THE NAME is Gordon Ramsay at the London West Hollywood, but "at" would not seem to be the appropriate word, since the peripatetic Mr. Ramsay drops into his glitzy new restaurant only from time to time.
The star of "Hell's Kitchen" has too many other irons in the fire to be in one place very long. Those irons would include a bevy of restaurants in his home base London and around the world, including one in New York, plus several television gigs both in Britain and this country.
Ramsay can operate on such a grand scale only because he has an organization in place, and for this, his second U.S. restaurant, the provocative chef has put Andy Cook, who worked with him in London and in Tokyo, in charge of the kitchen.
For anyone who had ever been to the dowdy Bel Age hotel on San Vicente Boulevard, its transformation into the glam London is nothing short of astonishing. It boggles the mind to think what it must have cost.
The hallways shimmer with mosaic tile and white, lots of white and cream and gold. And through some sort of design magic, the restaurant is unrecognizable as the former Diaghilev. Two almost identical 55-seat dining rooms mirror each other on opposing sides of the central bar. Inside, it's quiet and civilized, yet there's an energy that feels very urban and sophisticated.
It's interesting that for all the hype and speculation surrounding this opening, I didn't have to put the number on speed dial to get a reservation. Not at all.
The menu was a bit confusing at first: It's entirely small plates arranged by price and weight, from lighter to more substantial.
Our server suggested we order three to six plates each, which gave us all a mind-numbing headache since we all wanted to share. But our server stepped right in and told us she'd figure out the logistics and suggested we order two of several items that are more difficult to share.
If you don't want to go through this exercise, just go with the six-course chef's menu for $85, which, considering the swell room and numerous staff, would be considered a bargain for a hotel restaurant anywhere in the world.
In the end, we ordered about three plates per person and it was more than enough food. Some of the dishes -- wild asparagus risotto with chive flowers, sea scallops with cauliflower purée and a caramelized sherry vinegar reduction, honey and soy-roasted quail with sautéed foie gras and pear chutney -- are wonderful, the execution dead on. A cassoulet of seafood, though, with only a few garbanzo beans and a garnish of prawn tortellini, seems absurdly minimalist.
My favorites were two inventive specials: broiled black cod topped with minced pig's tail and Kumamoto oysters and braised pig's head with English peas and baby shimeji mushrooms.
It is early yet, and though execution of the dishes is inconsistent, what seems certain is that Gordon Ramsay is hellbent on tickling Los Angeles' taste buds and giving us a dining experience that is something different.
GORDON RAMSAY AT THE LONDON WEST HOLLYWOOD WHERE: 1020 N. San Vicente Blvd., West Hollywood. WHEN: Breakfast: Mon.-Fri., 6:30-10:30 a.m.; Sat.-Sun., 7-11 a.m. Lunch: daily, noon-3 p.m. Dinner: Mon.-Sat., 5-10:30 p.m.; Sun., 5-10 p.m. PRICE: Dinner small plates, $14 to $22; six-course chef's menu, $85; desserts, $10. INFO: (310) 358-7788; www.gordonramsay.com