Culina Modern Italian is a fresh new enoteca occupying a beautiful indoor/outdoor corner of the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills. The kitchen is run by chef Victor Casanova, with the pastries overseen by Pastry Chef Federico Fernandez. On a recent visit with my good friend Julie I got the opportunity to enjoy the entire dessert menu. All nine dessert menu items were enjoyed in their entirety, but to be fair we did have two very special dessert tasters, Sofia and Vivian, with us as back up.
From start to finish the dessert selection at Culina was captivating and well executed. From decadently rich to airy and light, the menu has something for everyone. The offerings showcase traditional and modern Italian desserts with creative flare and exceptional ingredients. For the perfect summer indulgence enjoy these desserts on the spacious outdoor patio covered in lush greenery and fragrant citrus trees, under the California sunshine as we did.
We all agreed our favorite dessert was the nuvola di riso (rice cloud) with fresh berries ($9). I am not generally a rice pudding fan, but this was something different. The ethereally light and supremely creamy cloud was spiked with tender rice. Notes of vanilla permeated the delicate meringue like cream, while the fresh berries lent alternately sweet and tangy flavors to the dessert. I was surprised by how enthralling this simple confection could be.
A close runner up for favorite dessert was the elderflower panna cotta with basil seed tapioca, citrus and strawberry sorbet ($9). The panna cotta had a lovely texture that effortlessly collapsed with each bite while still retaining a nice viscous texture. The elderflower was a subtle background flavor that embellished the accompanying bright citrus slices with a nice floral essence. Paired with the cold, sweet strawberry sorbet, the creamy panna cotta really shined.
The tiramisu with cocoa snow ($9) was flawless. The perfectly soaked ladyfingers were layered between a buttery custardy cream that was nestled on the thinnest layer of chocolate. The whole thing was dusted with cocoa snow giving it added decadence. Unlike other tiramisu I have had, this one was soft and sweet without being soggy.
The tortino al cioccolato e amaretto with salted caramel gelato was luxurious. The cakey chocolate shell shatters under the fork giving way to a rush of decadent, fudgy molten chocolate. The salty caramel gelato slathered atop paired with the pool of amaretto liquor the cake is nestled in, offers a nice balance to the heavy chocolate flavor.
The afogato with vanilla bean gelato, espresso and pinoli cookies ($9) was brought to the table with an addition I’ve never seen on afogato before – homemade cotton candy. The presentation of a giant puffy cloud of cotton candy over the gelato was impressive, even more so was watching it quickly disappear as the espresso was poured over it. The cotton candy slightly sweetens the espresso, which is nice given the strong bitter flavor of the coffee.
The melon moderno ($9) was comprised of compressed summer melons, a coconut budino and melon sorbet. I am not a big fan of melons so this dessert was not for me, but for the melon lovers out there it is a refreshing and light summer dessert.
We ended our meal with profiterole tricolore ($9). The profiteroles are made fresh daily with homemade ice cream and a house made galliano chocolate sauce. They come in pistachio, espresso and classic vanilla gelato. Unlike profiteroles you find on many a restaurant dessert menu, these profiteroles were exceptionally good. The dough was soft and malleable as was the ice cream, which made for an ideal bite that melded together rather than coming apart. The chocolate sauce adorning the profiteroles was thick and sweet. The pistachio gelato was my favorite- it was nutty and buttery.
After enjoying an entire dessert menu for dinner I can happily say everyone should definitely enjoy dessert first! From fruity fresh desserts, chocolaty goodness to creamy and delicate confections we tasted them all. I’m still mesmerized by the silky smooth rice cloud; it was so fabulously airy and irresistibly delicate and sweet. Like a kid in a candy store, Culina made my dessert dreams come true.
CULINA MODERN ITALIAN
300 South Doheny Drive
Los Angeles, CA
* full disclosure: this meal was hosted, all desserts were comped*