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Make a night of it!

At L.A.'s newest restaurant-clubs, the party doesn't end after dinner. Burlesque, anyone?

December 27, 2006|Betty Hallock | Times Staff Writer

THE lights are low, it's three deep at the bar and DJ Sami Rayman is spinning Kanye West's "Touch the Sky" for a good-lifer crowd that's tucking into filet mignon au poivre and roasted prawns on a Sunday night at Citizen Smith in Hollywood. By the time the desserts come out, so has the cheesecake -- a wavy-haired brunet in pink panties and black corset shaking her hips in a burlesque performance accompanied by the Miles Mosley jazz band.

DJs, burlesque shows, live bands, dancing, drinking games, after-parties. In the last few months, L.A. has seen an explosion of restaurant-slash-clubs. Just in time for New Year's Eve, restaurants are offering almost any kind of night-life experience you want, competing with not just other restaurants and bars but new ultra-lounges such as Hyde Lounge and Les Deux Cafe and clubs such as Area or Shag.

With rare and notable exceptions, the latest spate of openings are restaurant-lounges, with multiple dining areas, bars and some combination of low-slung sofas, dance floors, cigar rooms, game rooms, VIP rooms and coed bathrooms. Instead of seating 40 or 50, some can easily seat four or five times as many. Newly opened J Restaurant & Lounge downtown has expansive patios with cabanas and a fire pit, several VIP areas and a 300-person-capacity dance floor with a set of JBL subwoofers that can shake the entire place.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday January 03, 2007 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 0 inches; 29 words Type of Material: Correction
Restaurant owner: In a Dec. 27 Food section article about restaurant-lounges, the name of the co-owner of Social Hollywood was given as Michelle Richardson. Her name is Melissa Richardson.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday January 10, 2007 Home Edition Food Part F Page 3 Features Desk 0 inches; 28 words Type of Material: Correction
Restaurant owner: In a Dec. 27 article about restaurant-lounges, the name of the co-owner of Social Hollywood was incorrectly given as Michelle Richardson. Her name is Melissa Richardson.

Swanky Blue Velvet, also downtown, opened this month, with a poolside view, a weekend DJ and a 17-foot granite communal table built low to the floor with pillow seating.

Eleven, a restaurant from "H.R. Pufnstuf" and "Land of the Lost" creator Sid Krofft and gym owner Richard Grossi, is expected to open next month in West Hollywood, complete with tables that can be hydraulically lowered with the push of a button to transform the 6,000-square-foot space into a lounge.

"With anything you open in this town," Krofft says, "it's all about show business." He waxes poetic about stage performances that will occur every 15 minutes and the prospect of a violinist who wanders through the restaurant and coed bathrooms.

Attention to menus

AND the food? If "scene over cuisine" is the widely held perception of restaurant-lounges, at least some of the latest are taking food seriously and not focused solely on burgers and tuna tartare.

"We're serious about the restaurant," Grossi says. He and Krofft have hired as executive chef Vincent Manna, formerly of Spago, Melisse and Maple Drive.

From the kitchen at Blue Velvet, whose executive chef Kris Morningstar is an alumnus of Patina and Meson G, comes hamachi with marinated eggplant, hon shimeji mushrooms, garlic chips and blood orange; duck confit salad with roasted pumpkin and a sunny-side-up egg; and loin of venison with turnip gnocchi, glazed apples and bacon onion puree.

At J Restaurant & Lounge, executive chef and general manager Ryan McKay, formerly of L'Orangerie, has slow-roasted Alaskan halibut with artichoke confit and Champagne emulsion, and braised lamb shank with saffron couscous and crispy artichokes on the menu.

"It's really reflective of a lifestyle shift," says restaurant consultant Elizabeth Blau, who is helping to open the Penthouse, a restaurant-lounge set to debut in February in the Huntley Hotel in Santa Monica. "There are many people of all ages that are not looking to go to a club but they're not looking to just go out to dinner, so a restaurant and lounge gives you the option of creating a whole night out. It expands the whole dining experience. It's not just let's get in there, eat, then go to a movie."

For restaurant owners, there are obvious benefits to getting people to stay after dinner and spend $15 apiece for mojitos or $20 apiece for Champagne cocktails.

For diners, it means not having to drive across town to go from a restaurant to another bar or club. "I'm not a club-hopper. What's appealing is that you can have it all in one venue without having to get in the car and think about, 'Where should we go next?' And then have to valet again, and stand in line," says Karen Lowe, a global account executive for Nissan and Infiniti, who adds that she likes to take out-of-towners and clients to Social Hollywood, Citizen Smith or Republic to "get a taste of the L.A. scene."

The term "lounge" ("lounge-y" also has entered the vernacular) is used loosely; for some restaurateurs, the definition seems to be moving closer to nightclub, but others spin it as something more intimate.

"I'm all about the lounge," says Table 8 executive chef Govind Armstrong. "It's a fun environment to be in, not as stuffy. You can yell and scream and have a good ol' time without any frowns from the table next to you."

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