Getting Schooled in Raw Fish

Salmon crudo with blood orange, osetra caviar, chives, extra virgin olive oil

Traditionally served with olive oil, citrus and salt, Italian crudo has glided onto the California culinary scene. In a city where sashimi, tartare and ceviche have found their way onto menus far beyond the sushi bar and traditional Latin American restaurants, locals are ready to enjoy raw fish dishes in many forms. At Culina in Beverly Hills, Chef Vic Casanova serves glistening raw fish from a custom-designed crudo bar placed in the middle the lovely, modern Italian restaurant.

Ask Chef Casanova about his crudo menu and his eyes light up. Set inside the posh Four Seasons Los Angeles at Beverly Hills, the Culina menu shows Casanova's commitment to creating soulful Italian dishes that as he describes as "clean, simple and straightforward." His dedication to serving the best fish leads him to many early-morning visits to International Marine Products in downtown Los Angeles. Once there, he inspects the Culina orders. Some days he finds himself shopping alongside fellow chefs Michael Cimarusti and Nobu Matsuhisa, a testament to the quality of the fish.

Cappesante: scallop, melon, radish, citrus, mint

Casanova's mission to follow the Italian ideology of "good products, treated with respect" comes through in all of the dishes on the Culina menu. He sources most ingredients locally, a few throughout the US, and only three from Italy: balsamic vinegar, olive oil from Umbria and San Marzano tomato sauce - an ingredient he covets for its unique flavor from the volcanic ash in the air where the tomatoes are grown. Chef Casanova says he loves living in Southern California for many reasons, including the "access to good ingredients in every direction." He describes Santa Barbara spot prawns as jewels and praises the quality of the local sea urchin.

Ricci di Mare: Santa Barbara sea urchin, lemon agrumato

At Culina, Chef Casanova has personally trained only a few from his large kitchen staff to prepare the crudo dishes. They work in full view of the diners. After tasting the new crudo creations, it's obvious that Casanova has fused his love of flavors from the sea with his affinity for clean Italian cooking -- and the results shine. Cue the ocean waves.

300 South Doheny Dr.
LA, CA 90048

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