Sunday, March 25, 2012

Where to Be Merry: Last Thursdays of the Month @ Opposite LA

The Merriment: Dope bar scene with amazing hip-hop, R&B, reggae, rap … and a piñata

The Vibes: Casual, chill, relaxed, classy, fun, energetic

The Crowd: Up-and-coming industry folks

With-Whom-to-Go: A friend or two or three

The $ Factor: $FREE.99 before 11pm, $5 after

I’ll Be Back…: To try my luck hitting the piñata

I’ve done The Wobble.
Busted out the two-step to R. Kelly’s “Step in the Name of Love.”
Why, I’ve even bent down low to do The Jerk and The Reject. 

And the best part is, I’m not alone.

Everyone is right there with me, excitedly shrieking and getting their dance on. 

Opposite LA is one of those functions where good music, good people good vibes go hand in hand. Although it’s smack in the middle of Tinseltown, it’s certainly not your typical, pretentious Hollywood scene. Ran by the friendly actor/comedian Tahir Moore (pictured below, right) and hosted by the animated actor Leo Breckenridge, it’s held in the unassuming Bronson Bar, a rather hole-in-the-wall dive bar that comfortably squeezes in 50 to 75 people and serves fairly strong, averagely priced cocktails.

Hands down, I’d say one of the best aspects of Opposite LA is the music. I mean really. DJ Ron “Rtistic” (pictured below) kills it on the turntables. He knows precisely when to play a little old school West Coast rap before switching it up to the latest hits …Then he’ll throw in a little bit of Go-go and a few reggae songs before properly ending with R&B slow jams like Case’s “Touch Me Tease Me.” Plus, unlike some DJs who get bent out of shape and super offended when you request a song, he kindly obliges and actually plays the song. He gets an extra ten points for that. 

The crowd itself certainly adds to the greatness of Opposite LA as well. I’ve been when it’s been literally been packed shoulder to shoulder, and when it’s been more on the quiet side, with a handful of people huddled in their respective groups. Yet whether cracking or more subdued, I’d say it's still always good times. And, every time I’ve gone – I kid you not – I’ve ran into someone I’ve know... so I'm sure you’ll probably run into someone you know, too. 

I highly recommend a trip to Opposite LA whenever you’re in the mood to hear great, real R&B/hip-hop/rap in a grown-and-sexy yet still lively ambiance, all while catching up with a few friends.

Hey – perhaps I’ll see you there next Thursday! 

For more info: Opposite LA, @OppositeLA

*Photo credits: Opposite LA

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Where to Drink: Parisian Cocktails @ Perch Los Angeles

The Drinks: Jacques Collins, Marie Antoinette, Le Libertine…All French-inspired

The Vibes: Gorgeous!!!

With-Whom-to-Go: Very fun for small, medium and large groups, and definitely a date spot

The $ Factor: Mid-range; cocktails average $10

The 4-1-1: A Parisian-themed bistro, 15 stories above the ground, right in the heart of downtown

I’ll Be Back…: For ritzy cocktails and live music Wednesday and Friday evenings.

On my first visit to Perch, I was irritated that the elevator was out of service, forcing me to hobble up two flights of stairs with a hip injury. And I was slightly frazzled because I had to limp all crazily through the main bar area when I couldn't immediately find my party. 

But once I stepped onto the outdoor patio, my grumpiness instantly melted away.

 It was love at first sight. 

There was this quirky French music that set a romantic mood. I thought it was a soundtrack until I saw a trio of musicians tucked away in a corner that looked like they could’ve been right out of a scene from the Titanic. Then there were the strings of lights hanging in the trees, softly swaying in the wind. And the view was incredible, with dozens of skyscrapers and their glittering windows enveloping us. It was a quaint, intimate world of browns and beiges amongst the massive downtown skyline. 

Surprisingly, there’s not as many rooftop bars/lounges/restaurants in downtown Los Angeles as one might expect (shocking, right??). So I didn’t realize how much I had been missing one until Perch debuted this past fall season.

If I had to describe Perch in one word, it would be “breathtaking.” Now that could have something to do with the stairs I hauled myself up the first time I went, but I’d like to think it’s also because it exudes such fabulous French charm. It has this warm, feel-good kind of ambiance. Plus at every turn, there are so many unique seating options: by roaring fireplaces or by one of my favorite spots, right next to the glass balcony, completely facing towards the buildings. It literally feels as if you’re floating “in the air.” 

So let’s get down to business about the important things: the menu. I love everything about the cocktails, from their names (i.e., the Rusty Snail), to their presentation (some arrive in Collins glasses, others in saucers), to their taste (ranging from sweet to sour, strong to light). One of my favorites is the My Fair Lady, made with quinoa vodka and which is ridiculously smooth.

I’d say the food is definitely more on the eccentric side. You won’t find simplistic chicken, steak or salad options; instead, think French – frog legs and duck. And think extravagant – many dishes incorporate lots of ingredients, such as my Moules (mussels), pictured to the right, which arrived in a silky broth with tomatoes and a mound of herbs.

Quite personally, I’m loving Perch for its ambiance, its unparalleled views of downtown and its fabulous cocktails. It’s definitely one of the places I’ll be frequenting as we approach warmer months, so who knows? Perhaps I’ll see you there soon!

