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Beverly Hills, California
The Beverly Hills Hotel
The Beverly Hills Hotel has finally re-opened after being closed for two and a half years for renovation. Thankfully, the new owners succeeded in keeping many of the former, popular touches: the pink and green color scheme, the Polo Lounge, the private bungalows in back of the main building and the banana palm wallpaper in the hallways.
The hotel has been brought up to modern electronic standards with a fax machine and dual phone lines in each room: one can be used for the fax or computer while the other is available for phone calls. Fragrant fresh flowers adorn the public rooms, hallways and guest rooms and an orchid sprig adorns each bathroom. Fresh fruit baskets are replenished daily and the in-room refrigerator is filled with drinks of all kinds. But don't look for any other snacks in the room or a hotel shop as they don't exist.
Small television/radios are in each bathroom and a video, CD and cassette player are all available in the main rooms. Video tapes are available to rent for $8 a night from the concierge (who, by the way, is available to help with your every whim). You might have to wait on the line a bit when you call, but they will get to you.
Room service is timely and quite pleasant. Beluga caviar costs $95 an ounce and is served with the requisite accompaniments. My only complaint about room service was overly dry granola pancakes at breakfast.
Other in-room amenities include pink and green umbrellas, fresh macaroon cookies on your bed at night and a built-in safe for valuables. Some rooms have fireplaces and each room is individually decorated. Unfortunately, the terrycloth robes with the Beverly Hills Hotel emblem were a bit shabby. Rooms reserved for children come complete with robes in small sizes. This is an extra that you'll usually find at only the finest hotels such as The Ritz in Paris where even the littlest of guests are pampered in true Ritz style.
The hotel's policy of not seating anyone at lunchtime who is wearing shorts seems a bit archaic. When we were there this summer, we were relegated to the outside patio, with no air conditioning, because our entire party wasn't wearing long pants. It's a bit much, when the temperature outside is in the 90s, to not have an area in the whole hotel where you can eat at a table in shorts. Once we placed our order, our four sandwich lunch took 50 minutes to arrive. Obviously, even after two months, the kitchen still has some kinks to iron out.
Beverly Hills Hotel
Dining in Beverly Hills
If you happen to be shopping Rodeo Drive and find yourself hungry, slip into the elegant Barneys New York store on Wilshire. Head to the fifth floor to Barney Greengrass for breakfast, lunch or supper. Showcases of deli foods, a bar for the tired shopper and tables indoor and out are all available. Because Barneys sells avant garde men's and women's clothing, the bar appears to be a very "in" spot.
A relatively new restaurant (opened May of 1995) at 369 North Bedford Drive near Wilshire Blvd. is Carson's. The white tablecloths, fresh flowers on the tables and artwork on the walls give the place somewhat of a formal feel, but the food is good and basic. The fresh, warm crusty white bread was the first winner -- we couldn't get our fill. Tuna Tartare is an unusual combination of chopped tuna, tomatoes, scallions and cayenne pepper served with natural vegetable chips. An avocado fan and purple onions completed the plate. Two Crab Cakes sat atop a sweet and sour brown sauce with a salad alongside. Six large Grilled Scallops were served with soba noodles, scallions, green beans, purple cabbage and red peppers. Grilled Halibut is prepared with a julienne of colorful vegetables such as carrots, zucchini and yellow squash.
A nine year old Beverly Hill tradition is Il Cielo, an Italian restaurant at 9018 Burton Way, (310) 276-9990. Patio dining at night is lovely as hundreds of small lights give the feel of a romantic garden within a cityscape. The food is light Italian with seafood, pasta, vegetables, risotto and antipasti taking center stage. Beef Carpaccio, Lobster Filled Ravioli and Ciopinno were other favorites. Il Cielo is open for lunch and dinner.
Nate 'n Al's is your answer for Jewish deli fare. The voluminous menu lists everything from Noodle Pudding to Cold Beet Borscht. For those on a sandwich bent, Nate 'n Al's offers over 70 from which to choose. Want something more substantial? Try any of their Hot or Cold Plate Specials. This culinary mecca can be found at 414 North Beverly Drive, (310) 274-0101.
If you can't seem to make it out of your hotel room (and we're not asking why), The Mandarin at 430 North Camden Drive, (213) 655-8666 delivers. They also prepare food for pick-up and take-out, (310) 859-0926. Whether you eat in or take out, classics like Spicy Szechwan Noodles with Chicken, Mu Shu Pork and Steamed Pork Buns are always delicious. On the evening we were there, Sweet and Sour Whole Filet of Sole and Beef and Asparagus with Brown Sauce were on the special menu.
More Dining Possibilities
In LA, they catch you coming and going. Thus, the venerable LAX opened upscale restaurants to tempt tarried travelers. Wolfgang Puck's Express, the Daily Grill and Rhino Chaser microbrewery all opened in 1995.
In and Around Los Angeles
For the true, down-home Los Angeles tour, you must visit the Farmer's Market at Third Street and Fairfax. An institution for over 50 years, the market began as a true farmers' market with fresh produce and meat sellers. Now, the market is home to a myriad food and trinket stalls. The Fairfax district is home to a mostly over-60 crowd, CBS studios are just right across the street and this all comes together for the perfect people-watching experience. Imagine a Swedish tour group running into an entertainment industry big wig. After that show, don't miss the fresh fruit juice stand where they'll mix you up a cup of coconut/mango or spinach/carrot/beet juice. Also outstanding, the donut shop between the ice cream stall and full-service butchers. The donuts are made fresh all day, every day -- the best in the world.
Another sight-seeing trip could take you downtown to Union Station, Olvera Street and Chinatown -- all within walking distance of one another, if you don't mind a stroll. Union Station is the original train depot for Los Angeles and recently received a face-lift. Walking under the tall, arched ceilings is like walking in an old Cary Grant/Katherine Hepburn movie. Olvera Street is the oldest surviving street of Spanish Los Angeles. Once the home of horses and mayhem, the cobbled street is now lined with kiosks for Spanish-influenced goods and foods. The site is a traditional field trip for local school children, so expect some noise and confusion on weekday afternoons. (Did I say "once the home of mayhem?")
For shoppers, Saks West has been added to the original Saks Fifth Avenue on Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills (since 1938). The expansion takes over the former I. Magnin store. An additional 60,000 square feet of shopping space has been added.
What's a trip to Los Angeles without a trip to the beach? If you head west on the Santa Monica/10 Freeway and just keep driving you'll end up at Santa Monica Beach. Once there you can take a walk on the pier and ride the carousel featured in The Sting. If that doesn't tickle your fancy, head south on Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) to Venice Beach, home of hippies, bodybuilders and very small swimsuits. In general, the beaches that line the Santa Monica Bay, from Malibu south to the Palos Verdes Peninsula, are sandy, safe and surfable.