Meets the Future in Andaz on Sunset Strip
This is a hotel with a past. You might not think so at
first because –except for an undistinguished post-war exterior -- it’s
all 21st century minimalism, sleek and silvery, glass-block walls,
monochrome shades of slate gray and blue, multiple mirrors, wooden
floors stained dark walnut, as wide and open as a Tribeca loft. There’s
no front desk, not even a lobby per se, just a large uncluttered sweep
of space with a bar at one side. Enter and you’ll be greeted with a big
smile, asked if you’d like to sit down, offered a glass of wine or cup
of coffee. Then you’ll be checked in via one of the many mini laptops
resting on small stands. (Should you be at the restaurant or pool, don’t
worry. Someone will find you, laptop in hand.) Afterwards, you’ll be
personally escorted to your room and handed the keys. As for the room,
it will be, in a word, svelte, and perhaps with a separate seating area
on the other side of a free-standing divider looking out to southern
L.A. from the heights of Sunset Boulevard. Très moderne.
But there is a past here going back to the “dawning of
the Age of Aquarius” when in 1963, it opened as Gene Autry’s Hotel
Continental and fast became a favored destination for rock ‘n roll
musicians. We’re talking the Beatles, the Stones, Little Richard, Jim
Morrison, Led Zeppelin, et al. Some stayed for the length of their
gigs; others liked it so much they took up residence in the hotel. When
it was bought by Hyatt in 1967, the name changed to Hyatt House, but
given the outrageous antics of some long-term guests, it soon became
known as Riot House, and after Keith Richards dropped a television set
out of the window, Riot Hyatt.
So there is a vivid history, and it lingers in small
ways, enough to lend the environs an extra buzz. In a nod to Riot Hyatt,
the restaurant is called RH; there’s also a photo gallery of those
tumultuous times. And the hotel remains a member of the Hyatt family
albeit totally transformed when it re-opened in January 2009 after a
year-long shutdown. Now it had a new interior, a new concept, and a new
It also had a new general manager. We knew Michel
Morauw from the Park Hyatt in Washington D.C., a graceful, elegant hotel
we’ve visited many times starting in the late 1990’s. We remembered when
Michel first came to Washington from Paris and how he infused the
property with a continental aura. But now we wondered: how could such a
predisposition work in a setting so unlike the Park Hyatt?
Michel Morauw, Andaz G.M.
|“I like to be on the edge of what
is new, and Andaz is on the edge,” Michel, who is fair-haired
and possessed of a warm and pleasing manner, told us when we met
him for drinks in a wine bar (where bottles are arranged like
books on a library shelf) which stretches across the front of
the hotel from the entry to the dining room. “I may have a
traditional education when it comes to the hospitality industry.
But I like to think of myself as an innovative thinker who can
use a traditional background in what is becoming the hospitality
industry of tomorrow.
“And tomorrow has come here at the Andaz in
the breaking down of barriers between the guests and staff. No
one wears a uniform. We all regard ourselves as hosts who
welcome guests as if they were visiting our home.”
This is the second Andaz, Michel tells us; the first
is in London. Two more have opened in New York City, one across from the
New York Public Library, the other on Wall Street. Andaz is a Hindi word
meaning personal style, and the idea behind the brand is that each
property should embody the personal style of its place.
Clearly, the glamour and high-style of Andaz on Sunset
Strip is a reflection of its L.A./Hollywood locale. At the same time,
RH’s kitchen is a reflection of Michel’s Gallic sensibility which in all
likelihood influenced his choice of Executive Chef.
Sometimes when people hear Chef Sebastian Archambault
has southwestern roots, they think he comes from southwest California or
Mexico and expect his cooking will reflect such origins. But the
reference is to the southwestern part of France, home of Bordeaux wine
and its own excellent culinary traditions. “I am so pleased we decided
to do southwest cuisine here,” Sebastian, who is young and ruggedly
handsome and who learned to cook watching his grandmother in her
Perigord kitchen, told us. “It is such a rich part of France for food.
There are many farms, and people eat what is available: mushrooms and
chestnuts from the forest, ham and duck from the farm. In the winter, a
lot of root vegetables.”
At the same time, Sebastian is delighting in the
products of southern California. “There is so much choice here,” he
said. “I go to the Farmer’s Market in Santa Monica and am amazed at the
variety and quality. There are such excellent eggs, poultry, such
wonderful produce. And of course, there are the great wines.
“I am free to buy my own products, make my own menus,”
he added. “My signature dish is poached eggs. Two kinds: one with
mushrooms, onion and mixed ragout with a little sauce on top, and one
with shallots and bacon in red wine.”
We tried both versions; they were wonderful. Also the
best, crispiest duck confit ever, and mussels to which Sebastian adds
saffron, and a fish stew in a tangy broth with baby heirloom potatoes.
Our short stay precluded trying more of Sebastian’s offerings but
instilled in us the desire to return. Apparently we are not alone. The
combination of a hearty, rustic cuisine with California’s bounties has
made RH as much a destination dining spot for Angelinos as it is a hotel
restaurant for guests.
The Andaz scene is loud and lively, perhaps in this
respect a throwback to its former life. And RH is huge, a high-ceilinged
space with a splendid open kitchen, seating for 114 in deep round booths
or small tables, and a staff of beautiful girls, Hollywood starlets, we
thought, every last one.
Chef Sebastian Archambault is from southwest
Hollywood starlets, every last one of them
“The behavior of customers around the world is
changing,” Michel told us. “We find Andaz offers a niche in the tourism
market to people who want the high-end experience, the quality, but also
in an uncomplicated manner. Tonight the group we are welcoming is a
think tank of scientists, physicists. By definition, they are people who
can think out of the box. They can afford any high end luxury hotel;
many could even afford to buy the hotel. But they choose to come here.
They want to be in a place that is sophisticated, where the service is
personable, an uncomplicated environment where they are assured of
quality, quality of service, of what is on your plate, of what is in
your room. They don’t need the pretenses because they know who they
“The Andaz attracts such a clientele,” Michel said,
looking around at a packed dining room of a fashionably dressed crowd,
people of many “Andazes.”
“They can be of all ages, from all industries. It’s
not a demographic, it’s a psychographic,” he said.
Andaz West Hollywood
8401 Sunset Boulevard
West Hollywood, California 90069 USA
Phone: +1 323 656 1234
Fax: +1 323 650 7024
Photographs by Harvey Frommer
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About the Authors: Myrna Katz Frommer and Harvey Frommer are a wife and husband
team who successfully bridge the worlds of popular culture and traditional
scholarship. Co-authors of the critically acclaimed interactive oral histories
It Happened in the Catskills, It Happened in Brooklyn, Growing Up Jewish in
America, It Happened on Broadway, It Happened in Manhattan, It Happened in
Miami. They teach what they practice as professors at Dartmouth College.
They are also travel writers who specialize in luxury properties and fine dining
as well as cultural history and Jewish history and heritage in the United
States, Europe, and the Caribbean.
about these authors.
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This Article is Copyright © 1995 - 2012 by Harvey and Myrna Frommer. All rights