of the house.”
She was also proud of the new, freshly-printed menus for brunch, lunch and dinner.
The brunch menu has replaced the buffet and now features items such as an English breakfast ($20), huevos rancheros ($17), eggs Benedict ($24) and the brioche French toast with grilled peaches ($17).
Hermer was asked why they hired a new chef and made menu changes. “When we first opened, everything was a rush and people were lined up outside, waiting to get it,” she said. “Now were trying to make everything a bit more refined with a British spin.”
The Hermers, who moved to the Palisades from London, have also had a chance to see what food and prices work for the community. Although the restaurant offers fine dining, children are welcomed with a special children’s menu.
Another success is the happy hour from 4 to 6 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday, with glasses of wine for $9 and special cocktails for $13. A happy hour menu is available from 4 to 5 p.m.
If diners want an easy way to sample The Draycott menu, the eatery is participating in Dine LA, from July 12 to 26, by offering a $39 dinner prix fix menu. Starters include a choice of zucchini fritti, English pea dip or roasted cauliflower. Diners have a choice of eggplant caviar, pan-roasted trout or Jidori chicken for the main course. Dessert is a choice of sticky toffee pudding or flourless chocolate cake.
What’s up next for the Hermers? This fall, they’re opening their second L.A. restaurant, Olivetta, in West Hollywood. “It’s a Mediterranean sexy sister to the Draycott,” Hermer said.