You may know Marcel Vigneron from television shows like Top Chef, Iron Chef, America’s Best Cooks, Cutthroat Kitchen and so on, but do you really know his cuisine? This March, Marcel opened WOLF, his own restaurant on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles, allowing his avid fans to finally try his food rather than simply stare at its beauty on a TV screen.
This summer I had the opportunity to dine at WOLF, and even meet the chef himself. After working for big names like Joël Robluchon, Ferran Adrià, and José Andrés it was not a surprise that this was one of the best dinners of my entire life.
The best part of the dinner was meeting the chef: right after my friend and I ordered our entrées, Chef Vigneron came to our table to ensure our meal had been delicious so far—it definitely had been. Although he does not have a french accent, his family comes from Northern France. We bonded over our French roots and love of wine (his personal favorite is white). He also made sure to tell me that he had a new “fast food” restaurant opening in the fall right next door to WOLF on Melrose called “Beefsteak” (it opens tomorrow).
The actual restaurant is tucked away in a small space on Melrose Ave. almost straight across the street from the Melrose Trading Post, a famous flea market in LA, and just a couple blocks away from the iconic Pink’s Hot Dogs.
The decor is simple and minimalistic, but distinct wooden accents give it a life of its own. My favorite aspect of the restaurant is the decision to place huge round wooden chandeliers above diners’ heads which gives the room a nice warm feel. The dining room is in the same space as the colorful bar which gives a pop of color to the restaurant, too.
WOLF prides itself on serving solely fresh and local ingredients from around family farms around Los Angeles. The menu is comprised of ingredients used in their entirety: nose to tail.
As smart diners do, I went with a friend to ensure I would be able to try double, if not triple the menu options. I stalked WOLF’s Instagram the night before, so I knew exactly how these dishes would be plated. Even so, seeing the dishes is one thing, actually experiencing them is something else altogether.
We began by ordering the beet and citrus appetizer alongside the hamachi crudo. My two favorite parts of both dishes, if I had to pick, was the presentation, as well as the candied kumquats that accompanied the hamachi.
For our main plates, we ordered the braised beef cheek and the white miso black cod. Let me just say: you cannot leave this restaurant without ordering the cod. Seriously. The fish comes beautifully plated with flowers and small honshimeji mushrooms, topped with a light dashi broth.
Just when I thought the night couldn’t get any better, Chef Vigneron sent over a complimentary dessert to our table. Knowing I am French, he sent over a soufflé. It was flavored with elderflower and was absolutely absurd. Did I mention that it came with a small scoop of rhubarb ice cream to cool down the center? It did.
Of course, I couldn’t just have one dessert so I ordered the vanilla pavlova as well. All of the dishes were incredible, but after the soufflé, nothing else could compare. In France, soufflés rarely come with a scoop of ice cream, but Chef Vigneron’s decision to incorporate that into his warm dessert made an immense difference; it not only added a different temperature to the dessert but also a soft velvety texture.
Thank you to Chef Vigneron and the other members of the WOLF family for allowing me to enjoy one of the best meals of my life. After a dinner that fabulous, I’ll need to come back—this time for brunch.