It’s often that some of the most highly regarded and luxurious food items seem off-putting. Fatty, swollen goose liver as foie gras? Calf and lamb pancreas as sweetbreads? Fish eggs as caviar? However, it’s the rarity and uniqueness of these products that make them so coveted—not to mention that they’re just plain delicious. And Christopher Klapp, General Manager of Petrossian in West Hollywood, CA, famed purveyors of caviar for almost 100 years, is ready to educate you. “Caviar is undeniably a luxury item,” admits Klapp, “But I’m here to get people over the initial hesitation, give them some knowledge and create an experience that’s elegant, but not at the expense of being comfortable.”
Petrossian, which has stores all around the world including Paris and New York, features classic caviar preparations, whether with blinis and crème fraîche or spooned onto toast points, but also emphasizes education of the product. Although Petrossian supplies 25–30% of the caviar in the world, the business is still family-owned and operated by Armen Petrossian, while his wife Cecile runs the Paris boutique. The West Hollywood restaurant opened in 2001 originally as just a wholesale and small café, but expanded in 2009 to include a full service restaurant. Klapp joined the team around the same time and he’s the head of small but dedicated staff, all who are well-versed in caviar knowledge and serve from a 25-page wine list that also features over 40 vodkas.
“Whether it’s a special occasion or simply brunch on the weekend, everyone should be able to enjoy caviar.”
Petrossian caviar is sourced from farms all over the world, wherever fine caviar can be found: the U.S., France, Italy and China to name a few. All the caviar is farm-raised and sustainable, and at the West Hollywood location, the caviar comes from five species of sturgeon: White, Siberian, Shassetra, Ossetra and Kaluga. Harvesting is a patient process, as the roe is extracted from mature sturgeons, which can take years, depending on the species. Each caviar is then graded according to Petrossian-specific standards depending on its flavor, color, size and texture, starting with the entry level Classic, then Royal, Tsar Imperial, President and the best quality is given to Special Reserve.
The lessons begin with Petrossian’s Caviar 301 class, a popular monthly dinner that features a caviar tasting of 11 varieties served on traditional mother of pearl spoons, along with a carefully crafted multi-course dinner from French Chef Alex Ageneau. Klapp is a caviar expert, able to field tricky questions from the interested diners (he offers a prize to anyone who can stump him!). Klapp traces the journey of caviar, from its farming and extraction to its shipping to Paris and, eventually, Los Angeles. The diners learn how to taste it properly—press the caviar with your tongue against the roof of your mouth—and serve it properly (never serve it on metal or stainless steel, the caviar will absorb the metallic flavor).
While attendees walk away much more knowledgeable than when they sat down, Klapp is ready to make caviar accessible outside the classes as well. With Petrossian’s involvement in dineLA, which offers diners prix fixe menus at restaurants all over Los Angeles, their $25 lunch and $49 dinner special makes caviar available to those who would normally consider it out of their price range. They’re also offering 30% off their caviar tasting for the week of dineLA as well. Klapp adds, “I’d like diners to explore new options on a budget. Money should not be a qualifier to enjoy caviar. Whether it’s a special occasion or simply brunch on the weekend, everyone should be able to enjoy caviar.”