During the drive to PUMP, I anticipated it would be yet another touch of class designed by Ken Todd and Lisa Vanderpump, gently sprinkled onto a long neglected corner in West Hollywood. I was right. These two entrepreneurs are the real deal: Gengine, personable and I couldn't be more impressed with their latest endeavor. From the moment of arrival, my impression of the setting was romantic, sexy and whimsical. It felt like the restaurant had been there for many years, yet it was just over a month old.
PUMP opened at 6 p.m. and my dining companion and I were seated near the entrance, so we enjoyed watching the guests arrive and fill the outside dining area. We were immediately greeted by our handsome server, Derek Allen Watson, an actor who recently moved from New York in order to pursue a career in Hollywood. That said, he took our cocktail order. My dining companion went for the Summerland Chardonnay and I ordered from the menu's clever list of "Pumptails," choosing the Pumpagranite Margarita, consisting of Tapatio Blanco tequila, orange liqueur, tres agaves organic, pomegranate liqueur and fresh lime, which was luscious.
Our appetizers arrived and, like the restaurant, had a sexy, luscious vibe; Ahi Tuna Tartare, tossed in a ginger-chive dressing, with heirloom tomatoes, sesame oil, red chili flakes and layered with a mango, avocado and pomegranate pico, was a literal flavor explosion. Next up, was Papaya, Shrimp & Crab: A fresh papaya half filled with decadent shrimp and crab salad, tossed with chives and heirloom tomatoes in a light aioli, dusted with Spanish paprika and toasted pistachios -- eating it was a "sexy little dance."
The menu had a fabulous array of salads, but we wanted to cleanse our palate with PUMP's White Anchovy Caesar Salad, so fresh and tasty. I went on to order the Big Pinky, another signature cocktail with Vanderpump Vodka, a lime and mint muddle, with cranberry juice and club soda. The title is taken from Lisa's nickname, though not the "big" part; she is quite petite in person.
Chef Penny Davidi, a USFOODS culinary specialist has collaborated beautifully with Lisa on the menu. As we selected our entrées, I appreciated the thoughtful choices available, not overly complicated by too many options. My companion ordered the Lobster and Asparagus Fiori: Flower-shaped pasta, tossed in spicy white wine sauce with asparagus, garlic, red onion and fresh radicchio. I sampled the dish and enjoyed its originality, tied together in a very pleasing way. I ordered the Filet Mignon Tagliata: Seared and sliced filet, with crispy leeks, a wasabi cauliflower mash and braised red cabbage, a wickedly divine combination.
As we were finishing up, Ken and Lisa arrived, stopping to visit various tables, then graciously came over to see us. They truly are lovely people whose success did not come by luck, but by focused hard work and open hearts. Lisa is as staggeringly gorgeous in person as she is on television, and Ken is a true gentleman. Even their dog, Giggy, shared a little love too.
We finished the evening by indulging in an immoral piece of cheesecake that was right up there with the best that I have had. We wanted to stay all night and hang out in the secret garden, which is rapidly becoming part of "the scene," but I knew that another couple would quickly occupy our exceptional table.
PUMP Restaurant and Lounge is located at 8948 Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood. For more information or to make reservations call 310.657.7867
An Interview with Lisa Vanderpump
Lisa, before we talk about PUMP, how have you adjusted to being perceived as everything from a villainess to a saint on "Real Housewives of Beverly Hills?"
Bravo may not always show your best suit, but they will certainly show your worst. It doesn't matter what storyline that Bravo puts out, or what the ladies say about me. The audience has sort of invested in and supported me, and really that is what got me through it after five episodes of bashing me. It was horrible to watch. Maybe it's because I have done 120 episodes and people feel they know me pretty well. They actually do, after seeing me in so many situations; my daughter's wedding, my husband's surgery, many, many situations.
What inspired you to create PUMP?
PUMP is my latest labor of love and when I walked into the building, I was inspired by what the space needed and what I could give to this particular corner that it didn't have. Getting permission to change a really ugly parking lot with a chain link fence, the homeless (I am a big advocate for the homeless and have fed them every week for the last six years because I sympathize with their situations) and the drug problems were not easy. It was shocking to see the shape that space was in, considering it was in an affluent area.
The first thing I did was to put in a perimeter of olive trees to make it into a garden. I went to the city to add an outside bar and that was not an easy accomplishment when you've got building, safety and health departments to deal with. I had endless battles, but thankfully at the end of the day, they had confidence in me, that I would make it the sexiest corner in West Hollywood.
I also wanted antiques, the old antique fountain and hundred year old trees, so when you walk in, you feel like it is an established garden.
How did you determine what the cuisine would be when you designed the menu with your Executive Chef Penny Davidi?
I am very focused and I knew exactly what I wanted. I said, "This is what I want and I want your interpretation," and then she added to it with a few of her own recipes. She understood about the healthy and fresh, farm-to-table concept I was envisioning, and we created incredible food.
Tell us about LVP Sangria. I saw it on the menu at PUMP.
LVP Sangria takes up a huge amount of time; it's my daughter Pandora and son-in-law Jason's new business, and they have done very well with it. The launch has been a very exciting time for us; it's in Gelson's and various stores, and is going to be distributed all over the country.
In life, what are you most passionate about?
My immediate family.