Hollywood nostalgia, Mediterranean flavors merge at Europa
Pamela Bieri, Special to The Desert Sun 9:17 p.m. PDT June 25, 2015
Europa’s talented Chef Kitt Fraser has created a new summer menu at the romantic hideaway restaurant at Villa Royale Inn, which will be open all summer.
The bones of the restaurant are Mediterranean with its low, wood-beamed ceiling, hand-built fireplace in the main room, French doors leading to a lush patio, and intricate herringbone pattern brick floor. In the 1940s, this was the residence of the groundskeeper and his wife who cooked and cleaned for the inn’s then-owner Sonja Henie, a film star and Olympic figure skater.
In fact, many of the original doors, accessories and antiques are still used in Europa and throughout the inn’s 31 uniquely appointed rooms. The intimate restaurant is a study in classic European décor with a splash of Asian, a combination that was then avant-garde in Hollywood.
Tapestry table skirts are overlaid with white linen; carved armchairs with tapestry cushions; brass table lamps, sconces and crystal chandeliers softly light the rooms and alcoves. Each dinner place is set with blue and white Asian floral chargers topped with black napkins. On the walls are several intricately carved antique Chinese scenes in gold against red backgrounds; a Chinese porcelain vase sits on a shelf above the fireplace with colorful Asian figures placed here and there.
It’s like a Hollywood set right out of the 1940s.
The cuisine is upscale and innovative with creative twists on some classic dishes. Chef Kitt’s new summer menu offers a delicious range of seafood and meat entrees, appetizers and salads, with daily specials that keep the creativity flowing.
To begin, we tasted the heirloom tomato salad that came on a bed of wild rocket topped with red onion, crispy pancetta and feta mousse in a basil vinaigrette. We also tried the delicately-seared diver scallops appetizer with local fava, white beans and sweet peas braised in a pimento-parmesan broth with Spanish chorizo.
Other interesting appetizers are Europa mezze, an assortment of chilled vegetables with white bean and sweet pepper hummus with baba ganoush and homemade za’atar flatbread; and salmorejo, a chilled Andalusian tomato gazpacho with chopped egg, preserved salmon and sweet pepper escabeche.
My husband opted for the beef short rib cavatappi pasta (a large curled shape), a deeply flavored dish with roasted grape tomato puree and garlic-basil jus and topped with homemade ricotta dusted with pecorino Romano cheese.
I chose the shallot-crusted Alaskan halibut, which came crisp and flavorful on the outside, moistly and delicate white flesh inside. It was accompanied by haricots vert, oyster mushrooms and fingerling potatoes with a yellow tomato béarnaise underlying the composition.
Chef Kitt’s alluring menu also includes a seared petite beef tenderloin with tomato-balsamic jam; pan-roasted loin of lamb with sauce soubise; lobster and lump crab carbonara with sweet peas and linguini; and hand-rolled potato and goat cheese gnocchi with basil pesto, toasted pine nuts and pecorino Romano cheese.
Our friendly, knowledgeable waiter, Michael Scott Brooks, told us about the daily specials, described some of the dishes, and tempted us with the fresh, house-made desserts.
Europa has a carefully selected wine list that complements Kitt’s thoughtful, well-crafted menu, with varietals from California, France, Spain and Italy.
Craft, imported and domestic beers, and spirits for classic and specialty cocktails, martinis and blended drinks are available from the inn’s bar that also opens to the pool area for guests.
Entrée price range: $28 to $39
Summer hours are Wednesday through Sunday, 5:30 to 9:30 p.m