A lot of people visit Los Angeles hotels to escape, unwind, spa, sit by the pool and drink. I like all of that, but I prefer visiting Los Angeles hotels to eat carbs.
At the new Vinoteca wine/espresso bar at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills, the main event is montanara, which is fried pizza dough. Italian chef Denis Dello Stritto, who grew up near Naples, is using his pillowy montanara to make lobster rolls with tomato, red onion, celery and extra virgin olive oil. There’s also montanara with eggplant, montanara with 36-month Parmagiano Reggiano and, my favorite, montanara with burrata and prosciutto. The latter is creamy and salty and decadent, fat and meat balanced over fried dough. It’s bar food for ballers, except that it’s only $9 at this gently priced low-key hangout, where the lobster roll will cost you just $12.
And with 3-ounce pours available, you’ll want to try many kinds of wines, made from Italian grapes grown in both Italy and California. Wine director Luca Bruno, who previously worked at The French Laundry, Bouchon and Providence, makes it easy to sample hard-to-find limited-production wines in tasting flights that include whites like Ribolla Gialla and Fiano. If you look at the menu and wonder why the Italian versions of certain wines are less expensive than the California varietals, it’s because Vinoteca is sourcing small-batch wines that you can only order here.
The wines also pair well with oysters and seafood tartare and carpaccios at the multi-faceted Vinoteca, which serves pastries and coffee for breakfast and turns into a chill European-style drinking den in the afternoon. And Vinoteca is located in the front of the hotel’s Culina restaurant, so it works well as a pre- or post-dinner spot. There’s montanara (with sweet sheep ricotta and red fruit compote) available for dessert.
Fig’s bread balloon should be enjoyed with hummus, labneh, an outstanding eggplant salad and, best of all, warm curried lentils.
At Fig in Santa Monica’s Fairmont Miramar Hotel (where you’ll also find scenester cocktail bar The Bungalow), Lebanese chef Yousef Ghalaini is lighting up the night with his newly installed woodburning oven and grill. Ghalaini (who took over after Ray Garcia left the restaurant to open B.S. Taqueria and Broken Spanish) has created a new, Mediterranean-inspired menu headlined by a charred bread balloon. This is an inflated wonder of pita bread that comes with za’atar, sea salt and extra virgin olive oil. You’ll want to start every meal at Fig with this bread balloon, which should be enjoyed with assorted spreads like hummus, labneh, an outstanding eggplant salad and, best of all, warm curried lentils.
From there, you’ll likely want wood-roasted broccoli with garlic aioli and Vella dry jack for a nice hit of freshness, acid and creaminess. Ghalaini wood-smokes Manila clams. He uses his grill for halloumi and whole fish. This is a California bistro, so there’s all kinds of local produce and multicultural whimsy (an organic mushroom pizza is quite popular, there’s tahini and a ginger mignonette with the whole fish). This is a Santa Monica hotel, so you can sit with a view of the pool and hot tub. Maybe you’ll even see a couple guests go for a soak while Ghalaini is turning up the heat inside and you’re happily filling up on bread.