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Happy hour at Riviera 31 for blue cheese puffs and $12 martinis

There are a lot of ways to forget the day's woes after work, but few compare to brushing it all off with a stiff cocktail and a light bite to eat on the cheap at happy hour. New on the happy hour scene is Riviera 31, the recently opened bar and lounge at the Sofitel Hotel in Los Angeles. 

On a Tuesday around 6 p.m., the bar attracts a mixed crowd of hotel guests, business men in suits and a group of young women meeting for a drink after work. A few sit at the bar while others mingle on the plush leather chairs in the dimly lit room. One sways in her chair to the music, provided by a piano player in the center of the room.

It's officially happy hour and the bartender and a couple well-manicured cocktail waitresses dole out the lounge's new "Apértif" menu. The specials run from 6 to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday.  

It's a selection of small bites by the hotel restaurant, Estérel (chef Marius Blin), cocktails by Matthew Biancaniello, and wine. Food highlights include roasted figs ($6) with fresh goat cheese and vincotta, Parmesan crisps ($3) which come in little silver carts, and blue cheese gougeres ($6) with cheese spilling out of the tiny nuggets with each bite. Guests are also treated to "bar snacks" of mixed nuts, popcorn and marinated olives. 

The wines are priced at $8 and you can try the bar's signature Riviera Sunset Martini made with huamani pisco, St. Germain, rosemary syrup, fresh lime and grapefruit juice ($12) or go for their version of a Caipirinha, made with Absolut Elyx (a vodka made using copper catalyzation) and muddled lime ($12). 

The vibe inside is upscale and relaxed with black-and-white striped pillows, Edward Quinn photos of Elizabeth Taylor and a glass chandelier in the center of the room (Kayat Designs was tapped to design the space). On the patio, each table sits under canopies with soft music playing and the sound of a water fountain nearby. It's easy to transport yourself to the French Riviera, until you hear the sound of a horn honking on Beverly Boulevard just outside. 

8555 Beverly Boulevard, Los Angeles (310) 228-2173 http://www.esterelrestaurant.com/Riviera-31

In The Happy Hour, we'll take a look at new and notable happy hours around town. If you've got a favorite, let us know and we'll check it out. 

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