By FRANCES SHARPE | Editor-in-Chief
Dining at the landmark Culver Hotel is like taking a step back in time to a more glamorous era. Dubbed the “Culver Skyscraper” when it opened its doors in 1924, the hotel became a hotspot for the most legendary silver screen stars of the 1920s and ’30s. Clark Gable, Greta Garbo and even Palisadian Ronald Reagan graced its halls.
Decades later, the hotel fell off the celebrity radar.
Enter hotelier Maya Mallick, who purchased it in 2007. Mallick has restored and renovated the property with an eye for blending classic and modern.
The hotel’s dining options have undergone a similar transformation. The new menu was unveiled on Sept. 6, 2014 when the hotel hosted a Prohibition Ball to celebrate its 90th anniversary, and the party hasn’t stopped.
Live music starts at 7:30 p.m. daily. On the Thursday when my dining companion and I landed in the Grand Lobby with a window table, it was Paul Di Blassi who provided a true jazz experience to set the mood.
Our server steered us to some of the most popular items on the revamped menu.
From the Shared Plates menu, we sampled the Trio Tempura Veggies. The lightly battered green beans, Portobello mushrooms and onion rings provided a satisfying crunch that worked harmoniously with a tart Meyer lemon aioli dipping sauce. Hint: the aioli is so tasty, be sure to ask for an extra serving. The generous portion of veggies was large enough for a party of four to share.
On the chilly winter night when we dined at the Culver Hotel, we were in the mood for some comfort food. The Crawfish & Lobster Dip, another option from the Shared Plates menu, didn’t disappoint. Lumps of succulent lobster tail and crawfish meat stood out in the melted mozzarella cheese, roasted garlic and parsley. A slight crisp to the housemade pita bread that accompanied it made it easier to scoop up the cheesy dip without making a mess.
When it comes to the extensive list of cocktails, expect the unexpected, such as muddled fennel seeds in the rum-based Old Sport or a hibiscus flower served atop the Vodka-Prosecco mix known as the Culver Seventy Five.
We opted for a house favorite, the Yellow Brick Lemonade. It combined Pisco, lemonade and passionfruit purée in a mason jar for a sweet companion to the savory starters.
The Southside Limeade, with its unique blend of Ketel One Citroen, fresh lime juice, fresh mint and cucumber in a Martini glass packed a punch while providing a refreshing respite from the hearty shared plates.
Although the Crab Cake Salad with its mango sweet chili Thai sauce and the Farro & Kale Salad with its lime-mint vinaigrette looked tempting, we skipped the salad course and forged straight ahead to our entrées.
The Seabass achieved the ideal balance of crispiness on the outside and moist fleshiness inside. The fish arrived with bok choy and charred kale served atop a uniquely spicy broth that hinted of ginger and chili pepper. Inquire about the broth’s ingredients and the most you will discover is that it’s a “chef’s secret.”
We both enjoyed the daring and pungent broth, but we did learn that some diners find it too strong. If you aren’t an adventurous eater, you can always ask for it without the broth.
The Short Ribs, another menu favorite, rounded out our meal. Served on a cast iron skillet, the tender short ribs benefitted from a rib jus glaze and a dollop of horseradish cream. On the side, thick potato slices nestled against charred Brussels sprouts, which seem to be de rigueur in LA restaurants these days.
For dessert, we couldn’t decide whether to order the Tres Leches Cake, Chocolate Bliss, Bailey’s Mousse or Affogato, so we ordered all four – thanks to the Dessert Mini Bites sampler of four sweets.
The variety of dining options at the Culver Hotel extend beyond the vast menu. Meals can be enjoyed in the Grand Lobby with its eclectic décor, the more private and intimate Crystal Room or on the outdoor patio.
The Velvet Lounge, with its swanky speakeasy vibe, is the perfect spot to begin your evening or to relax with an after-dinner cocktail.
In addition to serving lunch and dinner, the hotel is open for brunch daily, which is served until 3 p.m. on weekends.
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