Travel: 5 Los Angeles Hotel Restaurants that Excel in Wine

Hotels in California's City of Angels up their game with extensive wine lists
Travel: 5 Los Angeles Hotel Restaurants that Excel in Wine
Beverly Hills: It's where you want to be. (Susanne Kremer)
Apr 22, 2019

This tip originally appeared in the March 31, 2019, issue of Wine Spectator, "Bordeaux's Classic Cabernets."

As many cutting-edge restaurants shrink their wine lists, where should wine lovers look for terrific food in a wine-savvy environment? In Los Angeles, the answer just might lie in today's breed of hotel restaurants. Even though they never thought they would set foot in a hotel restaurant, several of my knowledgeable Angeleno friends agree that the current crop excites them.

Deeper-pocketed hotels can offer more extensive wine lists than the smaller freestanding restaurants food critics often champion. The options in this report all have cellars peppered with enough compelling bottles to earn Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence recognition. And, as I discovered on a recent sweep through L.A. restaurants, their kitchens deliver gastronomic pizzazz that could go nose-to-nose with buzzier places.

The choices include Southern California outposts of NoMad and Jean-Georges, both of which established their credentials in New York. Adding to the picture are La Boucherie, a modernized steak house atop the tallest structure west of the Mississippi; Avec Nous, a casual slice of Saint-Tropez in Beverly Hills; and the Montage, a hotel where diners can access the wine cellar across a range of restaurants.

Even without spending big on wine, a diner can find satisfying wine moments in these restaurants either by splurging on a single collectible bottle or by finding appealing options in half-bottles or by the glass.

Examples? At lunch at Avec Nous, off the lobby of the Viceroy L'Ermitage in Beverly Hills, M. Chapoutier Crozes-Hermitage Petite Ruche 2015 by the glass ($18) made skillfully cooked salmon fillet ($26) sing, its glaze of Pineau des Charentes and sauté of Swiss chard and leeks resonating with the wine's aromatics. At La Boucherie, our happy table finished off a beautifully aged bottle of Craggy Range Pinot Noir Martinborough Te Muna Road Vineyard 2011 ($75) with a plate that added garnishes of sweet berries, honey paste and fig to perfectly matured ewe's milk cheeses ($16).

In addition to cooking good food, the restaurants featured here all share an appreciation for the role wine plays in making a meal better. To make that happen does not require expensive wine, but the sips must qualify on quality, and even some age—especially when the food is so wine-friendly.

Note: The profiles below are organized by neighborhood; the first two are located downtown, the other three in Beverly Hills.


NoMad Los Angeles

649 S. Olive St.
Telephone (213) 358-0000
Website www.thenomadhotel.com/los-angeles
Open Breakfast and dinner, daily; lunch, Monday to Friday
Cost Moderate
Best of Award of Excellence

Joe Schmelzer
The NoMad's dining room

The New York–based restaurant group led by Eleven Madison Park's Daniel Humm and Will Guidara opened the dining program at Sydell Group's NoMad Los Angeles hotel last spring with a wine list that has grown from 800 to 2,100 selections, including 50 by the glass. Wine director Ryan Bailey insisted on a snappy selection of grower Champagnes, many in half-bottle format. The pearly, complex character of Pierre Gimonnet & Fils Extra Brut Blanc de Blancs ($55/375ml), an A-list non-vintage grower Champagne, made a dazzling match with bucatini bathed in a savory, light sauce of cherry tomatoes and fresh ricotta ($23).

The L.A. outpost occupies a repurposed 19th-century structure downtown, turning Bank of America founder A.P. Giannini's Los Angeles bank headquarters into a fancy hotel. NoMad exemplifies a range of trends in one package. Through an entrance around the corner from the hotel's lobby, a youngish crowd relishes a casual menu amid Victorian sofas and a welter of different table styles. When a mezzanine space that had served a chef's menu and super-upscale dishes was reassigned to private parties, the menu in the relaxed living room setting incorporated the foie gras–stuffed roast chicken ($98) and a spectacular live sea urchin service ($48) from the mezzanine's old menu. It now trades in items like fava bean hummus with flatbread ($11), as well as a savory boneless version of fried chicken ($15), both dishes informally presented but impeccably cooked.

