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Aug 31, 2006 06:28 PM


When Vert first opened at the new Hollywood/Highland complex you sensed it was too good to be true. Abundant portions of moderately priced bistro fare realized by Lee Hefter and Wolfgang Puck included such sought after standards as a luxurious sole mueniere, veal Milanese, and short ribs. Even the bread basket was over the top featuring some six to eight freshly baked items each distinctively different. An enormous bowl of mussels for $12 became the talk of the town. It was memory of those first visits that inspired us to stop by for an early Saturday dinner knowing that the menu had gone through a recent change. Whose change is not evident. The menu now resembles more the Wolfgang Puck Cafes of old. There's a distinct California/Asian influence but nothing that stands out. The addition of chicken wings (second joints only don't you know) with a bleu cheese sauce is certainly a nod to the local tourist crowd but they're alarmingly sweetened with an orange sauce as if someone were thinking we'll play to the crowd but add our own twist. Unfortunately, playing to the masses has never been Puck's strong suit. A spicy crab dip comes with a pile of spectacular potato chips but the dip is bland with no particular taste of crab or spice.
A fresh peach and burrata salad is refreshing but needs a more distinctive dressing. The prime N.Y. steak for $28 has got to be the toughest cut to ever bare that grade but is served with wonderful fries and the rotisserie garlic chicken lacks the luster of other similar versions around town. Everything is well executed and served by a first rate crew just sometimes ill conceived. A great menu was replaced by an inferior one when location is really the issue. It's Saturday night and both Vert and the Grill on the 4th floor are half empty at 8pm. And rumors that the Oscars will be leaving in two years are not helping matters.

What will bring us back? Those amazing mussels are still available for $14 and desserts still hold up with an orange granite quite the refreshing finish. There is also a nice selection of wines. And Michael Dargin, the GM/maitre' d who successfully steered Spago Hollywood before and after the B.H. opening is here at the door with a watchful eye on every detail ensuring that no one is left wanting. Observing him conversing with a guest while quietly replacing another's dropped napkin is a study in refined service. He is the one element in that odd complex that honors the real Hollywood tradition of elegance and hospitality.

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  1. Hadn't heard about the menu change, thanks. Vert has been a good eating option in that part of town and the only restaurant in H&H worth going to (not counting Beard Papa's). The mussels are superb. I would hate to see this place go.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Mr. Cookie

      I concur! Beard Papa is the only good thing about the Crapopolis -- I mean the H&H complex.

    2. Wonder where Michael Dargin was when we were waiting waiting waiting to get our check.

      1 Reply
      1. re: slacker

        He was probably turning customers off, as he did us, when we dropped by and asked for a booth in an hour. "I'm sorry we can't guarantee one will be available." We went shopping, came back in an hr and the whole damn place was empty. There's a fine line between trying to maintain a reputation and killing one and he crossed it. Elegance and hospitality indeed.

      2. I totally agree with your review, it started so good, not anymore. It has been terrible the last two times that we had been there. Especially the service, it is terrible. And the food went from excellent to just bad, with a few exceptions. I miss the old Vert.
        I don't think we'll be back.
        A funny note, last time we were there we walk in without a reservation, first thing we were asked by the hostess, do you have a reservation, we say no, and then she scratch her head, and say, let me see......, okay I guess we can seat you now....the place was almost empty, only one table was occupied. It remained almost empty the whole time we were there. I wonder why!

        1. I strongly believe that Vert and The Grill are a mismatch for the complex. No matter how upscale H&H thinks it is, the reality is it's still a tourist attraction and when a family of four is visiting, they won't be dropping $150 - $200 on dinner for their mcnugget favoring kids that they won't appreciate. That's why Vert and the Grill are frequently empty and Johny Rockets is always packed.

          We haven't been to Vert since the new menu but often enjoyed it on the old, service has never been fantastic (always found it a bit cold). It's not likely we would go to that complex if we didn't have events at the theater there for work. It's not a destination for us personally but since we do HAVE to be there, I'm glad Vert is still there (KCRW discount!). Although the newish Crepe place is our new fav.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Muhlyssa

            Update - we just went there Saturday night for dinner. It was my first time. The place was less than half full, we got in without a reservation with no problems.
            I ordered a squash and chestnut soup. It was good, but VERY intense and rich, and it was a LOT served in a HUGE bowl. My sister tasted it and said, "Autumn in a bowl". I couldn't finish half of it.
            My sister's frisee' salad was just ok - nothing to write home about.
            We shared the duck - now that was very good. Cooked perfectly, good flavor.
            Served with yams with homemade toasted marshmallows on top. Pretty good.
            I think next time, we're going to the Grill.