GO for dinner, stay for the party -- or go straight to the party. The new breed of club-restaurants is more democratic than many Hollywood nightclubs: At most, a dinner reservation or just walking in for drinks gets you into the club or lounge. At others (indicated below), you can avoid negotiating the velvet rope by contacting the promoter with an advance "RSVP." Here's a listing of the hottest restaurant-lounges that have opened in the last year and how to make the most of what they have to offer:
Aqua Restaurant and Lounge
Scene: The underwater-themed restaurant-bar-club draws a Beverly Hills crowd that lets loose on the dance floor. The "Blackout" burlesque show is Thursday nights; the cover charge is $15 with a reservation.
Cuisine: The usual suspects: seared ahi tuna salad, crab cakes, sauteed veal medallions with white wine and capers.
424 Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills, (310) 275-8511.
Scene: Housed in a former Holiday Inn, this edge-of-downtown poolside restaurant-lounge's pale blue glow, floor-to-ceiling windows and sunken granite communal table beckon, along with a DJ every Friday and Saturday night.
Cuisine: Chef Kris Morningstar offers herb-crusted black cod with Israeli couscous, smoked tofu with lentil salad, a duck trio that includes the breast, confit leg and tempura duck liver.
750 Garland Ave., Los Angeles, (213) 239-0061.
Scene: The owners of Koi opened Bridge this year and already plan to renovate the lounge. In the meantime, DJ Julian Daniel plays his mix of '80s, rock 'n' roll and hip-hop on Friday and Saturday nights. There's a doorman and velvet rope, but usually they'll just let you in.
Cuisine: A full menu is offered in the lounge until 11 p.m.: octopus salad, beef carpaccio, gnocchi. After 11 p.m., it's the pizza menu.
755 N. La Cienega Blvd., West Hollywood, (310) 659-3535.
Scene: Dinner reservations ensure good seats for the Sunday night burlesque show. DJs throughout the week, a rowdy bar scene and "Brothel Jazz" on Sunday nights (which resumes Jan. 7), and Smith Lounge on Tuesdays; no cover.
Cuisine: Mary Ann Salcedo has succeeded Taylor Boudreaux as chef, but the menu so far is much the same: Citizen burger, onion rings, fried green tomatoes, jalapeno mac.
1600 N. Cahuenga Blvd., Hollywood, (323) 461-5001.
J Restaurant & Lounge
Scene: A 25,000-square-foot restaurant-lounge-club on two floors, with three bars, VIP rooms, a smoking lounge, a dance floor and a patio with fire pit and cabanas. A DJ every weekend.
Cuisine: On the menu of the downstairs dining room are bouillabaisse and crispy ratatouille-stuffed zucchini flowers. A late-night menu is available until 1:30 a.m.
1119 S. Olive St., Los Angeles, (213) 746-7746.
Minx Restaurant and Lounge
Scene: The Jetsons meet Palm Springs in a former Rusty Pelican overlooking the 134 Freeway. The restaurant-club draws locals, who don't have to drive all the way to Hollywood to hit the dance floor.
Cuisine: A little bit of everything: fusion robata such as shrimp with coconut and lemongrass; black truffle steak tartare; rack of lamb; roasted Muscovy duck breast.
300 Harvey Drive, Glendale, (818) 242-9191.
Scene: The expansive restaurant-lounge includes a bar upstairs and downstairs. Saturday night M Lounge goes into full swing by midnight with DJs such as Mark the Spot. To RSVP, e-mail email@example.com.
Cuisine: A steakhouse with a Southern twist (think shrimp and grits and mini pulled pork sandwiches).
650 N. La Cienega Blvd., West Hollywood, (310) 360-7070.
Scene: A DJ spins in the downstairs lounge Wednesdays through Saturdays. Level 2 is the members-only upstairs space, open to the public only on certain promoter-hosted nights such as Wednesday Night Social. To RSVP, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cuisine: A Moroccan-themed menu includes butterfish tagine, pomegranate-glazed rack of lamb and roasted chicken bastilla with Moroccan-spiced chicken jus.
6525 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood, (323) 462-5222.
Scene: A restaurant-lounge that's surprisingly trendy for low-key Los Feliz. Two dining rooms, a bar-lounge and a guest list-only Friday night party. To RSVP, e-mail email@example.com.
Cuisine: Dishes from all over Asia, including Mangalore calamari, Madras curry mussels, sesame-crusted tuna tataki, Sichuan grilled rib-eye.
1745 N. Vermont Ave., Los Angeles, (323) 661-5900.
-- Betty Hallock