Executive Chef CJ Jacobson at Girasol, the 'sunflower' of Studio City (Andrew Carrillo/Living Out Loud LA)
Girasol is a hidden gem in Studio City, boasting a menu dedicated to the farm-to-table philosophy. Executive Chef CJ Jacobson, a former contestant on Bravo’s “Top Chef,” prides himself on sourcing local ingredients to create a diverse menu inspired by California.
Jacobson describes himself as an “herb-forward” chef, and the cuisine reflects this title. The interesting balance of each item pays homage to his experience working with Chef René Redzepi in the Noma kitchen in Copenhagen, with a California flair. From the specialty cocktail menu to the dessert offerings, Girasol shines brightly, much like its namesake, which is the Spanish word for ‘sunflower.’
Studio City is known more for Hollywood studios than for exquisite dining locations. Jacobson has been quoted as stating the Valley did not offer a spot where diners could enjoy an upscale setting, great food but not too serious of an environment. Much like its wisecracking chef, Girasol is a touch intense without being too serious. Floral accents are present throughout the space, but they provide a more rustic theme than a feminine, flowery one. The variety of stone and wood throughout creates an intimate and contemporary finish.
The specialty cocktail list at Girasol does not veer from the seasonal, local theme. The mixologist allows guests to be adventurous or simply choose a contemporary twist on a classic cocktail.
The Sorrel Pine Gimlet uses fresh lime, pine syrup, St. George Terroir Gin and Girasol’s ever present herb, sorrel. St. George Terroir Gin is a California gin, with strong hints of both juniper and herb. The combination of the sorrel and the herb makes the cocktail perfectly balanced.
The Blackberry Kumquat Daisy is the ideal cocktail for the adventurous sipper. In it, the Slow Hand White Whiskey is un-aged and does not have the typical oak-y flavor of whiskey. When combined with the fresh citrus and berry mix, it yields the perfect light, summer cocktail.
The most predictable libation is the Ginger Grapefruit Fix. The cocktail consists of Plata Tequila, ginger, Del Maguey Vida Mezcal, lime and grapefruit. Though unoriginal, the cocktail is delicious.
Jacobson combines fresh and seasonal local ingredients to create shared dishes that send your taste buds on a flavorful roller-coaster ride. The standout dish is the Murray Farms Cherries. The cherries’ extraordinary flavor, combined with a slightly tart yogurt and topped with frozen herbs, creates a summer cornucopia of deliciousness. Jacobson freezes green leafy herbs, doused in lemon, salt and pepper and finishes the dish with them. Time is of the essence when presented with this selection, but any diner is likely to devour this appetizer quickly.
Another notable offering is the Nectarines Roasted in Forest Floor. Jacobson rotates the fruit seasonally but the burrata, crispy lentils and basil stay put all year round. The smooth burrata, mixed with the crunch of the lentils, yields a wonderful texture.
The entrée choices range from a Grilled NY Prime Steak to Tamai Farms Pan Roasted Cauliflower and a Whole Fried Red Snapper. The Pork Loin Roasted in Hay has a distinct flavoring of the hay. The potato puree and sweet clover consume compliment a slightly overcooked loin.
The Braised Lamb Shank is the standout item. The dish is served with parsnip puree, loquat, dill, crispy brussels and a juniper reduction. The shank is prepared wonderfully, with the lamb being perfectly tender and delicate. The crispy brussels are a wonderful compliment to the texture of the meat.
Jacobson creates a limited yet diverse dessert menu. The best offering is the Chocolate Chiboust. The combination of salted caramel gelato, chocolate pudding and sable cookie is perfection for the palette. The Fresh Strawberries is a close second, with buttermilk donuts that are perfectly puffy.
If you find yourself craving a carefully selected seasonal menu with little fuss, pop in to Girasol. This blooming flower is definitely worth the trip. Many times, ousted contestants from “Top Chef” do not live up to the hype, but CJ Jacobson and Girasol do.
Girasol is located at 11334 Moorpark St., Studio City. For reservations and more information, call (818) 924-2323 or visit girasolrestaurant.com.