Go Small in Los Angeles

1. Where to Stay

Check out the scene on Muscle Beach from your private balcony at Hotel Erwin.Photo: Courtesy of Hotel Erwin Venice Beach

Ogle Muscle Beach bodybuilders (and, on clear nights, the Hollywood sign) from the rooftop lounge at Hotel Erwin (from $169). All 119 rooms — renovated last October from a previous life as a Best Western — have private balconies.

Find entertainment nearby at the Ritz Carlton LA Live (from $369), opening across the street from a fourteen-screen movie theater, Lucky Strike bowling lanes, and a dozen bars and restaurants in early April. The glass tower’s rooms offer panoramic views of the city.

Climb the red-carpet-lined spiral staircase in the lobby of the new W Hollywood (from $219) — just completed in January 2010 — then go for a swim in the LEED-compliant building’s heated rooftop pool.

2. Where to Eat

Sample raw sea urchin, lobster, and shrimp at Culina's six-seat crudo bar.Photo: Don Riddle

Book a weekend reservation at Saam, the 40-seat space that opened last April in Spanish chef José Andrés’s multi-restaurant complex, The Bazaar. Saam’s twenty-course tasting menu ($95) provides a sampling of high-tech kitchen techniques: a mock Philly cheesesteak emits a puff of cheese-flavored air, foie gras is coated in crushed corn nuts, then spun in cotton candy, and cold caipirinhas arrive steaming with liquid nitrogen.

Watch chefs meticulously plate raw seafood bites from Culina’s six-seat crudo bar at The Four Seasons Beverly Hills. Afterward, work your way through the restaurant’s full menu of brick-oven pizzas, house-made fresh pastas, and modern Italian small plates (three for $12), also available at the bar.

Call ahead to reserve one of the sixteen seats around the communal table at the JW Marriott’s L.A. Market, just opened in February. The burrata bar offers creamy cheeses from local dairy farms along with fresh salads and sides sourced from the nearby Santa Monica Farmers Market. Go around 7:30 or 8 to avoid late post-game crowds from the nearby Staples Center.

Listen to swingy live jazz at the Tar Pit, a small-plates supper club styled after a thirties Hollywood nightspot. The menu features old-school classics with a twist — pickled deviled eggs, clams casino — each offered with a specialty-cocktail pairing.

3. What to Do

The hidden Wine Library is stocked with hundreds of bottles of Italian wine.Photo: Gray Malin

Roll back a heavy bookcase to reveal the entryway to the Wine Library, a 450-square-foot tasting room tucked inside Italian restaurant Terroni. Though tiny, the space features a formidable list of nearly 1,000 varieties of Italian wine, more than 50 of which are available by the glass.

Pull up a stool beneath colorful circus paintings at Roger Room (370 North La Cienega Boulevard; 310-854-1300), an intimate, 900-square-foot speakeasy. Most of the narrow space is taken up by the bar, where suspender-clad bartenders create cocktails using cult spirits like Luksusowa vodka and Mata Hari absinthe. Arrive between 7 and 8 p.m. on Saturdays (6 to 7 on Fridays) for the best chance of seizing a seat.

Sample a curated selection of Southern California wines at Thomas Keller’s Bar Bouchon, a fifteen-seat hideaway that affords the occasional celebrity spotting. The craft-beer list includes new brews like White Apron, a Pilsner-style beer made exclusively for the bar.

Choose from around ten Asian beers at Salaryman, the Japanese-inspired, twenty-stool bar inside the Los Feliz Umami Burger that opened last fall. Stop by during happy hour for $4 tap beers and $5 burgers (weekdays 3 to 7 p.m.).

4. Insider’s Tip

Order an off-the-menu white peach Bellini at Cecconi's West Hollywood.Photo: Courtesy of Cecconi’s

Bone up on off-the-menu orders beyond In-N-Out. At the Los Feliz Umami Burger, Smashburgers are available by request. The house-ground meat is slapped on the grill unformed, then charred until the edges are crisp. Follow it up at Hatfield’s, a high-end restaurant where the signature dessert is available only to those who know to ask for it: the chocolate peanut butter truffle cake. (It’s baked to order and topped with salted caramel ice cream and roasted peanut toffee.) For a sweet off-the-menu nightcap, ask for the white peach Bellini at Cecconi’s West Hollywood.

5. Oddball Day

Gorge on more than 70 dim sum options at 888 in the San Gabriel Valley.Photo: Florian Boyd's Flickr

Take an Asia-inspired day trip through the San Gabriel Valley, otherwise known as “Little Taipei,” twenty minutes east of downtown L.A. Start the day with dim sum at 888 (8450 East Valley Boulevard, Suite 121, Rosemead 91770; 626-573-1888), which trumps other local spots in authenticity (chicken feet, tripe) and variety, offering up to 80 dishes on weekends. Then take a ten-minute drive to Barnes Park (350 South McPherrin Avenue), where you can meander the green pathways, picnic on the lawn, and watch local residents and community groups practicing kung fu and tai chi. Turn down West Garvey Avenue to browse the packed aisles of Wing Hop Fung Ginseng & Chinese Products, an emporium that carries fragrant loose teas, jarred and bottled Chinese remedies, and an exhaustive selection of Chinese ceramics and teapots. End the evening with a trip to the Noodle House (958 East Garvey Avenue, Monterey Park 91755; 626-280-0831), known for its handmade noodles and a dozen types of inventive Chinese dumplings, including varieties stuffed with scallop or pumpkin.

6. Links

Keep up to date on new stores, eateries, art exhibits, and shows from lamag.com, the city magazine’s website.

Read about upcoming concerts, new restaurants, and other local news at lasnark.com.

For obsessive local food coverage, check out L.A.’s food-blogging collective.

Troll the weekly music and events calendar at laweekly.com.

Go Small in Los Angeles