“City of Angels”: An Inside Look At LA’s Hotspots

By: Inna Shamis & Andrea Cannistraci

One of the world’s most renowned destination spots filled with glitz n’ glamour, entertainment, culture, architecture and technology, its no surprise that Los Angeles has earned a well-deserved global status.

A mecca to some of the world’s hippest hotels, hottest restaurants, trendiest shopping and coolest attractions, LA is the epitome of big, bold and beautiful. It also doesn’t hurt that it serves as “home” to many of world’s top movie studios and celebs.

journeyPod recently had a chance to visit Cali, and here’s just a little taste of our hottest picks:

Hotels:

Andaz (West Hollywood) – Have fun and relax at the brand-new Andaz West Hollywood. Top-to-bottom renovations transformed the famed 70s “Riot Hyatt” into a traveler’s retreat, ideal for the independent thinker who wants to personalize their travel experiences. Andaz, meaning “personal style” in Hindi, is committed to bringing guests the latest in style, and in service. It also boasts the highest hotel roof-top pool in LA….so get your swim on under the fabulous Hollywood Hills! Check out our luxury podcast with the Andaz and our Chef’s Corner with RH’s Chef Sebastien

Sofitel LA (Beverly Hills) – One of the area’s newest hotel destinations, Sofitel LA is an impressive cross between European elegance and Hollywood glamour –minutes away from some of the areas shopping mecca’s (Melrose and Robertson), the Hollywood nightlife and the luxurious Beverly Hills. Having undergone a multi-million dollar renovation in ‘06, the hotel now features an onsite spa (see LeSpa below), a delicious restaurant featuring a celebrity chef (see Simon LA below) and a great hot spot from nightlife impresario, Rande Gerber (see Stone Rose Lounge below). Sofitel LA also boasts deliciously decadent guestrooms that include: flat screens, rainfall/peek-a-boo showers and the signature SO Bed (from which you wont want to awake!). For all you pooch lovers, the hotel honors guests with pets – providing complimentary amenities like sleeping cushions, bowls and treats. Talk about traveling in style! For all you celeb fans, prepared to see your share here! Located at 8555 Beverly Boulevard.

The Standard (West Hollywood) – Minutes from Beverly Hills, Century City and the Hollywood Hills, The Standard is situated in the heart of the Sunset Strip (at 8300 Sunset Blvd.) and has become the leader in modern, boutique luxury in LA. Not surprising, since its one of Andre Balazs’ – the renowned hotelier and residential developer. Perfect for the hip and trendy crowd, The Standard is a chic and hi-tech spot that features shag carpets, a live DJ at the front desk, live performance art and a 24-hour restaurant. The hotel’s guestrooms and offerings are also as impressive as the artsy design and decor – from cordless phones and mini-bars stocked with interesting surprises (sake and licorice whips are just some of those) to an onsite barbershop and gift shop – which is anything, but typical. Ever thought of visiting one in search of getting a tattoo?!

Renaissance Hotel (Hollywood) – Situated at the intersection of the Hollywood and Highland entertainment complex (a multi-million dollar undertaking), the Renaissance Hotel is just steps away from the famed Walk of Fame, Hollywood Wax Museum, Kodak Theatre and Grauman’s Chinese Theater and a stylish hot spot, perfect for anyone looking to stay amidst the heart of Tinseltown. Infused with Hollywood personality, the hotel captures the legendary glamour of the city’s past throughout the lobby and guestrooms. The hotel also boasts impressive panoramic views (of the ocean, downtown LA and the Hollywood Hills) from its floor-to-ceiling windows in each guestroom. For a really special view, check out the hotel’s outdoor rooftop pool. Oh, and here’s a fun fact: The hotel serves as Oscar-night headquarters for many who attend the Academy Awards at the Kodak Theatre next door. The Renaissance Hotel is located at 1755 Highland Avenue.

