Beverly Hills’ chic modern Italian spot
The chic ambience in Culina, Modern Italian, which sits inside Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills, is rivaled only by the food, which is why the well-heeled crowds from Hollywood and Beverly Hills have flocked there to dine on its fresh menu of crudos, modern interpretations of Italian cuisine and well-curated wine list since March 2010.
Stepping into Culina, you’re met with a breezy ambiance of dark wood floors falling at the sills of oversized glass windows. Those looking for a more casual dining experience can pull up a comfy leather stool to the purple back-lit bar, or head over to snag a spot at the adjacent crudo bar to watch the chef conjure up fresh seafood creations. The focal point of the dining room is a modern blown-glass chandelier composed of hundreds of bubbles, which blankets tables in soft light and extends onto the romantic, lush outdoor terrace and fire-lit patio.
No matter if you decide to dine at the Los Angeles restaurant for breakfast, lunch or dinner, it’s not uncommon to fall upon a celebrity mid-interview or run into industry heavyweights noshing on Hawaiian amberjack crudo and savoring wood-fired pizzas. Still, despite being situated next to the Four Seasons’ buzzy Windows Lounge, Culina beckons with a quiet sophistication, private dining rooms and cozy corners where anyone one can see or be seen (or not be on display at all).
In addition to serving up a menu that puts modern twists on classic Italian dishes with farm-to-table ingredients, Culina boasts the only live action crudo bar in Los Angeles. Grab a seat and watch your chef transform a plate of raw fluke into a piece of modern art with black olive powder, blood orange segments, trout roe and chives; or garnish freshly cut raw ahi tuna with pickled eggplant, Calabrian chili oil, preserved lemon and chives.
Heartier dishes include a selection of handmade pastas and wood-fired pizzas, like the restaurant’s spaghetti alla chitarra (“guitar spaghetti”) with San Marzano tomato sauce, pepperoncino and basil; gnudi (ricotta dumplings) with braised oxtail and Brussels sprouts; and carbonara pizza with crispy pork, Parmesan cream, black pepper and thyme.
No proper Italian dinner would be complete without fish or meat courses. At Culina, the bistecca Fiorentina is a 42-ounce Niman Ranch porterhouse that is perfect for two. Other selections from land and sea include the lombatina capricciosa, a pounded bone-in veal chop with a ciabatta crust, served with tomatoes, arugula, parmigiano and lemon vinaigrette; and merluzzo nero, black cod plated with a celery root puree, root vegetables, wild mushrooms with a port wine reduction.
The woman behind the innovative Italian fare at Culina is none other than chef Mette Williams. Before taking the helm in 2013, Williams had somewhat of an unconventional interview process, competing for the position on Food Network’s Chef Wanted with Anne Burrell. Needless to say, she outshined the rest of the competition to land the coveted spot of leading Culina’s kitchen.
It’s no surprise that she came out on top. Williams' pedigree is one of the highest in Los Angeles. She previously served as one of the first female sous chefs at Spago Beverly Hills, where she continued to hone her skills for five years. She has since held positions at many top restaurants, including executive sous chef at Four-Star CUT Beverly Hills and executive sous chef at the exclusive Soho House in West Hollywood.