Charcuterie and Wine Delight at Tesse
Try French-Californian cuisine via Michelin-starred Chef Raphael Francois
When a restaurant’s muses are California modern and classic charcuterie, interpreted by a Michelin-caliber talent, the culmination can be poetry on the plate. Tesse, which opened on the Sunset Strip in June of 2018, entices diners with its imaginative menu.
“I was not trying to make fine dining at all. I wanted to create a family style restaurant and serve recipes I learned from my parents and grandparents,” says executive chef/partner Raphael Francois, who grew up in Belgium and France.
His resume includes Michelin-starred establishments in Brussels, Paris, and London. Next, he took the helm at Le Cirque in New York, before moving to Washington D.C. in 2017 to open Le DeSales.
So, what called him to create his dream restaurant on the famed Sunset Strip?
“What I love about West Hollywood is the easy, relaxed atmosphere. One challenge was that people here are focused on diet – so we try to convey that rich food, very good food, and taking the time to cook it well, is also healthy.”
(Full disclosure on the healthful-eating front: Francois says when he’s not at Tesse, burgers and pizzas are guilty pleasures.)
The chef’s time-tested recipes are served in a sleek space adorned with wood, stone, leather and a cork-and-mirror ceiling. There is an open fire, a glass garage door and turntables, recalling a secluded hill-top house that a band might have rented to cut an album in the 1970s. At the bar (teak, copper and rainbow limestone) is a large glass case to display the exquisite charcuterie, which is made in-house.
Managing Partner/Wine Director Jordan Ogron says: “It’s contemporary and rustic. The chef’s food is some of the best in the city. And we have an innovative wine program. We’re doing a lot that other restaurants are not.”
The name Tesse is a play on délicatesse, which in French means delicate or fine. House-made pates, house-cured meats (such as duck prosciutto), cheeses and house-made pickles are featured prominently.
The menu, which boasts Italian and German influences as well as French and Belgian, also offers items such as festonati pasta, lobster sausage, veal sweetbread, vegetable beignets, pork chop, skirt steak, lamb, chicken, salmon and octopus.
Francois prepares food that he loves (he is a big fan of garlic, for instance) and hopes other people will enjoy it as well. The idea is to sample the charcuterie, pairing it with wine or cocktails.
Says Francois: “I share what I really like to eat. There’s a soul behind it.”
Try a Little Wine
Wines by the glass are 3oz pours, in keeping with the small plates. This allows guests to try several wines throughout the meal. Prices adjust accordingly, so a wine that’s usually $14 for a larger glass would be $6 for a 3oz pour. The wine list has 100 labels at a time (from all over the world), which represents about 20% of the cellar.
Of course, you can order wine by the bottle. Beverage partners Julian Cox and Nick Meyer oversee the French-inspired cocktail and spirits selection.
Name Your Price
The Name Your Price dessert wine program draws from 200 wines. No list, no prices—guests name their price (say $5, $15 or $30) and the server pours cozy liquid companions to the sweet treats of choice.
Fresh California produce is a source of inspiration for the food, cocktail and dessert menu. Standout desserts from executive pastry chef/partner Sally Camacho Mueller, who sometimes adds Filipino flair to her French classics, include: marjolaine with hazelnut nougatine and espresso glacé, a duck egg crème brulée, and chocramel (think of a deconstructed Snickers bar).
Boutellier Wine Store
Adjacent to the restaurant is Boutellier wine store – a cave with charcoal-pebbled walls and wood shelves holding hand-tagged bottles. Boutellier was the title given to the person in charge of the king’s wine in 18th Century France.
The store sells some wines from Tesse as well as exclusive and hard-to-find bottles. It’s a great spot to remember when you’re bringing a bottle or need a fabulous gift in an elegant bag.
Boutellier will also host evening events and private dinners—another West Hollywood secret that’s totally meant to be shared.