The wine list centers on Burgundy and Champagne, from which that Gimmonet won the prize with the appetizer-size portions. A glass of sweet Domaine du Petit Métris Coteaux du Layon 1994 ($16) made a welcome match with a fig mostarda that added extra depth to a soft jasmine-infused goat's milk cheese. The three cheeses on the plate ($19) were made specially for the restaurant by Sonoma County's Andante Dairy, a favorite with top-tier Northern California restaurants the French Laundry, Chez Panisse and Quince.


La Boucherie

InterContinental Los Angeles Downtown, 900 Wilshire Blvd., 71st Fl.
Telephone (213) 688-7777
Website www.laboucheriedtla.com
Open Dinner, Tuesday to Saturday
Cost Expensive
Best of Award of Excellence

Joe Schmelzer
La Boucherie offers stunning views of the city.

La Boucherie excels at more than a panoramic view from the 71st floor of the building occupied by the InterContinental hotel; it may fly under the radar of L.A.'s food-obsessed, but it is part of the same boom of hot downtown restaurants that includes NoMad. Chef Igor Krichmar, a veteran of Thomas Keller restaurants in both L.A. and Las Vegas, took over the restaurant's day-to-day operations in September, when he was promoted to executive chef of the hotel. He oversees a French- and Spanish-inflected menu that may center on steaks but also deals in housemade charcuterie, caviar and foie gras. The French onion soup is infused with foie gras ($21). It's all laid out in a protest-sign-sized menu, backlit to be easily readable even under the dining room's subdued lighting.

The wine list, on a normal-size iPad, uses a format that is easier to manage than versions in other restaurants. A user can save possibilities for easy reference when it comes time to order. The 1,200 selections, wrangled by wine director Szymon Piechaczek, focus on Burgundy, Bordeaux, Champagne and California. That Craggy Range Pinot Noir from New Zealand enhanced one of the best grass-fed steaks I've tasted ($70).

In a fun comparison, my party shared two excellent 12-ounce New York strip steaks—one pasture—fed from Cape Grim in Tasmania ($70), the other American grain-fed beef ($65) dry-aged 42 days. The deep flavor of the Australian meat made the difference, its distinct mineral note matching up well with the wine. Trays of fancy accoutrements added to the experience, including an array of sea salts of various origins and colors and a selection of fine steak knives. I went with Hawaiian black sea salt and a Laguiole implement.

The kitchen also wowed us with a tender, authentically Spanish-tasting octopus à la plancha, served with crisp patatas bravas and gigante beans ($26), and two soups. In one, big chunks of juicy lobster floated in a velvety sweet-corn puree marked by a touch of Pernod ($28).


Jean-Georges Beverly Hills

Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills, 9850 Wilshire Blvd.
Telephone (310) 860-6566
Website www.waldorfastoriabeverlyhills.com
Open Breakfast, lunch and dinner, daily
Cost Expensive
Best of Award of Excellence

Joe Schmelzer
Jean-Georges' chef Steve Benjamin (left) and wine director Jordan Nova

The empire of New York chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, which had already extended to Las Vegas and Miami, stretched to California in 2017. The high-ceilinged space next to the main entrance of the lavish new Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills sports a wall of mirrors framed with shutters. Across the room, glass doors open to an enclosed patio.

Chef Steve Benjamin was on the team that opened the original Atelier de Joël Robuchon in Paris, and he ran Robuchon's Atelier in Las Vegas for 12 years. A six-course tasting menu ($145) looked like the best way to sample what the kitchen can do, as all the dishes were also on the regular menu.

A wealth of wines, assembled by wine director Jordan Nova (at the Grand Award–winning Spago before this opened), makes this a fine playground for aficionados. The France-centric list, which also reaches into California, Italy and Spain, yielded Vincent & Sophie Morey Chassagne-Montrachet Vieilles Vignes 2014 ($87/375ml) to drink with the tasting menu. The stellar white Burgundy brought out the best in honeynut squash ravioli, a simple pasta dressed with brown butter, Parmesan and sage. It also played well with seared black cod, bathed in lightly spiced herb broth. If other early courses fell short on flavor intensity, these represented how modern French cuisine can shepherd the intense character of pure, fresh ingredients into simple dishes, deceptive for the care that goes into getting them right.

