Located in downtown Los Angeles Hilton, Checkers Downtown restaurant does not skimp on classy, elegant ambiance and satisfying flavors, courtesy of Chef Todd Allison. The award-winning and Zagat-raved spot mixes American cuisine with California and French influences, creating several dishes that will leave lasting impressions on the diner.
The intimate atmosphere somehow combines the feeling of a blast from the past with a modern take on dining, all under a well-lit backdrop. Crisp and clean, the venue offers several table options with booths, small tables, long tables and offers a nice view of the veranda where hotel and restaurant visitors might reside.
To get a feel for every course Checkers has to offer, I ventured into the signature Tasting Menu, five courses, which change based on seasons and availability as well as by Chef Todd’s choosing.
After beginning the evening with a Fiji water, poured elegantly by the waitstaff, we also sampled two cocktails: the classic Old Fashioned made with Woodford Reserve bourbon and Agnostura bitters and the Aviation mixing Hendrick’s gin, Maraschino liqueur, Crème de Violette and freshly squeezed lemon juice. The Aviation was reminiscent of a Cosmopolitan in color and glassware but not in taste, as it has its own unique flavor–a Checkers spin on a classic beverage.
When the bread tastes divine, you know you’re in for a real treat, and that’s just the case with Checkers. The sourdough bread is great but what really felt like a treasure was the cranberry walnut bread we devoured throughout the meal, almost between every course. A simple mixture creates the perfect start (and maybe even finish!) to the dining experience.
The first course of the Tasting Menu is Japanese Yellowtail Crudo seasoned with yuzu koshu, meyer lemon and sea salt. Perfectly cut and plated, the Yellowtail opens the series of courses with a light and elegant feel, exactly how the start should be.
Next, Baby Candy-Striped Beet Salad appeared complete with a cranberry pistachio pesto and Humboldt Fog goat cheese. With the cranberry theme running throughout, the pesto and beets worked perfectly together, and was a welcome sweet course to come after the more salty Yellowtail–perfect thought. Goat cheese or chevre, if in France, is not my favorite of the dairy family, but the balance is there, especially for those who enjoy this particular type of cheese.
The Pan-Seared Alaskan Halibut followed with braised baby leeks, tomatoes and potatoes, which quickly became my favorite course of the evening, and my favorite piece of halibut in all of Los Angeles. Cooked to absolute, no-knife-needed perfection, the halibut could have been served completely alone, but its slightly sweet sauce only elevated the taste to another level. The presentation of halibut with leeks, potatoes and gorgeous red tomatoes was picture-worthy and a striking combination of both flavor and texture.
For the main course, the Grilled Colorado Lamb Loin was presented with a special bean ragout, carrots, pearl onions and natural jus. Again, a brilliantly cooked and cut piece of meat was seasoned splendidly and assisted by the lovely bean ragout and accessories. Though I would have enjoyed a couple more carrots for flavor and color, the sauce felt natural, an unforced accompaniment accenting the premium aspects of the meat.
Typically the Tasting Menu ends with the Organic Espresso Chocolate Pot de Creme, but we, in addition, sampled the dessert, Farmer’s Market Shortcake, complete with a Key Lime Whipped Cream. The first dessert juxtaposes the sweet and the salty with a toffee-inspired taste, both bold and memorable. The latter dish gave the tongue an intriguing balance of the moist shortcake, fruit juices (and fresh fruits, like blueberries), as well as the whipped cream. The dish was a great combination; I only wish the cake had not been quite so soaked in the juice, as the tart lime flavor tried to overpower the cake and cream. The addition of the fresh fruits was excellent for texture and savoriness.
For personal tableside service, a calm and inspiring ambiance and a meal to leave you both satisfied and wanting more, visit Checkers Downtown restaurant.
Reservations can be made by calling (213) 624-0000 or online at www.checkersdowntown.com. Checkers Downtown is located at 535 South Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90071. Valet parking is available. Follow the restaurant on Facebook: www.facebook.com/CheckersDowntown or Twitter: @Checkersdt.
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Written by Mandy Rodgers