Tuesday, December 20, 2011

No. 210: Caviar 101 Tasting @ Petrossian (West Hollywood)

Petrossian's been doing their Caviar 101 class for a while now, and having missed the caviar boat completely the last time I was there (a.k.a during my strictly vegetarian phase) -- I took the plunge earlier this month, not knowing exactly what to expect, giving my woeful lack of experience & knowledge with this gourmet treat.
Chris Klapp
Thankfully, there really are no questions too dumb to ask here, and General Manager Christopher Klapp (in foreground) was extraordinarily patient and tactful responding to a broad range of inquiries (ranging from a comparatively basic "are the caviar-producing fishes wild-caught or farmed?" [at Petrossian, the vast majority are sustainably farmed] to being quizzed average size/weight of sturgeon [varies considerably depending on species & region caught/raised].)
Caviar Shot
Likewise, it was definitely enlightening to go through a structured, almost-analytical tasting of different caviar and other fish roe (Klapp noted that real caviar should really be sturgeon eggs that are salted & processed in a specific fashion, not just any 'ole roe.) 
Caviar Sampling
In a manner similar to wine tasting, we were encouraged to engage all our senses -- from looking at the color & size of the roe, to smelling for any particular aromas, to the tactile feel & audible sound of the beads as they roll and pop in your mouth, and of course the eventual flavors that land on the tastebuds.
Pommery Champagne
And on this particular Caviar 101 class, instead of the usual glass of vodka or champagne that comes with the tasting, the brand ambassador from Pommery took us through a flight of their champagnes to mix, match & pair with the caviars (pictured above is their Brut Rosé.) Of the four, I found the Pommery Brut Royal most memorable, with a creamy-toasty aroma that quickly gives way to a bright, citrusy tang and a clean, dry finish. 

The assorted fish roe and caviar samples were served on plastic spoons, since Klapp mentioned that metal affects the flavor of the caviar--and quickly added their tins are lined to protect the flavor & integrity of the caviar.
Caviar Flatbread
Between samplings, we were also treated a few snacky, caviar-infused bites by Chef Gisele Wellman, including flatbread topped with caviar, chopped egg, chives and capers and a refreshing, multi-faceted shot of caviar with diced watermelon, microgreen, sesame and ginger-soy sauce. 

And while the kitchen does have fun and take liberties with incorporating caviar, Klapp said he prefers savoring caviar in a simple, traditional manner (with just blini and creme fraiche) so that the roe's flavor not interrupted or overshadowed. Nonetheless, he conceded that there are many traditions and styles of enjoying caviar, and if customers prefer a little onion or capers or other stronger accompaniments, that's OK with him too.
Caviar 101 Menu
Last but not least, I found out I'm sort of a cheap date as far as my caviar tastes go. To mitigate price-related biases, we tasted our way through the eight roes without knowing how much each costs (though I did suspect we were going from cheapest to priciest.) My favorite of the tasting was the Wild-Caught Hackleback from the Midwest U.S. of A., which had a sublime oiliness with a intense flavor and bewitching aroma that I can only best describe as "amplified sashimi." And for 30g (approx. 2 tablespoons,) it clocked in at $55. Still a luxury item in my book, but small fry compared to Royal Ossetra--which we also tried--that's $139 for the same portion.

And throughout the tasting, Klapp sprinkled in all sorts of fun trivia about raising, sorting/grading, storing and serving caviar . . . but I'll let you discover these fun tidbits yourself. Needless to say, I found the experience more than worth the $35 (+tax/tip). But be sure to R.S.V.P., it was a full house when I went and it only takes place two days out of each month (first Thurs & Fri).

Or, if you have a little more experience, sophistication and discretionary income ($75 + tax/tip) -- Petrossian also offers a Caviar 201 session on the last Thurs. & Fri. of each month, offering a few more snacks, more luxe caviar tastings and a little more fun with beverage pairings. And something for me to aspire to... in the meantime, I might consider wrangling a few friends and share a formal tasting of that Hackleback.

What Do Others Say About Caviar 101?
- LA Weekly said it's "one class we wouldn't mind running late" considering "in most classes, you don't get to drink vodka and eat caviar. [Here] you do nothing but."
Eric the Epicure said "if you love the fancy black stuff, but don't know much about it, this is a great chance to learn more about caviar from one of the world's finest purveyors"
- Caroline on Crack shared her top 10 learnings from this class and "came away an appreciator of salty pearls."
- Deep End Dining wrote a hilarious post on the experience, concluding that the roe "were all buttery, nutty and briny and definitely vodka-y by the end of the class."

321 North Robertson Boulevard
West Hollywood, CA 90048-2415
(310) 271-6300


Kim Glen said...

Even if you didn't think you'd like caviar, this sounds like a fun time! Why not pretend you can actually afford the $139 caviar for a night and treat yourself to something new. Caviar tastings are definitely not something everyone can claim to do!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...