The highlight of the tasting menu was a perfect pair of lamb chops, tinged with a rub of exotic spices and served with cucumber yogurt. The spices played off the measured gaminess of the lamb, served rare. It was interesting to compare how two wines by the glass worked with the lamb. In big pours, the rustic, earthy notes of R. López de Heredia Viña Tondonia Rioja Viña Cubillo Crianza 2009 ($21) from Spain teamed up with the gaminess of the meat to showcase the wine's latent cherry flavor, while the rose and berry flavors of Produttori del Barbaresco Nebbiolo Langhe 2014 ($27) from Italy showed off the dish's spiciness.


Avec Nous

Viceroy L'Ermitage Beverly Hills, 9291 Burton Way
Telephone (310) 860-8660
Website www.avecnous.com
Open Breakfast, lunch and dinner, daily
Cost Moderate
Best of Award of Excellence

Joe Schmelzer
Salmon belly crudo and Albariño at Avec Nous

Only a valet and a parking attendant out front distinguish the Viceroy L'Ermitage Beverly Hills hotel from a row of anonymous midcentury apartment buildings along Burton Way, on the other side of Beverly Hills from the lavish modern Waldorf.

Inside, at Avec Nous, a glassed-in wine cellar takes a prominent position along one wall. At lunch, the relaxed environment, all pastel blue and white and shiny tile, felt just right for two ideal midday wines from assistant manager Nathan Linker's wine list of 490, strong on Mediterranean options. A white, Torres Albariño Rias Baixas Pazo das Bruxas 2017 ($15), and a red, M. Chapoutier Crozes-Hermitage Petite Ruche 2015 ($18), commingled generously with a pair of refreshing starters.

Chef de cuisine Nicholas Loncar's salmon belly crudo appetizer, deftly dressed with passion fruit, avocado, hemp seed, radish blossom and amaranth ($16), favored the Albariño; heirloom tomatoes interspersed with burrata and tiny scoops of pesto gelato ($16) cozied up to the Syrah. These dishes, and the subtly prepared Pineau des Charentes–glazed salmon fillet ($26), are also on the dinner menu.

A cheerful extra was the "Candy Cart Tasting" ($5). The wine- and booze-filled sweets from Sugarfina, a popular upscale candy chain that originated in Beverly Hills, made for a unique (and sort of local) version of mignardises.


The Restaurant at Montage Beverly Hills

225 N. Cañon Drive
Telephone (855) 691-1162
Website www.montagehotels.com/beverlyhills
Open Dinner, daily
Cost Moderate
Best of Award of Excellence

Joe Schmelzer
The patio at the Restaurant at Montage Beverly Hills

The Montage hotel in the heart of Beverly Hills occupies a wine-savvy neighborhood on Cañon Drive. Nearby are two Wine Spectator Grand Award wine lists—Spago across the street and Wally's Beverly Hills a couple of blocks north.

The hotel's 680-bottle cellar, overseen by beverage manager Oscar Chinchilla, is strongest in Burgundy, Bordeaux, Italy and California. Each venue within the hotel has its own separate wine options, but the big list is available in the main restaurant, a separate bar and a casual café, all off the lobby of the corporate-looking luxury hotel. Sommelier wine picks at the Bar feature Moët & Chandon Brut Champagne Dom Pérignon 2004 and Piper-Heidsieck Brut Champagne Rare 2002 by the glass ($60 each). The all-day Café also lists Champagnes by the glass, but the fine-dining Restaurant is the place to plunder the cellar in style.

The adjacent Beverly Cañon Gardens, a block-long urban park, makes a fine setting for the Restaurant's colonnaded outdoor terrace. On a pleasant early-autumn evening, the soft air encouraged relaxation. A Bruno Paillard Champagne NV ($68/375ml) was great with agnolotti filled with corn puree ($23). The recipe, and the sure-handed technique with pasta, owe their quality to the kitchen's previous incarnation as a serious Italian restaurant. Kampachi ceviche, dressed with slices of stone fruits, tomatoes and basil oil ($20), also liked the bubbles.

An elegant Canalicchio di Sopra Brunello di Montalcino 2008 ($88/375ml) struck a perfect balance between savory and fruit flavors and embraced the meaty richness of a finely seared hanger steak ($32). Tiny bowls of chimichurri and red wine jus accentuated the best aspects of the steak.

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