In May 2006, New York based restaurateur Jeffrey Chodorow and local boutique owner Melissa Richardson partnered on Social Hollywood, transforming the Hollywood Athletic Club into an elaborate playground for young Hollywood. For whatever reason, the Moroccan-themed restaurant/bar/lounge didn’t take, so the partners recruited revered chef Michel Richard to revamp the food. Richard ran the fashionable Citrus restaurant on Melrose for many years, so he knows L.A. tastes. In early 2008, Social Hollywood became Citrus at Social, signaling the D.C. based Richard’s triumphant return to the L.A. dining scene. He hired Rémi Lauvand as his Chef de Cuisine, but it wasn’t until July, when Richard replaced Lauvand with protégée Omri Aflalo that the food really started to hit full-force.
Former manager Jesse Caetano designed the fashionable list of Specialty Cocktails ($13 each) that all utilize fresh fruit, vegetables and herbs. We ordered the Cucu Cocktail, a refreshing mix of Patron Añejo, Cointreau, cucumber, cilantro and lime juice; and the Blueberry Lemonade, including Stoli Blueberry, tart lemon juice and simple syrup. These were both serious cocktails.
The right side of Citrus at Social’s menu is devoted to signature Richard dishes like the carpaccio “Mosaic” and “Duck, Duck, Orange,” but we both opted for the left side of the menu, which features reasonably priced Tasting Menu (5 courses for $65). Chef Aflalo changes the tasting menu every two to three weeks. There’s no doubt that Citrus at Social is a Michel Richard restaurant, but the tasting menu provides some insight into Aflalo’s culinary vision.
Though the flavors at Citrus are clear-cut and distinctive, Richard still resorts to molecular gastronomy on occasion to achieve textures that aren’t possible in nature. Take the butternut squash risotto. Classic French cooking methods can’t produce the beaded tapioca-like consistency found on this plate. The risotto was topped with Brussels sprout leaves and crispy bacon bits. There was also a streak of cherry-anise sauce. The flavors might be simple, but the plating is truly fine-dining, with every plate featuring multiple components.
Citrus at Social may be high-end, but Michel Richard still manages to infuse some lighthearted touches.
Up until three months ago, the bar went by Le Kit Kat, but Nestle sued Richard. Regardless of the name, the bar was delicious, featuring layers of milk chocolate and crunchy hazelnut, plumed with a crispy bull’s-eye wafer and set on caramel sauce.
Overall, the meal was a great value considering the high-quality ingredients and precision. Chef Aflalo, only 28 years old, is clearly a chef on the rise.