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If you like your bars cool, your martinis dry, and your restaurants scrumptious, make sure you’ve got an appetite for what LA’s got to offer and get ready to hit up these hot spots…

Dining:

Gordon Ramsay at The London West Hollywood Awarded the prestigious star rating from the Michelin Guide to Los Angeles for 2009, Chef Ramsay’s first West Coast restaurant offers a distinctive fine dining experience. Try the confit rabbit agnolotti, seared hamachi, pan fried arctic char and the smoked trout and leek chawanmushi. The service is superb, the food fab, and the atmosphere is all LA! Be sure to ask the wine director to suggest pairings for each!

Upper WestA new dining destination serving modern American cuisine. The 28-foot ceilings and 27-foot bar evoke a chic urban feel. The wine list is impressive (who knew we’d love the Lava Rock Merlot/Syrah!) and the specialty drinks have won awards around the world. Try the Upper West or Lychee Martini. Check out the crispy ahi tuna tacos, pancetta wrapped prawns, and amazing short ribs. Be sure to leave room for Chef Nick’s amazing basil-coconut sorbet! (Located at 3321 Pico Blvd, Santa Monica).

Bottega Louie – Located downtown (on an entire city block!) is a super hip, upscale casual Italian restaurant and marketplace. Awash in glass, Bottega Louie offers classic Italian food in a great atmosphere. Try the pappardelle with foie gras. Really? Yes! Be sure to let Maitre D’ William know Andrea from journeyPod sent you!

Parc – Talk about an “it” place in the heart of Tinseltown! Parc is located on the famed Hollywood Boulevard and has played host to many of today’s top celebs including: Jessica Alba, Mathew McConaughey, Brittany Spears, Lindsey Lohan and the cast of Grey’s Anatomy. And, its no surprise – considering the man at the helm, the spectacular fare and the restaurant’s dynamic setting. With a sleek and sexy decor (take note of the magnificent crystal tree-chandelier), great atmosphere and loungy ambiance, Parc serves up culinary masterpieces of French/Asian fusion that don’t disappoint! Some of our favorites include: Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes with Jalapeno Ponzu Aioli, Grilled Filet Grilled Black Angus Tenderloin with Truffled Soy Bearnaise and Sweet Corn Risotto with Parmesan & Fresh Herbs. For those with a sweet tooth, make sure to save room for the Double Chocolate Mousse, Vanilla Lavender Panna Cotta with a blueberry relish and of course, Chef J’s Famous Cheesecake! All this, with an eclectic and impressive selection of wine, champagne and specialty cocktails, Parc is prime! (The restaurant is located at 6683 Hollywood Boulevard). Check out our Chef’s Corner with Chef J!

Kazu Sushi (Studio City) – The San Fernando valley’s best kept secret, Kazu Sushi is an unforgettable mouthwatering experience for those with an appetite for sushi. Not surprising since the decor is anything but. With minimalist design and a feng-shui Japanese statues placed here and there, Kazu’s focus is on food, and food alone – which was just fine by us! Everything off this menu is heavenly, but we especially loved the toro tartare. oysters and kobe sushi And naturally, go for the omakase – which translates to “chef’s choice”. Just as the name implies, the Kazu’s chef will create a number of small dishes presented one at a time every five or so minutes. Talk about a tease to the palette – but then again, no need to rush such pleasure! Kazu is located at 11440 Ventura Blvd.

Simon LA Restaurant (Beverly Hills) – Housed within the sleek and sexy Sofitel hotel, Simon LA is the latest undertaking by Iron Chef Kerry Simon – the Food Network’s culinary master. At this Hollywood hotspot, Kerry takes an innovative approach to American Cuisine and traditional comfort food with inventive menu selections like Beef Carpaccio Wood Roasted Pizza, Filet Mignon Cobb Salad and Maine Lobster Eggs Benedict. With a few different menus to choose from, the restaurant also offers a Sunday “Rock-n-Roll” brunch that blends the restaurant’s fare (Stuffed French Toast, Buttermilk Biscuits with Gravy and Burgers are some of the few) with lively rock music, both indoors and out. (The celebrated local DJ spins everything from old school Beatles beats to new hip hop sounds). For those with a sweet tooth, make sure to checkout the decadent dessert finale called “The Junk Food Platter”, “old school favorites, all grown up” like hot fudge sundae, rice krispies, caramel corn, a vanilla milk shake and the unforgettable (and huge) ball of cotton candy.

