The first thing that catches your eye when walking into Girasol, the new Studio City restaurant by two-time "Top Chef" alum CJ Jacobson, is the ceiling. When the restaurant opened Monday evening, diners couldn't help but notice large white petals swirl across the ceiling, reminiscent of a sunflower.
Girasol, which means sunflower in Spanish, is Jacobson's debut restaurant, after having recently spent time in the kitchen at the Mercantile in Los Angeles and at restaurant Noma in Denmark. But when the sight of Jacobson walking through the dining room elicited stares and excited whispers, it was clear many in the room knew Jacobson from his time on "Top Chef" seasons 3 and 10.
"Can my neice please take a picture with you?" one diner gushed.
Jacobson gladly obliged. The tall chef, who happens to be a former volleyball player, towered over the girl, who was only tall enough to reach the middle of his torso. He walked around the room shaking hands, thanking people for coming. He stopped by William Shatner sitting in the corner booth for a chuckle.
But Jacobson's celebrity wasn't the only thing garnering excitement from diners. A fried, whole red snapper made an appearance at almost every table. As soon as the server brought the dish, eyes widened and people quickly grabbed their smartphones to take photos of the fish, which was scored into small squares and lightly curved at the ends. It rested on a bed of crispy greens with a kumquat sauce.
At Girasol, Jacobson is focusing on seasonal ingredients with dishes such as the grilled Copper River sockeye salmon, apricot and burrata cheese with crispy lentils, seasonal raw summer squashes, and dried fava bean puree with house-made chorizo, tomatoes and grilled flatbread.
"Every thing is going well, we just didn't make enough of everything," said Jacobson, smiling. He ran out of the apricot and burrata cheese dish halfway through dinner service. The dish proved to be a favorite with diners, along with the octopus salad and fried fish.
For dessert, buttermilk doughnuts with strawberry sauce and pistachio purée and dark chocolate chiboust with salted caramel ice cream and chocolate pudding.
Girasol will serve dinner nightly and plans to introduce a cocktail program and weekend brunch.
11334 Moorpark St. (at Bakman Avenue), Studio City, (818) 924-2323, girasolrestaurant.com.
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