The Gourmet Detective
Rare by Drai’s
The Haute Spot On Sunset
by Pamela Price & Michele Elyzabeth
Have you heard? Victor Drai just opened a new eatery on the Sunset Strip. Once home to Le Dome restaurant, Victor was called on by ESquared Hospitality to take over the space and turn it into ‘the haute-spot.’ 8720 Sunset Boulevard is now home to “Rare by Drai’s.”
The moment we walked inside, there was a ‘special-treatment’ atmosphere as the hostess greeted us. Victor’s signature design is immediately recognizable with red accents and dark wood paneling all around. The restaurant is separated into three different sections: two dining rooms, the bar and a white-themed terrace. The decor is a fusion between a modern speakeasy and contemporary California style. It is an interesting and beautiful contrast between the light color scheme and the romantic nighttime ambience.
Past the sleek marble top bar, and through a large red velvet curtain, is the dimly lit main room with white linen covered tables and floral-clothed chairs. We were shown to one of the crescent shaped black booths. For a Monday evening, the restaurant was doing quite well, with couples and large groups seated throughout.
Just as Victor’s clients have remained loyal to all of his establishments over the years, so have the people who work with him. Rare’s manager, Shantel Zorrilla, has been on Drai’s team since Botero in Las Vegas. She greeted us as we arrived and was attentive during our entire meal. Chef Patrick Florendo’s culinary talents have also attributed to Rare by Drai’s success. We were already admirers of his cuisine and were looking forward to seeing how he had married the old with the new from the menu at Drai’s Hollywood. Chef Florendo is an Australian native who has worked in award-winning kitchens, from San Francisco to New York City. He eventually took on the pastry world at Tableau in Las Vegas before becoming the pastry chef at Victor and Steve Wynn’s steakhouse, Botero. He has been working with Victor ever since, moving to Los Angeles to head up Drai’s Hollywood at the W Hotel and now Rare.
As we were seated, our server handed us the most unique and modern beverage menu: an iPad. The tablet stores a catalogue of Rare’s finest wines, Champagnes and cocktails. We decided to try a glass of wine and one of their signature mixed drinks. Michele had a glass of the Cabernet from Frank Family Vineyard, while I took the server’s suggestion: ‘Interview with a Vampire.’ And this is drink is not just a film title or any ordinary cocktail, Rare’s mixologist, Chris Hewes, sees drink making as an art. He uses fruit, herb plants, infusions and natural sweeteners. The sweet and spicy ‘Interview with a Vampire’ has Fair Trade quinoa vodka from Peru, with blackberry and raspberry. Hewes uses a single large round or square ice cube to keep the drink from diluting its original taste.
Following the drinks, each signature dish was presented at the table, one after the other. It is clear how meticulously Chef Florendo designed each plate, from the look to the taste. We started with their Roasted baby yellow and red beets with goat cheese, dressed with honey-thyme and white balsamic ($18). The combination of fresh goat cheese and beets melts in your mouth. While many restaurants offer the generic Caesar Salad with chopped romaine and a small amount of dressing, Rare ‘massages’ the dressing into large pieces of gem lettuce. This way there is no bland bite. The towered salad is topped with sourdough croutons and plenty of shaved parmesan. ($14).
Our favorite of the appetizers is the Spicy Pacific Tuna Tartare ($18). This is a delicious first-course which Chef Florendo upgraded from his menu at The W Hotel. The tuna is tossed with chili and shallots, with dabs of a light avocado puree on the side. One of Rare’s signatures are their homemade taro chips, which are perfect for a crunchy bite along with the tartare.
Of course, with Rare being a steakhouse, many come for the steak, from the Ribeye to the Hangar. But the most talked about is the Pepper Steak 10oz Filet with fresh cracked peppercorn sauce. Cooked to a light medium rare, it is to-die-for. ($48). Chef Floreno told us that all of Rare’s meats are butchered in-house.
Going from turf to surf, their Loup de Mere is flown in from Greece and is farm raised in the Ocean. It’s a whole fish cooked on the bone for more flavor. Before it is roasted, the filets are taken off of the spine. Although it is an entire fish, each bite is light and zesty with fennel and lemon. ($44). Crispy taro potatoes are added to the bottom for texture. To accompany our entrees, were three sides. Blistered shishito peppers with cipollini onions, garlic sauteed wild mushrooms and charred broccoli with chili. As Chef Florendo perfectly put it: the peppers are a great complement to a really thick steak.
By the smile on the Chef’s face, dessert is clearly one of his most prized creations. They are best known for the Creme Brulee and Frozen Godiva Candy Bar, both scrumptious. The candy bar has three layers with peanut butter on the bottom. It’s deliciously crunchy with chewy caramel and topped with gold flakes, which dissolve in your mouth. The Creme Brulee is quite special, made with Tahitian vanilla bean and fresh fig and Chantilly.
Victor has certainly redefined the ‘steakhouse restaurant’. As he himself refers to Rare, “our interpretation of today’s modern, sexy steakhouse.” It’s hip, inviting and high class from the impeccable service to the food. Another success by Victor. Well done.
8720 W. Sunset Blvd. West Hollywood, CA 90069