This is the cheesiest New Year’s Eve photo ever. We hope your evening looks nothing like this. And it won’t – if you attend one of these top New Year’s Eve parties in L.A. Whether you like it flashy, glamorous, foodie, or weird, we’ve got you covered. Go out with a bang, bubbly, and a good story you can share over your eggs Benedict and hash browns on the first day of ’13.
When Starwood launched the W Hotel group in 1998 in New York City, it tipped off a trend in business travel that fundamentally changed the industry. No longer would we be content with soulless beige rooms, bland breakfast buffets, and generic hotel art. If we’re going to spend weeks of our lives on the road, we want to stay somewhere that feels like home — or preferably, better than home. Now that W is the corporate behemoth, smaller groups and individual properties have emerged to take up the mantle of the best boutique hotels for business travelers. Here are a few exceptional examples around the world.
The Upper House opened just two years ago, and it quickly became the hottest ticket in Hong Kong, which is quite an accomplishment for such a crowded local hotel market. The design throughout the building (and in Chef Gray Kunz’ restaurant, Café Gray Deluxe) seamlessly integrates minimalist Asian architecture with modern touches like iPad check-in and iPod Touch in-room information, making this bright aerie perched on the top floors of the JW Marriott building a calming retreat from the city. The large studio-style rooms start at 730 square feet and go up to the 1,960 square feet penthouse, making the Upper House particularly comfortable for long-term stays.
Travelers doing business in New York may have to stay in midtown, but they no longer have to elbow past tourists crowding Times Square. Since the opening of the Chatwal, the Stanford White-designed building has been packed with guests, celebrities, and locals there to enjoy Geoffrey Zakarian’s Lambs Club restaurant and the Lambs Club bar, recalling the elegance of the 1930s-era theatre crowd who once made the bar famous. With just 83 rooms and two suites (the Barrymore and the Stanford White) the atmosphere is intimate and plush, and conveniently located to the heart of the city.
Even in cities not traditionally known for their cutting-edge style, the boutique hotel trend is making inroads. Las Alcobas in Mexico City is designed by Yabu Pushelberg, the New York-based design duo responsible for numerous boutiques, residences, and hotels like the W Times Square and the St. Regis in San Francisco, the intimate 35-room property is located in Polanco, one of the city’s major business districts, and offers business-friendly amenities like their “Second Home Service,” which provides repeat guests with a personal wardrobe to store their own belongings, and includes cleaning, pressing, laundering, garment repair, and restocking of favorite toiletries.
While the Chateau Marmont is arguably the original boutique hotel on the left coast, the SLS Beverly Hills is making a bid for dominance in the modern era, with its riot of Philippe Starck design touches, Jose Andres restaurant (The Bazaar, warmly welcomed to Los Angeles in its own right) and prime location near the Beverly Center, all kinds of recreation, and numerous corporate headquarters. The 24-hour business center is fully equipped with 24-hour support, office supplies and machinery, plus loaner Macbooks free of charge.
Seventy beautifully appointed rooms in the heart of the City are a surprisingly warm escape for those on business in London. Housed in a converted Victorian banking hall built in 1856, the beautiful period features of the Threadneedles Hotel are complemented by modern amenities like Frette sheets, iPod docking stations, and personalized business cards for use during your stay. Meeting rooms and private dining rooms are also available to guests — and what better way to follow up a full day’s work than a toast in the Champagne Lounge, under the building’s glass-domed ceiling.
● Ryan Gosling at the Blue Valentine premiere: I have a restaurant in Beverly Hills called Tagine. I’m biased, but I think it’s very good! ● Bobby Flay at Food Network’s opening of Barney’s holiday windows: We love The Breslin. I eat at Keith McNally’s places a lot. In L.A., Bazaar, Jose Andres’s place, where I order the classic tapas. ● Morimoto at Food Network’s opening of Barney’s holiday windows: I’m going to open a new restaurant in Tribeca that will close at 4 a.m. – no Japanese, no sashimi, no sushi. I don’t know when I’ll open it.
● Rob Schneider at the Friars Club Roast for Quentin Tarantino: Candle 79. It’s a vegetarian restaurant, but you would never know it. Everything’s awesome. ● Cheech Marin at the Friars Club Roast for Quentin Tarantino: Milos is a great Greek restaurant for the baked fish in salt. They have a restaurant in Montreal, too. ● Kristin Chenoweth at the Friars Club Roast for Quentin Tarantino: Joe Allen’s. ● Eli Roth at the Friars Club Roast for Quentin Tarantino: Pizzeria Mozza in L.A.. ● Howard Stern & Beth Ostrosky at the Friars Club Roast for Quentin Tarantino: Daniel, for the black sea bass with the potato. ● Kathy Griffin at the Friars Club Roast for Quentin Tarantino: Mon Ami Gabi in Vegas.
If STK in West Hollywood broke traditional steakhouse barriers by losing its overly masculine vibe, then Nadia Underwood, the peppy gal behind STK’s see-and-be-seen bar, is doing the same for the brooding mixologist stereotype. Underwood is like your favorite neighborhood bartender, only with a serious education in mixing alcohol. The easygoing Chicago native (and die-hard Bears fan) is all smiles behind the bar, as long as thirsty customers keep their cool. These things take time, after all. Check out her favorite places to grab a cocktail in L.A.
See more Midnight Mixologists toplists here.
● Becki Newton at the NBC Upfront Fall Preview: I love a lot of the Greek restaurants in New York, like Kefi on the Upper West Side. The lemon chicken there is really good and tastes like the one my Greek mother-in-law makes. ● J.J. Abrams: Street and Company, in Portland, Maine, has these amazing, skillet-cooked shallots and garlic-and-butter and white-wine scallops [with] linguini. It’s unbeatable. ● Summer Glau: Mozza in L.A. I like everything there, all their pastas.
