More Articles | Home | Pincity.com - offers calling cards with great domestic and international rates. Sign up now and get 10% off instantly.
   

 Past 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 name: Andaz.

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 France

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 are. 

“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
Web:  http://www.westhollywood.andaz.hyatt.com/hyatt/hotels/index.jsp

Photographs by Harvey Frommer

#   #   #

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. More about these authors.

You can contact the Frommers at: 

Email: myrna.frommer@Dartmouth.EDU
Email: harvey.frommer@Dartmouth.EDU
Web: http://www.dartmouth.edu/~frommer/travel.htm.

This Article is Copyright © 1995 - 2012 by Harvey and Myrna Frommer.  All rights reserved worldwide.

| Top of Page | More Articles | Home |

 

Questions or Problems? Email: webmaster@travel-watch.com
Last Revised: Friday, May 15, 2015 06:38:58 AM
Copyright © 1995 - 2013 Travel-Watch. All rights reserved worldwide.
Travel-Watch - 1125 Bramford Court, Diamond Bar, CA 91765 - Phone: 909-860-6914 - Fax: 909-396-0014
Email: info@travel-watch.com - Web: http://www.travel-watch.com