Los Angeles's most elite meals were once served in restaurants surrounded by paparazzi. Now they're hidden behind closed doors.
In Hollywood's ever-escalating
luxury hotel arms race, guests no longer have to settle for standard room
service, unceremoniously prepared by hotel staff from a boilerplate menu. The
new culinary calling card is in-room dining prepared by A-list celebrity chefs.
When the new AKA Beverly
Hills opened on 6 March three blocks from Rodeo Drive, it will be the first
property in the world to feature dishes delivered by Spago, the
famous flagship restaurant of Oscars caterer and TV personality chef Wolfgang
Puck. "When patrons are ordering from Mr Puck's menus, they expect
the food and presentation to be nothing short of outstanding," said Larry
Korman, AKA's president.
That's why Spago,
which is on the same block as AKA, will omit a few dishes that don't travel
well — the Fanny Bay oysters, for example, aren't deemed rigorous enough for
the short trip across the alley — but otherwise, the menu comes straight
from the see-and-be-seen dining room that has been frequented by
entertainment luminaries for decades.
Gordon Ramsay was one
of the first celebrity chefs to jump on the LA trend, having overseen room
service at the London
West Hollywood since its opening in 2008. Guests don't receive the same
dishes served in Ramsay's downstairs dining room (so no bone marrow toast or
grilled Spanish octopus). Instead, they skew toward the comfort food options traditionally
favoured by room service diners, such as miso-marinated Pacific black cod and pizza
topped with fresh mozzarella, but they're prepared in the same kitchen and
with the same ideals as in Ramsay's haute location, including the use of
seasonal and regional ingredients.
"The desires of
someone staying in and ordering room service may vary from a person who is
looking for the complete dining experience," said hotel vice president
Jennifer Rutkowski. "But consistency is the same."
SBE Entertainment Group, soon to expand
its hotel empire into Las Vegas, makes the practice standard. At its SLS Beverly Hills, spectacular
creations by chef José Andres – such as lobster gnocchi and chicken and
béchamel fritters – are delivered pillow-side from his downstairs bistro Tres. At its The
Redbury in Hollywood, guests can choose between Mediterranean selections
from Danny Elmaleh's Cleo, which located
in the hotel, or have creations by master sushi chef Katsuya Uechi delivered from
Katsuya, located a short distance
away, across Hollywood Boulevard.
At the celebrity
hideout Chateau Marmont, the room
service star is Carolynn Spence, who popularised the US gastropub trend at New
York City's much-heralded Spotted Pig restaurant.
And guests at the Pali-Hotel
on Melrose Avenue can order up chicken cracklins and melted raclette from Kris
Tominaga and Brian Dunsmoor's The
Hart and the Hunter, rated by Los Angeles magazine as one of the best
restaurants of 2012.
However, it's true
that gourmet quality can suffer from convenience. A 2012 kitchen renovation
enabled the exclusive Hotel
Bel-Air, in business since 1946, to prepare room service dishes using the
same kitchen as its own Wolfgang Puck
restaurant. To enable discreet delivery on the Bel-Air's 12-acre spread,
elaborate plating is simplified for transit, and the food (including pan-roasted
jidori chicken and hand-cut steak tartare) forgoes the flourish of tableside
preparations, so soup arrives in an insulated pitcher and sauces are applied in
the kitchen. Also, since entire meals arrive at once, the
ice cream served with the apple pie will likely be melted by the time the
starter and main are enjoyed.
But at the Bel-Air,
at least, some frills are retained; if requested, dinner in bed can be served
with a $2,985 bottle of 1996 Clos du Mesnil Champagne.