Citizen Smith Hollywood – This “urban bistro” takes it name from a 1900’s Russian Novel, referring to “Citizen Smith” – the average, everyday man. Hidden along the busy Cahuenga Blvd. in Hollywood, don’t even bother looking for a flashy neon sign, or really any indication of the place at all – the restaurant is located in a very non-descript building, from the outside that is. Once you embark inside, its anything but. Decorated in “goth-ly” style – with candles, chandeliers and mirrors, the place also offers an impressive outside patio. Trust us: walking by, one would never know that a unique treasure lays within. If in Hollywood, this is definitely a stop you should make – even if only to grab a drink and soak up the atmosphere – since its much more about the setting and the scene than it is anything else. Thought we’ve gotta say, the Frangipane Mocha Ice Cream Cake, served with blueberries and chocolate sauce was pure sweet indulgence! For the night owls out there, keep in mind: Citizen Smith is located at 1600 N. Cahuenga and stays open until 4 a.m., – except Sunday through Wednesday, when it closes early at 2 a.m.

One Sunset (West Hollywood) – A great fusion of restaurant and bar located on the famous Sunset Strip (at 8730), One (as its often referred to) is an ultra-sexy and trendy hot spot that features a chic dining room area full of sleek dark wood tables and sofa-like seating, along with a gorgeous illuminated 20-foot bar and an abundance of lounge space. With a series of distinct spaces throughout One (hence the name representing the one-room concept), the place also features an impressive menu with a plethora of shared plate options. Some of our favorites included the Surf and Turf “Tacos”, Hamachi Sashimi, Caramelized Osso Bucco Lettuce Cups, the “Sloppy Pig” and some interesting Martini and “Signature Potions” selections. Open till 2 a.m. and perfect for a night out on the town, just make sure to make reservations. Oh.. and if you’re lucky, you may even run into our favorite boy Ari from Entourage (played by Jeremy Piven for those of you who don’t know!).

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Tengu (Santa Monica) – Named for the Japanese god of mischief, Tengu is more than just a sushi restaurant! It’s a bar and nightclub too – all rolled in to one hot spot! Featuring culinary delights that are influenced by American comfort foods and Indonesian flavors – everything off the Tengu menu brings forth a scrumptious concoction for each and every palette. Located on the famed (1541) Ocean Avenue overlooking the Pacific, Tengu also adds a celeb and NYC-like vibe with its sexy crowd and sounds (a DJ spins Wednesday through Sunday). Particularly with its delectable menu, exotic cocktail concoctions and unforgettable desserts. Some of our favorites include: Crispy Spicy Tofu†with Shitake, Asian Tuna Tartar, Baby Yellowtail Carpaccio and the Jalapeno- Miso Chilean Sea Bass. Not to mention, the “Elegant” and “Sophisticated” sake flights and mochi ice cream selections (flown in directly from Hawaii).

Nightspots:

Opera (Hollywood) – One of the hottest nightclubs on the LA scene right now, this spot which opened in the Fall is definitely the new place to see and be scene – particularly if you want to rub elbows with some of Hollywood’s celebs like Paris Hilton, Britney Spears, Lauren Conrad and Emmy Rossum. Though weeknights are usually best at the LA nightspots, this one seems to draw an impressive vibe on Friday and Saturday nights. But here’s a tip: reserve a table and dress to impress! Opera is located at 1650 Schrader Avenue.

Crimson (Hollywood) – Like the color suggests, this club/lounge just oozes sexiness with faux python and soft chinchilla skins that adorn the walls. The dark red lighting make for a good spot to indulge in an intimate conversation with that certain someone. Dance the night away to classic rock music under mesmerizing blown glass lamps and enjoy a “Drunken Groupie” signature cocktail. Psst…. don’t even bother trying to find parking on your own, splurge for the Valet. (Located in the same building as Opera).

