The SOMM Journal

April / May 2016

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Page 43 of 108

{ }  43 { f & b } AS IF THE NAME ALONE weren't synonymous with luxury, The Peninsula Beverly Hills' prox- imity to one of the world's most infamous ZIP codes puts it in a unique position: "We have a little leverage to do things differently than the other nine properties," says Michael Ploetz, Director of Food and Beverage, "as long as we do things with a certain amount of quality and finesse that is consistent with the brand." The hotel's main dining room, The Belvedere, did just that, re-opening in January after a months-long renovation. As Southern California's only AAA Five Diamond Award restaurant for 21 consecutive years, why change? The kitchen is now better equipped to handle the hotel's production volume, while the dining room was re-decorated with French country influences and the seating capacity doubled on the outdoor terrace, home to a flourishing podocarpus tree. What hasn't changed: the atmosphere, level of service and attention to detail. Executive Chef David Codney re-designed the menu to pay homage to classics, while adding a Mediterranean interpreta - tion on items like the Caesar salad, to which he adds charred Brussels sprouts, Parmesan and kale with a peppercorn–white anchovy dressing. A much-loved smoked salmon pancake from the old menu morphed into a now-popular smoked salmon flatbread, and the bright toasted pita fattoush salad features cher - vil, oregano and mustard flowers plucked from the rooftop garden. Ploetz condensed a 750-label list down to 300 wines that were selected for their higher acidity and pairability with food; the entire drinks list, coffee and tea included, is ordered from lightest to heaviest, enabling both staff and guests to confidently peruse lesser-known producers. "People are more will - ing to make a bet on something they're not familiar with when they have a little more information," Ploetz elaborates, a strategy he first implemented successfully in West Hollywood at celebrity chef Michael Voltaggio's restaurant ink. Ploetz was previously at two Four Seasons properties (Jackson Hole and Chicago), José Andréss Think Food Group, and served as Corporate Director of Operations for Voltaggio, before arriving in 2014 at The Peninsula, where he oversee a team of 30 managers and 120 employees across the hotel's multiple concepts, including The Club Bar, The Living Room and The Roof Garden, home to a pool and known for serving hun - dreds of glasses of rosé. The Belvedere offers more than 50 wines by the glass, including the Homage 2012 La Amante Cabernet Sauvignon, made by Ploetz's friend Simon Hawksworth from a five-acre vineyard just south of Calistoga; only 120 cases were produced. "We're the only restaurant in Los Angeles where it's being poured by the glass," he says proudly. Ploetz had the opportunity to design a cocktail menu for the first time, one of the many new challenges that attracted him to the role at The Belvedere. "There's a great Martini culture in Beverly Hills, but the guests want their Martinis extra-cold, so we use a smaller ice cube," he says. "At the end of the day, we're here to take care of our guests and respond to their feedback." The 1,500 wines in the bi- level wine cellar currently stored beneath the kitchen will eventu - ally relocate above-ground and, in their ever-expanding rooftop garden, Ploetz has his eye on growing hops and house-brewing beer, a passion he and Executive Chef Codney share. Michael Ploetz, Director of Food and Beverage at The Peninsula Beverly Hills. Herbs for the fattoush are plucked from the rooftop garden of The Peninsula Beverly Hills. Chef Kelsi Armijo and Executive Sous Chef Mark Bouchard with The Belvedere's whole branzino and 28-day dry-aged bone-in-rib. The Smoky Sunday cocktail features mezcal, celery and cucumber juice, celery bit- ters, espelette pepper and sal de gusano on the rim. Behind the Scenes at The Belvedere FOOD AND BEVERAGE DIRECTOR MICHAEL PLOETZ TURNS THE PENINSULA BEVERLY HILLS INSIDE OUT—TO GREAT SUCCESS by Becky Tsadik / photos by Cal Bingham

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