Only in the darkness can you see the stars.
Which is why, in all its light, the Hollywood stars don’t dazzle me.
Literally, as well as those littered on our footsteps as we stroll down legendary lanes of a rather modern, kitsch ensemble in the City of Angels. Probably one of my least favorite neighborhoods in one of my favorite cities of Los Angeles is downtown Hollywood. Attracting tourists like the Pied Piper’s mice or a plague of sorts, I often seek solace in some of its groovy restaurants, bars and sumptuous hotels. More often than not, having bumped into the real stars, to discover they are merely people with sunglasses. Like me.
One such hotel is The Redbury, and along with my infatuation for all things red, probably merits a review of its property alone, akin to my adventure close to its Miami counterpart. It evokes a lazy mood that is in strict juxtaposition with a shoddy exterior of Hollywood Boulevard, brainchild of photographer Matthew Rolston and nightlife magnet Sam Nazarian. Apparently mimicking New York lofts which I didn’t quite explore, the lobby to enter its majestic restaurant is shielded by a velvet curtain in blood red, with an Egyptian Goddess figure beckoning you to enter on Alice in Wonderland tiled black and white floors.
Called Cleo, it was quite dark on the inside, the place speaks of modern Mediterranean palatial wonders, with artwork of scantily clad but gilded goddesses of bygone eras, high and open faced ceilings and an open bar and kitchen format, which is really where all the light trickled in from!
My charming Hollywood stung waiter was a hospitable and still keeps in touch to date, which made up for my lack of food photography and plethora of nightlife feeling snippets, as did the architectural splendor of this first time hotel designer.
I started with a fresh cocktail for the sweltering day: The Vinebury was a vodka cocktail with St Germain Elderflower liqueur, heaps of crushed basil, cucumber, serrano and fresh lemon. To say that this tasted like a basil salad in liquid format would not be an understatement! It gave a new synonym to fresh.
Chef Danny Elmaleh touched his Persian roots with a menu bursting with terminology that whisked me right back to Dubai’s meals. Surprisingly the cooking, despite being so Mediterranean, explored modern culinary trends quite aptly. In order to explore variety, I ordered three vegetarian dishes as I sipped up the delicious cocktail and inhaled the sultry ambiance.
Starting with the uber trending cauliflower, this one came with vadouvan curry spices, ring onions drenched in basil, and pickled cashews. Not my favorite choice for nuts, but one who’s denseness and prickly crunch married beautifully with the chunky cauliflower. The curry flavors whisked me straight back to a hearty Punjabi meal, too, reminding me of how food had the power to transform and transport.
I give it to the waiter and Chef Elmaleh for starting my love affair with brussels sprouts. These were well renowned in Los Angeles, home of picky Hollywoody eaters and models who swore on the likes of kale and picture perfect salads. Chopped and cooked in almost unrecognizable forms, these came with a tangy vinaigrette, capers and toasted sliced almonds. The secret to their curious crunch was that the leaves were deep fried first, giving the dish the need for parchment paper as a holder and transporting it away from its healthy origins. Nonetheless, that’s probably what made these the best brussels sprouts I had ever had… second to homemade, of course.
Last was a salad of dates, feta, seasonal greens and a curious aoili with a dominant cilantro taste. Probably a rather rabbit-like combination with my cocktail, but this was the least interesting of all three dishes, probably virtue of comparison. For in isolation, the Middle Eastern flavors would have been a winner.
The friendly staff brought over a dessert menu, coaxing me with a frothy cappuccino to give the sticky toffee pudding a stab. Probably a coincidence to both of our British heritages, and rather reminiscent of another world tour via Mediterranean restaurant that I had eaten at in New Jersey.
The dense, syrup drenched chocolate pudding arrived with a hint of stout, butterscotch walnut fouilletine and vanilla gelato (instead of ice cream: not because of my love for Italy but probably because it was Los Angeles). While not remarkably unique, it was tasty and well crafted, in a manageable portion and with a spongy cake that absorbed the vanilla and stout flavors well. The fouilletine was decadent, missing the cavity inducing sweetness of caramel and with an alluring crunch.
And thus ended a late night in Hollywood. A night of new meals, new favorites, new friends, and new stories.
For if you don’t formulate a story between the stars, you may as well call it daylight.