When the best table’s a cabana


POOLSIDE dining used to mean froufrou drinks at resorts or burgers in your backyard. But lately several restaurants around town have been drawing locals to pool-adjacent restaurants and lounges for semi-serious dining a few feet from, perhaps, serious lap swimming.

Blue Velvet, the 6-month-old, California contemporary restaurant near downtown, recently introduced a pool menu offered from 4 to 10 p.m. weekdays and 2 to 10 p.m. weekends. No reservations are necessary; the poolside option is treated as an extension of the indoor lounge, albeit with more limited hours (so as not to disturb building residents) and its own menu. The short, drinks-friendly list includes spiced lamb skewers, crab beignets and mini Monte Cristo sandwiches, all designed for easy eating while sitting around the fire pit or milling by the turquoise waters.

The Backyard at Westwood’s W Hotel, freshly made over by “Queer Eye’s” resident design expert Thom Filicia, opens for the season May 1. Accessed via a short flight of stairs to the right when you enter the lobby, the outdoor restaurant now features an expansive lounge area and sleek cafe tables. To complement the updated look, there’s a new menu combining everyman fare such as Caesar salads and burgers with specialties such as hamachi sashimi with green apple-celery root vinaigrette. There’s also a trio of cocktails topped with mini popsicles.


Several year-round poolside dining spots have come online in recent months, including Circa 55, the Cal-Med dining room that opened last fall in the Beverly Hilton. Here, some dozen tables shaded by umbrellas and palm trees spill out onto the patio just a few feet from what is touted as the largest swimming pool in Beverly Hills. These are the tables where everyone wants to sit, including the agents and attorneys breakfasting on omelets and brioche French toast. And at Blue on Blue in the Avalon, chef Gabriel Gabreski offers chef’s table menus in the poolside cabanas on Friday and Saturday nights.

There’s a new small-plates menu at the Sunset Tower hotel’s Terrace restaurant, where more than half of the seating is outdoors just three steps up from the pool. “Everybody drinks Domaine Ott on the Terrace,” says hotel owner Jeff Klein, presumably while enjoying the dynamite view and nibbling on such fare as goat cheese stuffed dates and swordfish kebabs. Perhaps because the Terrace has a lower profile than the Tower Bar, it has become a popular spot for A-list celebrities, who show up in flip-flops with kids in tow (Ms. Kidman recently lunched here with hers).

At the Viceroy hotel, June 12 will mark the debut of “Taste of Tuesday,” a weekly public barbecue during which a wood-burning grill will be set up poolside and chef Warren Schwartz will cook while servers offer small tastes (tallied dim-sum style) along with artisan beers and specialty cocktails.

-- Leslee Komaiko

Small Bites

* The Hungry Cat, David Lentz’s hip Hollywood seafood restaurant, has a sibling. The Hungry Cat Santa Barbara opened last night. For now it’s dinner only, but weekend brunch is planned. Chef de cuisine is Dylan Fultineer, previously sous chef at Chicago’s Blackbird. While some offerings will be familiar to L.A. diners (the lobster roll, the Pug burger), the menu highlights local produce and seafood.

The Hungry Cat, 1134 Chapala St., Santa Barbara, (805) 884-4701.

* Crustacean, the recently redone Vietnamese dining room, has added Sunday dinner service as well as Sunday brunch featuring Asian tapas as well as twists on classic brunch dishes.


Crustacean, 9646 Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills, (310) 205-8990.

* Thai-owned Rolbeca Bakeshop is the latest Asian sweets specialist to open at Hollywood & Highland (joining Beard Papa’s). Rolbeca turns out just one item: a light, puffy, buttery glazed bun.

Rolbeca Bake Shop, 6801 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, (323) 463-8995.