We’re already deep into another Oscars season, and yet somehow La La Land still seems to fill the (currently less smoggy) Los Angeles air with a renewed sense of romance. And from the now fully revitalized Downtown all the way up to Beverly Hills, we still have a hard time hiding our (secret) adoration for the city of stars.
Of course, there’s no better time to cultivate those amorous feelings than Valentine’s Day. And so here are our five current fave places for having our heartstrings tugged in the City of Angels. Please do book ahead.
Fanboys and fangirls can surely get their celeb-watch fixes at Wolfgang Puck’s Downtown hotspot (located in the Ritz-Carlton). The plush cocktail lounge and restaurant offer red carpet glimpses of shows below, including the NBA All-Star game, the Grammys, AMAs, and the BET awards. If famous faces don’t do it for you, there are still spectacular wraparound views of the LA skyline and iconic Hollywood sign in the distance to admire. Soak up a sake flight and the cascading sunsets, along with modern renditions of trad Chinese fare; we recommend the crystal dumplings, featuring king crab, shrimp & kurobuta pork, or the roasted Cantonese duck, with citrus 10 spice sauce, and duck fried rice. Afterwards, take it upstairs to the JW Marriott L.A. Live, for a sexy late night swim in its spectacular pool – and a romp in those high-thread-count sheets.
Described as a cabinet of curiosities with food, there are five floors to this eclectic, whimsical restaurant/bar/lounge/ballroom/cafeteria (yep, it’s all of that, if you can believe it). The building is a landmark: it was envisioned and constructed by Clifford Clifton in the 1930s, but fell into disrepair a few decades later until 2010, when the injection of $10 million revived the entire interior and restored it to its former glory. One of the main points of interest is the towering faux redwood tree, aka The Monarch, whose grand limbs reach up and out across the restaurant. Along with taxidermied animals scattered about the 10,000 square foot space, there are numerous themed bars including South Pacific (think Gilligan’s Island meets Polynesian tiki bar), Gothic and – perfect for Valentine’s Day – The Brookdale, with its Art Deco / roaring ’20s ambiance. It’s like an Alice in Wonderland adventure of drinking rooms. And although it’s a bit of an assault on the senses (and borders on campy), it’s reeled in with sophisticated touches like elevated cafeteria fare (yes, that exists) and clever signature cocktails. Best to soak everything up with one of the signature drinks in hand – ask for the special with mezcal…currently an off-menu item.
Divine dining under the twinkling stars, Redbird is an architectural darling and was once the rectory building of Vibiana. Now Chef Neal Fraser and Amy Knoll Fraser’s flagship spot is where everyone congregates for an ethereal night out. Dubbed modern American cuisine, the dishes actually utilize French techniques and the sourcing of local ingredients – all of which pay homage to the diverse deliciousness of Fraser’s home city of Los Angeles. With small and large format dishes, the ideal game plan is to taste a bit of everything; but notable delights include buttery burrata with pear, duck prosciutto, hazelnuts and chocolate sourdough, and bone-in ribeye that will cause you to go all Fred Flintstone on your meal. There’s a special menu for Valentine’s Day.
There are no magic diets to be found here, just some good old fashioned butt-kicking and workout routines, courtesy of Aubre Winters. The W offers a free class you can do with your special love, that will eventually be part of the hotel’s Summer Workout Series, launching May 2018. Situated by the poolside area, Winters offers a bar-based cardio dance class that will work muscles you didn’t even know you had. Certainly, the grueling workout may cause parts of your body to quiver and shake, but perhaps the light at the end of the tunnel is the beautiful lunch you can tuck into at the poolside Hideout restaurant. The new eatery offers inspired Southern California fare, crafted by Chef Robert Liberato, in a lovely outdoor setting. Opt for the romantically shared plates of seasonal oysters and tuna tartare – then get a room, surely.
Molecular gastronomy is obviously hit-and-miss; it can often feel forced and gimmicky. But when executed with controlled creative restraint, the outcome can change the way you think about food. And exalted Chef Andres does it with much finesse at Bazaar, at the SLS Beverly Hills Hotel. Granted, the interior does smack up the senses a touch – it’s a bit of an eclectic funhouse with smoke and mirrors – but rest assured, the food is divine. Spanish flavors are preserved and presented in an avant-garde fashion here: Jamón Ibérico De Bellota Fermín arrives as glistening, wafer thin cuts of meat which transport you back to the tapas bar lined streets of Barcelona and Madrid; then there’s the plump and supple scallops with romesco sauce, that will make you sigh with pleasure (ah, love); always charming is the nugget of foie gras surrounded by a tangled pink mass of cotton candy. Make sure you save room for sweets with your sweetie, à la the Dessert Graffiti Experience. It’s a Jackson Pollock sort of affair, with edible chocolate splatters, pearls, and streams of caramel painted on a mirror by the chef – and it’s all topped with mousses, candy, bonbons, and cakes that stretch as far as the eye and stomach can see. Vive le romance!