In “James and the Giant Peach,” a popular children’s book by Roald Dahl and, later, a movie, a young boy enters a gigantic peach and embarks on a magical odyssey, full of thrills inside the luscious fruit. I recently enjoyed a dining experience at Girasol which reminded me of the book, but instead of a peach, I was exploring a giant sunflower.
Girasol means sunflower in Spanish and the Icelandic-born designer, Gulla Jonsdottir, founder of G+ Gulla Jonsdottir Design, created a beautiful flower inside the dining room. She and her team created a dramatic ceiling of whitewood flower petals that are backlit and secured by a floral column stem. From the ceiling, amber lights swirl down to the dark floor, like vines reaching down to the soil.
The walnut wood tabletop showcase an inlaid metal sunflower, and the table base resembles roots.
The executive chef CJ Jacobson and two-time “Top Chef” alumnus was away the evening we dined, so the talented chef de cuisine Justin Abram worked his magic in the kitchen.
We started with a frosty, tall aluminum tumbler filled with a slightly sweet guava cocktail, similar in presentation to a Moscow mule, though it was called the J. Swizzle. It paired nicely with a plate of house-baked bread that has a homey taste, especially when we spread the soft butter infused with toasted lovage leaves. Lovage is an herb with a deep celery flavor.
We ordered a few appetizers and were extremely pleased with the Penryn Orchard persimmon and burrata cheese salad. These persimmons aren’t the hard or mealy orange type, but deeper in color like a ripe tomato. Their appealing sweetness has a slightly chocolate flavor.
The chefs at Girasol visit local farmers’ markets and forage for local herbs and flowers in the Angeles National Forest several times a week. They gather edible weeds, bushes and pine needles to enhance many of the dishes. The burrata salad was dressed with a forest floor vinaigrette. General Manager Adrian Migliore drove up to Big Bear the day before we dined and brought back pine needles, which the chefs used to make this vinaigrette. The plate was dotted with crispy black lentils and basil to add texture to the cheese, balancing the creaminess and enhancing its flavor. Small, edible magenta flowers created a lovely salad.
A signature dish at this restaurant is the octopus salad. Eggplant is roasted until it’s almost a puree. Little Gem and frisée lettuce are plated and dressed with a charred rosemary olive oil, offering an intense essence of the herb. The octopus is stewed for almost two hours in its own juices and then grilled before it’s placed on top of the salad. It’s finished with sweet and sour chilies and toasted lovage.
Another pretty appetizer is the fresh hamachi with sea beans, finger limes and tiny caviar pellets that burst when crunched. White fir needles were added to the wild sorrel broth and green chives and pink and yellow flowers accented the dish.
We sipped a 2013 Luminus chardonnay from the Oak Knoll District in Napa with notes of poached pear, honeysuckle and a little pineapple. It went nicely with the whole fried red snapper with crispy kale and dynamite dipping sauce mae with fermented Fresno chilies, kumquats, sorrel and a sprinkling of flowers.
A side of the grilled wild mushrooms was dazzled with pickled onions, lemon and crispy lovage.
We finished with an entrée of braised Creek Stone Farm short ribs that almost fell off the bone. The meat was presented on a leek puree with a hearty tomato based sauce. On the side were sliced citrus Daikon radishes and market vegetables.
Desserts range from a pumpkin spice budino with walnut cookies and a deconstructed chocolate s’more decorated with bright yellow sunflower petals on a dark chocolate bar, with marshmallows, banana cream, caramelized banana sliced lengthwise and a graham cracker crust. We ordered both of these exquisite desserts and shared a plate of donut holes dusted in sugar with fresh farmers market strawberries, toasted pistachios and a sorrel and vanilla cream gelato.
The cuisine at Girasol is as appealing as its whimsical decor. Girasol is open nightly for dinner from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m., On Sundays they serve brunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mark your calendar for a three-course prix fixe New Year’s Eve menu from 6 to 10 p.m., at $100 per guest. $$$ 11334 Moorpark St. Studio City, (818)924-2323.
This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.