Monday, June 24, 2024

Review: Lillie’s at The Culver Hotel

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Lillie’s at The Culver Hotel is an echo of long-ago 1930s supper clubs, where socialites and movie stars dined amid the swirl of torch songs. The lobby restaurant is anchored by a blazing fireplace surrounded by couches and chairs, not far from the small bar and standing counter for imbibers who arrive early or late. The dining tables are in the middle, with more seats arranged around the perimeter. Later in the evening, those are filled with an audience there to hear cabaret singers with a cocktail or glass of wine.

It feels European, and perfect for the 46-room boutique hotel renovated by owner Maya Mallick, beginning in 2007. Lillie’s has been dark for two years and now in collaboration with the Proper Hotel Collection, it’s serving the neighborhood of just-arrived tech businesses, newly constructed apartments, and Sony Studios. The garden, situated on the plaza, is a bit sparse, but this being Southern California, it will soon be lush. It’s a splendid evening with out-of-town guests or just yourselves. Put on perfume, lose the sneakers and go French in this quirky hotel’s dining room.

Mallick and her partners wisely chose to keep the charming 98-year-old hotel as is. The triangular brick building is an old-fashioned respite from linear modern décor. Another smart decision was keeping the French menu small, with classic bistro dishes on offer, including French Onion Soup ($21). We skipped the raw bar, starting with a perfectly dressed Arugula Salad with Figs ($18) and a Steak Tartare ($18) that was a bit too lemony. We opted for glasses of wine, splurging on Billecart-Salmon champagne ($35) American pinot noir ($18), and French malbec ($16).

Each of our entrees was the best of bistro cuisine, simply prepared with the finest ingredients. Roasted Chicken with Pommes Puree ($34) was tender with crispy skin; this potato puree puts any mashed potatoes to shame. Steak Frites with Béarnaise Sauce and Skinny Fries ($39) was pronounced excellent by our table’s authority. We shared the Grilled Filet of Branzino ($38) with fennel and olives expertly cooked and deboned at the table.

The service was generally impeccable but when colleagues joined our waiter to help with placing and removing entrees, their inexperience showed. This was no deal breaker—after all, Lillie’s has only just returned and its staff is still learning. The sharp management will no doubt quickly have this sorted out.

As the evening went on, the lights dimmed, candles were lit, and the singer began her serenade. The conversation was quieter as the music captured the crowd; longtime couples clasped hands and the first dates smiled and seemed relaxed.

Lillie’s at The Culver Hotel, 9400 Culver Blvd., Culver City

Monday-Friday: 3 to 10 p.m.

Saturday and Sunday: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Dinner: 5 to 11 p.m.

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