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The Hakka steamed dim-sum platter is full of succulent surprises, like black crab and scallop shumai  

Fine China

by Lesley Balla | Photography by Andrea Bricco | Angeleno magazine | December 2, 2013

The waft of incense when you walk through the door, the pulsating soundtrack that gets louder as the lights get dimmer throughout the night, the $288 whole Peking duck— Toto, we’re not in the San Gabriel Valley anymore. When it comes to authentic Cantonese food, many locals skip off to one of the brightly lit dim-sum houses in Arcadia or Monterey Park. But when you want a sleek and sexy night in Beverly Hills that includes plump little shumai and smoke-tinged Negronis, Hakkasan is where you want to be.

The 11th location of this global chain just opened in Beverly Hills’ Golden Triangle, bringing with it all the trappings of the original from London, with a little added flair from some of the other cities—Mumbai, Dubai, New York, San Francisco, Las Vegas—along the way. Design-wise, the restaurant itself is a maze of ornately carved screens, low-slung booths and intimate nooks. The clientele is a range: suits from the MGM building, well-heeled tourists from Rodeo Drive, gaggles of giggly women sharing photos and stories while sipping flower-topped cocktails, and a famous face or two.

For anyone just looking for a drink, a sleek, neon blue-topped bar fills quickly in the evenings. Cocktails like the Shiso Gimlet and the tropical Hakka look smashing on that bar; the light shooting up through the tall martini glasses or bubble-filled Champagne flutes.

While there are other Hakkasans around the globe, this one in particular has an extra-glamorous, opulent feel; maybe it’s the vibe, maybe it’s the lit-up bar. I’m not sure. But the original London restaurant won a Michelin star soon after its debut, which is enough to make me confident in the food that they’re serving. And in fact, the cuisine is quite good. The kitchen is overseen by Hakkasan’s International Executive Chef Ho Chee Boon, though with 11 different restaurants to supervise, I’m not sure if he is really around much. Either way, as evidenced by the gorgeous food hitting the tables, the army of chefs manning the woks and grills in the kitchen know what they’re doing.

I have no doubt that the delicate little dumplings in the Hakka steamed dim-sum platter are the most popular item on the menu. The outsides are thin and supple, stuffed with shrimp or crab; the scallop shumai come topped with caviar. All are delicious. If you want duck but don’t want to drop almost $300 for the full bird—the Tsar Nicoulai Reserve caviar that comes along with it is to blame for the high price tag—there are plenty of options, starting with the crispy duck salad, which comes to the table in a pretty mound with grasses and microgreens, then tossed by the server into the sweet dressing, pomegranate seeds and grapefruit slices. You can also get pipa duck, which is basically the Peking duck without the flourish and flair.

We really wanted to try the dishes Hakkasan is known for, all delineated on the menu by the restaurant’s recognizable asterisk-looking logo. So when we ordered the signature roasted-silver cod with Champagne sauce, our server made sure we understood that there is actually Champagne in the sauce. “Has that been a problem before?” I asked. “It’s… you definitely taste the Champagne,” was the answer. And you do—it’s strong and rich with butter. A dab on the silky fish was enough; we left the greens swimming in the broth behind.

Other dishes, like stir-fried black pepper rib-eye with merlot sauce (don’t try to eat the nifty noodle cornucopia it tumbles out of; that’s just for show), and the lotus root with lily bulb and asparagus, make a nice meal. Springy, squiggly egg noodles tossed in a delightful sauce dotted with black truffles came without crabmeat, contrary to what was described on the menu. There were plump scallops instead, which was a delicious surprise.

Hakkasan is the land of excess. Like Philippe or Mr Chow nearby, it features elevated Chinese food priced high to lure those who can afford it. There’s a wide array of offerings for whatever kind of night you want, whether it’s light bites and a cocktail, or a full and lavish sit-down meal. And on most nights, there are paparazzi waiting out front for whoever’s inside to come out, attracting those who long to see or be near them. Meaning: It’s perfect for Beverly Hills.

Hakkasan
233 N. Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills, 310.888.8661, hakkasan.‌com/beverlyhills

Hours
Lunch: Mon.-Fri., noon-2:30pm; Sat., noon-3pm
Dinner: Mon.-Wed., 5:30-11pm;
Thu.-Sat., 5:30pm-midnight

Cost
Dim-sum and small plates, $8-$28; entrees, $21-$288; sides, $3-$42; dessert, $12-$25

Private Dining
The private dining room seats up to 18 guests, and for an extra dose of exclusivity, it has its own elevator.

What to Drink
The cocktail menu is incredibly long, but the riffs on classics are incredibly pleasing. The Smoky Negroni is a knockout, and the Shiso Gimlet goes down way too easily. The bar and lounge are open until 1am.

Lunch Scene
Lunch has more dim-sum offered than dinner. Order everything a la carte, including steamed dumplings, crispy duck rolls, shrimp toast and seafood pancakes.