For the last few years, people looking for a late-night dance club in Beverly Hills had nowhere to go. When concierges at the area's posh hotels were asked for clubbing tips, the best answer most could muster was " West Hollywood." But now, both locals and tourists have a lounge that just might live up to our standard vision of what a sparkling -- some might say gaudy -- Beverly Hills club should look like on a Friday night.
Last week, the Beverly Hilton unveiled an ambitious lounge (bar210) and adjacent "ultra lounge" (Plush) in the former Trader Vic's space to a packed crowd of aspiring actors, junior publicists and a few ubiquitous "producers" on the prowl.
It felt more like Las Vegas than Beverly Hills (down to the gold-painted bikini-clad model used as a "table" for appetizers), and not by accident, but rather by design.
"I can't tell you how many times I've gone to a nightclub in L.A. and I had no idea who my cocktail waitress was," said Dan D'Agostino, whose Diabolical Nightlife Associates ( DNA) team was brought in from Vegas to manage the club for the Hilton. "The hallmark of a Vegas club experience is the service element," added the 36-year-old, who previously managed Jet for MGM's Mirage. "That's what we are bringing to Beverly Hills."
Indeed, the entire 7,000-sqaure-foot destination seems geared toward bottle service, with former Miss America contestants (from New Hampshire and Alaska, if you must know) pouring Champagne for guests. Of course, none of this is new in Los Angeles. What is new is that this option -- for the proverbial "big night out" Vegas-style -- is back in Beverly Hills for the first time since 2006, when Joya hung up its velvet rope.
"We're very excited to have a new night-life option in Beverly Hills to send our guests to," said Sarah Dandashy, a concierge at the Peninsula hotel. "There's really nothing else nearby, and because the club is in Beverly Hills, you know there will be quality control."
It remains to be seen just how tightly DNA and the Beverly Hilton will control the 350-capacity multi-room space, which is a favorite of Harvey Weinstein (he held a Golden Globes party in the same space earlier this year). Guests of the venerable hotel will not automatically be allowed into Plush, but they are "encouraged to contact VIP services for bottle service at the lounge," representatives say.
But if anyone knows how to make the conjoined nightspots "pop," in club land parlance, it's DNA.
Already, D'Agostino and partner Rodney Franks are off to a good start: DNA has tapped Kelis to perform her David Guetta-produced single "Acapella" at Plush on Saturday night. When the R&B singer makes her entrance, she'll see design details that would make Prince grin: a gold-leaf bar, tufted recessed lounge chairs and aubergine accents aplenty. The larger adjacent lounge Plush (which will initially be open only Friday and Saturday evenings) screams "Look at me," with sensual sconces, ball-chain curtains, low-slung couches backlighted by changing LED mood lights and hybrid suede/snakeskin ottomans.
But the best reason to check out these two new lounges may have nothing to do with music or design: Instead of chasing classic cocktail trends, like so many other new bars, bar210 is putting its chips on a young chef's creations.
"If this concept is going to be able to succeed anywhere, it's going to be here," said former "Top Chef" contestant Marcel Vigneron, who is on staff as executive chef for both lounges. "Just because it's in a lounge atmosphere doesn't necessarily mean the food can't be refined."
To that end, Vigneron, formerly of SLS' still-hot Bazaar restaurant, promises "delectable dishes meant to be shared" for bar210. Appetizers such as salty pee-wee potatoes with chlorophyll mayonnaise and Vigneron's take on tuna tartare (served in a cone with avocado, banana and coconut milk powder) are on the menu, as are a few wild cocktails (see the liquid nitrogen Absolut Brainfreeze, with tomato water and Absolut Peppar).
Will molecular gastronomy and a top-tier sound system lure guests to the corner of Wilshire and Santa Monica, as Trader Vic's once did with its tiki stylings?
Stylist Kelly Miller, 23, was impressed last Friday. "I love the vibe here," she gushed from a table near the small dance floor.
But West Hollywood resident Douglas Preston wasn't quite as enthusiastic. "Right now, it's a scene," said the president of a skin care company. "There's an audience for this, but eventually everybody else finds out about it, the money crowd moves on and you're left with just a bar."
Plush and bar210 Where: Beverly Hilton, 9876 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills
When: bar210 is open 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Mondays to Saturdays; Plush is open 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
Price: No cover
Contact: (310) 887-6060; www.barTwoOneOh.com