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The Polo Lounge (Beverly Hills) – Located inside the Beverly Hills Hotel (at 9641 Sunset Boulevard) this has been a staple for Hollywood royalty for well over 60 years! The Polo Lounge has also, not surprisingly, played host to countless Oscar parties and guests like Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe. These days, you’ll likely find folks like Jennifer Lopez, Reese Witherspoon, Jake Gyllenhaal, Nicole Ritchie and Joel Madden – all of whom cant resist the Old Hollywood decor and luxurious surroundings. If you can get a reservation (which is a must), check out the outdoor patio (perfect for a balmy LA night). If you’re hungry, let Chef Robert Allen make you one of his amazing fresh California dishes with French influence – to die for!!

Stone Rose Lounge (Beverly Hills) – After a busy day of shopping or a relaxing day at LeSpa, sip on a signature cocktail at this spot by Rande Gerber. For more on the Stone Rose Lounge, check out our Los Angeles Destination Guide.

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Les Deux (Hollywood) – What used to be one of L.A.’s hottest restaurant of the ’90s, has now been revived as one of hottest nightspots in LA. So much so, that don’t be surprised if you run in to Hayden Panettiere, Rumer Willis, Hilary and Haylie Duff or “Vince’s shadow” E (another one of our “Entourage” favs played by Kevin Connolly). Boasting a gorgeous outdoor area with a very sexy ambiance (we’re talking mirrors and Louis XVI candelabras), a DJ spinning sultry music and scrumptious European delights, this place is not to be missed! Les Deux is located at 1638 N Las Palmas Avenue.

Winston’s Bar (West Hollywood) – Named after one of the owner’s Chocolate Labs, Winston’s is a howling good time! Just try to ignore the wanna-be-tough bouncers at the door. Once in, you’ll quickly realize why this spot is a favorite of Hillary Swank and Nikki Hilton – its attracts all the celebs who are looking for a fun night out rather than the typical “place to be seen”. The decor travels back in time to Tinseltown in the 1920’s with white vintage crystal chandeliers hanging over black banquette tables. Oh, and don’t forget to ask the bartender for a “Post Rehab Cocktail” – he’ll know exactly what you need! Winston’s is located at 7746 Santa Monica Boulevard.

Spas

When its time for a pampering treat, the folks in LA know where to go for a real indulgence. Here’s a peek at just some of our fav’s:

Sonya Dakar Skin Clinic (Beverly Hills) – The maven of skincare, Sonya Dakar opened this grand spa more than 20 years ago and its still one of the best spa destinations in the LA area (located at 9975 Little Santa Monica Boulevard). A grand spot of more than 12,000 square-feet, the “complex” includes five floors, VIP Concierge Service (Gwyneth Paltrow, Debra Messing and Drew Barrymore are just some of the celeb fans), and a gourmet cafe. Known for developing and testing the products and treatments offered at the clinic for a “minimum of two years before they are offered”… we’ll leave it to you to imagine how good they really are!

LeSpa – From the moment you walk through the door of this Beverly Hills hotel spa (located at Sofitel LA), you’ll immediately sense luxury and relaxation. Perhaps it’s the serenity, the calming scents and the soothing music, or maybe it just has something to do with the warm foot soak and personal tea service that each client receives prior to the real treatment. LeSpa is a 5,000 square-foot spa, which consists of a gym, nail salon, steam room, Swiss showers and private luxury treatment suites. (You can tell you’re in LA when the treatment rooms have a spot for your bodyguard to wait!) Looking to reawaken after a night out on the town? Go for the “Balanced Beauty” – an 80-minute heavenly facial that starts with a neck and shoulder massage, using essential oils, balms and natural powders… perfect for that healthy radiant glow we all seek!

Shopping It Up

Anywhere you go in LA, you’ll find a great boutique or shopping hot spot. Some of our favorite areas include Melrose Avenue, Robertson Boulevard, Rodeo Drive, 3rd St. Promenade in Santa Monica and The Grove.

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