Second part of two parts, please start here with Part 1
After being recommended to, and having several interviews with Cliff’s Edge’s owners, a move for Chef Abgaryan to this Silver Lake destination made a lot of sense. Cliff’s Edge’ owners wanted to raise the level of their cuisine and be more current with what’s happening now food wise, though at the same time didn’t want to jar their existing loyal customer base with too fast of a transformation of their menu. So a month prior to starting last December, Vartan went to work reexamining Cliff’s Edge’s menu to determine how he could improve it. After a tasting with the owners, every one was on board with the refinement Chef Abgaryan wanted to make to the menu.
So after starting, with his refined menu introduced, Chef Abgaryan kept the prior menu’s structure as well as many of the prior dishes key ingredients. He though changed a number of the details particularly with how dishes are prepared. He also introduced a number of specials, one week days, and two on weekends. Many items like rabbit and venison he didn’t expect to sell, have sold well and been placed on the menu. The venison with its higher price point (due to its higher cost) sold twelve covers on its first night offered. Vartan was shocked.
With specials, Vartan gets immediate response from the customers. Vartan also plays close attention to what does and doesn’t sell. As Cliff’s Edge’s menu further evolves other transformations of slower selling items and ingredients like chicken will be replaced with replaced with more distinctive ones like guinea fowl reflecting how much more adventuresome many of Los Angeles restaurant patrons’ palates have become.
Chef Abgaryan dishes also reflect what’s the most fresh and in season switching out many ingredients that don’t taste as good out of season or that have to be sourced from far away. To maximize freshest, Cliff’s Edge is even in the process of turning a large adjacent plot they own into a garden for fresh vegetables. Like many young chefs Abygaryan, inspired by chefs like Noma’s Reni Redzepi, is focusing more on vegetables, thinking of meat as a component or even condiment on his dishes. For example, thinking first what Abgaryan can do during winter with root or other vegetables that are in season and then what meats he can pair with these items. Thus a lot of Cliff’s Edge menu can be made vegetarian or vegan with a subtraction of an item or two.
Cliff’s Edge menu transformation though isn’t limited to the food and sourcing, the transformation impacts also back of house (kitchen) and front of house (serving) operations. In a month or so, Cliff’s Edge will have a new sous chef to help further give direction to the back of house so that plating too will be more precise, focused and consistent. Since everything is still new with a new chef, right now the existing line cooks are still developing some of the finesse required to plate Chef Vartan’s menu.
Serving the menu too is something different for the front of house staff many of whom have been with Cliff’s Edge for years. So the often jovial Vartan has not only been realistic with his expectations, he’s developed methods to get his determined front of house staff up to speed. For example the chef has created a menu log hard copy file with pictures of the plates complete with lists of items and components including a glossary of any word his front of house staff doesn’t understand. As new items are added to the menu, new pages are added to this log
Since Cliff’s Edge is already an ongoing and popular location, Chef Abygaryan didn’t have months to prepare the menu and train both front and back of house staff like he would have had opening up a new location. Though even though he started during the holidays, Cliff’s Edge peak season is not during the winter since so much of its seating is outdoors in its beautiful courtyard. So Chef Abgaryan is using this slower time to get all of his menu items, and training in place to be fully prepared for the spring, summer and other warmer months when he has a lot more covers he’ll need to produce out of his kitchen.
With what Vartan has done thus far, both refining existing menu items and introducing new ones, restaurant goers will not only want to keep a close eye on what comes from Cliff’s Edge’s kitchen, they’ll also want to visit again and again, since the menu will constantly be evolving, especially since Chef Abgaryan strives to make each dish better than the one that preceded it. His creativity, drive and passion, simply won’t let him settle for anything less.
Enjoy this article? Receive e-mail alerts when new articles are available. Just click on the "Subscribe" button above. Thanks!