October 20, 2014

Review: Rediscovering Inn of the Seventh Ray

 

PHOTO BY ANNEMARIE DONKIN ©

Review: Rediscovering Inn of the Seventh Ray

Inn of the 7th Ray’s Executive Chef Brad Miller, and Wine Director Stephan Jordan, provided a dining experience that felt like a world-class performance at one the most beautiful restaurants in L.A.

Inn of the Seventh Ray has stepped up its culinary game where the menu meets the ambience.

This Topanga landmark restaurant, always known for its beautiful, serene creekside ambience, has made the leap from its once-limited vegetarian menu to an astonishing menu of haute cuisine partnered with down-to-earth local produce, some foraged in Topanga by Executive Chef Bradley Miller himself.

Miller is a gift. It’s almost a shame to publish his name when you want to keep him (and his talent) all to yourself.

Underlying his talent is a dedication to his craft, as well as to the philosophy of the Inn—“We, at the Inn, believe in giving you the purest of Nature’s foods, energized as a gift from the sun. It may just raise your body’s light vibration.”

“Brad is a beautiful match with the energy of our restaurant and the vision and intentions of the owner,” said Wine Director Stephan Jordan, who was also our server. “He is conscientious of his work and holds that heart space while holding the menu to the L.A. standard of cuisine.”

Miller, a graduate of the Scottsdale Culinary Institute in Arizona, traveled throughout Europe where he further honed his skills. He eventually came to L.A., working for a year with Chef Joachim Splinchel at the Michelin-starred restaurant, Patina. He also was a contestant on Fox-TV’s “Hell’s Kitchen.”

“Working closley with Gordon Ramsey was a privilege that not many chefs get to do,” Miller said .

He has been the Inn’s Chef now for two years and is dedicated to buying seasonally, locally and organically. If a recipe calls for morel mushrooms and they are in season, it’s likely Miller harvested them himself on a foray to secret places in the Topanga hills.

No one arrives at the Inn without instantly sensing the serenity and beauty as you descend the stone steps to the outdoor dining patio. Inside, a roaring fireplace replaced the chill of the evening as we settled in.

The tasting menus, one Vegetarian ($70), the other Traditional ($75 plus $40 for the wine pairing), seemed to be the best way to sample a five-course meal without overeating.

There were four of us—Mary Sipple ordered the Vegetarian tasting menu and I ordered the Traditional. Annemarie Donkin and Marsha Maus, who has been dining at the Inn since 1982, both ordered from the menu.

To start with, Marsha ordered the Cheese Plate served with crostini and garnished with honey in the comb, date paste and berries. We all sampled it.

“I get all my cheeses from Andrew’s Cheese Shop in Santa Monica,” Miller later told us. “The cheeses change weekly.”

As do some of the menu items depending on the season and what is available, said Miller, who visits the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market twice a week and buys his eggs from Inner Gardens in Topanga, “and anything else they have,” he adds.

We chose to do a wine pairing with the Traditional menu. On their own, each of the wines was outstanding, beginning with a Prosecco to accompany the appetizer, “Foamed” Potato and 63-Degree Egg (soft boiled) Jar, and ending with a 10-year-old Tawny Port with dessert, Chocolate Ganache and Banana (Traditional) and a Black Muscat sherry with Mary’s Berry Panna Cotta.

The Smoked Yellowtail Spread with grilled French bread was paired with an estate bottled 2006 Pinot Noir from Shey Vineyards in Oregon. My favorite was the 2010 Kaiken Malbec, a deep, dense red from Argentina, paired with Pan Seared Wild Alaska Sockeye salmon that tasted “just like the sea.” The 2009 Gabby San Pedro, expressive of the Piedmont area (Italy), was a close nano-second.

The Charcoal Crust Filet Mignon entree from Creekstone Farms Natural Angus Beef, was accompanied by a Merlot from a vineyard east of Monterey (sorry to be vague, but it was good).

“That was my favorite,” said Annemarie, who also ordered the pork belly appetizer that was crispy on the outside, soft and creamy on the inside. The pumpkin puree that came with it, “was pure decadence, sweet and savory, slow cooked sous-vide with maple syrup and butter for hours, enhancing the flavors to perfection.”

Embellishments, such as the avocado yazu, mere decorative dots on the plate, were laden with flavor, often two or three that sequentially popped on the palate.

In the future, look for a hay-smoked ice cream with local honey that Miller says tastes like honey-flavored ice cream, and a seasonal persimmon pudding with gingerbread crumbs.

“I breathe and eat food,” Miller said. “I’m hyper-local and try to support the local businesses. I want to be part of Topanga; I love what I’m doing. It is long hours but I do it for my customers who appreciate it. It’s so much more than food.”

The Inn gives a discount to Topanga residents, so be sure to ask. While it may seem pricey, the experience is priceless.

Inn of the Seventh Ray is located at: 128 Old Topanga Canyon Road,
Topanga, California 90290; (310) 455-1311 (innoftheseventhray.com).