● Olivia Munn: Crustacean in Beverly Hills, the Vietnamese-fusion restaurant. I like the garlic noodles and lobster. ● Blair Underwood: Cafe Habana, the food and the music were incredible. I had some chicken-and-pineapple thing that was working! ● Jesse Metcalfe: I had a great dinner last night at Stanton Social, on the Lower East Side. The food was amazing, just incredible tapas and I stuffed myself, great ambiance. I like to see live music. In L.A., I would do the Troubadour, a lot of history, also The Roxy. ● Paul Reiser: I’m less selective. In New York City, there’s really no place to eat but Tribeca Grill is one of my favorites. ● Tina Fey: My favorite restaurant in New York is Giuliano’s, at 50th and Ninth. ● Cheryl Hines: I love Tao, the miso sea bass is a favorite. ● Jenny Slate: Buttermilk Channel on Court Street in Brooklyn. The seared skirt skate comes with a marrow bone, it’s delicious. Favorite bar is the Black Rabbit in Greenpoint. ● Nasim Pedrad: Josie’s on the Upper West Side, great tofu salad. ● Greg Grunberg: Taverna Tony’s in Malibu, a Greek restaurant, just love it, the grilled, baby octopus is my favorite. We’re about to go to The Bazaar in Beverly Hills. ● Mary Elizabeth Ellis: Blair’s in my neighborhood in Silver Lake. I love the cannelloni stuffed with ratatouille.
Nobu West Hollywood’s man in charge, Justin Wyborn, speaks proudly of the “sense of family” within the Nobu empire. The Aussie-born GM is undoubtedly a poster boy for the company’s family-friendly sentiment. Wyborn has worked at Nobu London, Miami, and the flagship New York City Nobu 57 location. He also opened Nobu Melbourne, Hawaii, and San Diego in addition to his current West Hollywood post.
How did you get involved with Nobu? In 1996, I took a year off university to complete a one-year cadetship at the Savoy Hotel in London. Halfway through the cadetship, I heard about Nobu opening at the new Metropolitan Hotel in London, and a year earlier I had read an article about Nobu New York and loved the concept, so I convinced my university to break my cadetship, which enabled me to work at the new London outpost.
You recently opened the West Hollywood branch. What goes into opening a new location? L.A. has definitely been my favorite and most challenging opening so far. There are so many different people and cultures in the city, and they all come with their own set of idiosyncrasies. I was lucky enough to spend just over two months here before we opened, and I took that time to visit other restaurants and get a feel for what Angelinos were after. But it’s been a year and a half since we opened here, and I’m still trying to find L.A.’s formula.
What’s the most challenging part of your job? We came into L.A. 20 years after Matsuhisa opened his first restaurant, so we’ve been constantly pushing ourselves to think outside of our norm. It’s no longer only about great food and great service, it’s also about entertaining and creating a full night out. Working in L.A., and having to deal with the current economic environment, my job has also included creating events that push the restaurant outside of its normal boundaries of food and service. I now have extracurricular events at the restaurant for just about every night of the week. For instance, every Wednesday I work with Ashlee Margolis and her A-list to create a weekly “tastemakers” dinner.
What’s the most important thing you think people should know about the Nobu brand as it continues to expand? Our mantra is still the same as when Nobu first opened in Tribeca. All of the owners — including Nobu himself and Richie Notar and Meir Teper — are still extremely hands-on with all of the restaurants. They’ve encouraged a strong sense of family within the company and with each restaurant. This sense of family and our passion for our product allows our brand to remain one of the strongest in the world.
Of all the cities you’ve worked in, which do you think has the best culinary/nightlife scene? London is my favorite for nightlife. It’s a city with great traditions that really thinks outside the box, and it has some really unique clubs and bars that allow you to forget about the gray, cold weather outside. L.A. has great restaurants, and something to offer for everyone, but you just have to find it. Being an Australian, I’m proud to say that Melbourne has some great affordable restaurants. I still think that the best Italian is found in Melbourne — simple and fresh. That’s all you need. New York is all of the above in one city, and I always look forward to going back. Especially for the late-night bars and restaurants.
Any positive trends you’ve noticed in the industry recently? We’re starting to see some unique places open in L.A. that are taking a chance. Street, for instance, has a great concept — street food from around the world. It’s a fantastic idea.
Any negative trends? There are too many people in L.A that are quick to chop down anyone who tries something different or takes a chance. It seems that many people are unable to take a risk and push themselves or their establishments unless they see others making a successful move first. This level of unoriginality and the “Tall Poppy Syndrome” tend to create a negative feel within our industry here.
Who do you admire in the industry? Besides Nobu himself and Richie Notar — Luis De Casas, the director of Nobu openings, has been a great influence in the development of my career. He’s helped me look beyond the basics of a restaurant.
What are your favorite places for dining out in LA and NY? In L.A., The Bazaar, Jose Andres’ place, is great; the city needed it. I went to Fraiche in Culver City last week, which has great, simple, and clean dishes. They do their simple menu very well. In New York, I like Atelier, Joël Robuchon’s place at the Four Seasons. I’ve sat at the kitchen counter many times to eat, and it’s amazing. My favorite late-night place is a small yakitori restaurant called Totto for simple, grilled Japanese.
You work around Japanese cuisine all day, so what’s your idea of comfort food? I rarely cook, but I love the lazy-day-off breakfast and lunch places. My favorite is Square One in East Hollywood. It’s such a random location, but my girlfriend and I tend to find ourselves there for a late meals all the time.