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February 09, 2009

L.A. Discoveries

ShangriLa
A peek inside the Hotel Shangri-La.

by Ondine Cohane

Heading to Los Angeles? I was just there last week and have some new discoveries.

First stop: I checked into the Hotel Shangri-La in Santa Monica, which is undergoing a huge $30 million renovation. Not to be confused with the brand of the same name, this is a family-owned boutique hotel, right on Ocean Avenue. The property is still under construction--the restaurant, pool area and rooftop bar are to be completed in the next month or so--but I already love it. Rooms have original Art Deco details and are super comfy, and the views from the oceanside rooms are iconic. The staff is super friendly, from Matt, one of the managers, to the cleaning staff, to Freddie the valet, who could teach all of us how to do our jobs with a smile. For now, the property is offering special introductory rates of $265.

On Saturday night I headed to Palate with some real foodies who always know the buzz-worthy places in town. Its location in Glendale is a bit strange, but helmed by Octavio Becerra (formerly of Patina) and concentrating on small dishes and an awesome wine list, the restaurant is arguably the most exciting in L.A. right now. The menu changes according to the season and what's available locally; we particularly liked the beet salad, the gnocchi with pumpkin, and the awesome cheese plate (house-churned butter and fresh baked bread--yum). We shared a wonderful bottle of Burgundy and, unusually, there is also a terrific selection of half bottles. It's hard to get a reservation since last month's best restaurant score in Los Angeles magazine, but if you can get in, try to snag a table in the more atmospheric back room.

If you are feeling in need of a truly awesome haircut, head to Chris McMillan's salon in Beverly Hills. He created Jennifer Aniston's famous Friends 'do and still takes care of her tresses. When he last visited Tuscany I had a cut from the maestro himself, but he is hard to pin down with all the celeb tending and travel he does. So on this trip I tried Jason Schneidman, who has been part of McMillan's team for about six years. He took an hour to get my travel-weary bob into shape, but in my estimation, it's one of the best styles I've had in years (8944 Burton Way; 310-285-0088).

Don't forget to run along the beach during the day, walk along the pier at night, and people watch all the time--quintessential L.A. experiences.

Further reading:
* L.A. may be the capital of low-key cool, but that's no reason to dress down. Trina Turk proves that sophisticated needn't be stuffy.
* Word of Mouth: The buzz worldwide

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