For more information: Perch; @PerchLosAngeles 

Monday, March 12, 2012

Where to Eat: Indian Food @ Naya Restaurant & Lounge

The Eats: Indian food with California influences

The Vibes: Sensual and enveloping

Good for: An intimate, low-key kind of evening

When-to-Go: Singers and Burlesque Dancers on Wednesday nights; DJs on Friday evenings; Fire Artists on Sunday nights; 
and 6-7:30pm happy hour every day

With-Whom-to-Go: Definitely a smokin’ hot date. Definitely. 

The $ Factor: Mid-range; entrees are priced between $15 and $26…cocktails are about $12

The 4-1-1: There are two “sides” of Naya – one dark, one light 

I’ll Be Back…: To chill on the back outdoor patio, amongst the roaring fire pits and the palm trees and shrubs, once the Indian BBQs kick off in the summer

Standing in the main entrance of Silverlake’s Naya Restaurant & Lounge, enwrapped by dark, intricately designed curtains, is where a difficult, crucial choice must be made: whether you will go to the right or venture off to the left.

Decisions, decisions! 

To the right is the main dining area, where a world of ceiling-to-floor cream-colored lace curtains and fiery red table accents create a sensually alluring enclave. It's like being in a calming, dream world. To the left is a handsomely darker bar area, with hints of turquoise splashed amongst exposed brick walls and high arches. It almost feels as if you're in a stylish, cavernous grotto. Wherever you end up, I think you'll truly appreciate that both sections transport you into exotic, foreign hideaways, as if you've traveled to some far distant, remote parts of the world.

With the same amount of thoughtful precision that’s been put into its decor, Naya has certainly created dining and cocktail options that are just as remarkable. Californian influences can be seen in everything from the freshness of entrees like the Tandoori Chicken and the Butter Masala Chicken, to the unique ingredients, such as the tortilla chips that bring a refreshing crispiness to the Sprout Street appetizer. Below are a few of the fabulous and flavorful dishes I’ve tried and highly recommend:

Sascha's Garlic Prawns (seasoned very well)

The Silky Lamb Kabob (my favorite!)

Sprout Street (very healthy)

Tandoori Chicken, Butter Chicken Masala and Apricot Patagonian Sea bass 
(a few of the most popular entrees)

As for the cocktails, they're subtle and accentuated by intense flavors. I’ve found most to be like my favorite, the Kiss of Naya: sweet but not too overbearing, with an effect that tends to hit you a few moments later. Bartenders are prone to using organic ingredients, seasonal fruits and squeezed juices, and they'll also switch up the different components of the drinks, depending on the season. For example, the Farmer’s Market cocktail pictured to the right, which debuts on the upcoming spring menu, features gin muddled with fruits from the local organic farmer’s market. When I went a couple of weeks ago, my Farmer's Market had cucumbers, lemon and thyme.

It’s rather impressive that Naya has managed to create such distinct yet complimentary atmospheres that truly arouse your visual senses. They’ve paid attention to the most intricate of details, from the billowing curtains to the fiercely red napkins and candle holders, down to the vibrant carpet. Naya is the perfect setting to enjoy amazing Indian food and superior cocktails on the eastside.

See you there soon! 

For more information: Naya Restaurant & Lounge, @nayasunset

Photo credits: Tulani Watkins

Sunday, March 4, 2012

And Where Do You “Where To?”: Dapper Gentlemen & Fancy Ladies @ "The Gentlemen's Closet" 2012 Pre-Oscar Gala Presented by Chivas/Styling the Modern Man

What’s better than a dashing man dressed in the best of fashions, loaded with charm and good looks, and equipped with a smile that’ll make you swoon? 

Why, 100 of them! 

When Shaun Sanders from Graffiti PR invited me to a Pre-Oscar shin-dig at Siren Studios last week, I immediately made my way there to check out the festivities. More than 200 guests (all dressed to the T) congregated in the large studios for complimentary Barefoot wines, champagnes and Chivas cocktails...and also for haircuts for men, massages for all, bow tie demonstrations by Inspired Knots and fabulous shoes by Luka Prado.

Throughout the night, I did what I did best and got to asking a few of the well-dressed and handsome guests about their Oscar film favorites, their current projects and of course, their "Where To" destinations in LA.

I was pretty inspired to check out a few new places in city, and perhaps you will be, too. Read to hear what they had to say!

Lane Smith, Jr., Actor, Producer, Filmmaker (Indecent)
His Oscar Pick: “My good friend Annie Gaia is in The Artist, and just because I know her, I would love that to win, and I think it will.” (It did!)

Current Projects: “I have a really big ad going out in Europe. I play a surfer in it and it’s promos for a summer write-up. Also right now I’m up for the remake of Blue Lagoon…I look very similar to the lead actor from the original, so it’s kind of got a little hype on me. But I haven’t been cast yet. They’re basically deciding between casting someone like me or an African-American…I hope it’s me, you know?”

Where He “Where To’s”: “My favorite place to go in LA…hmmm…I don’t know…I go everywhere. I like being inside a studio, working – and eating lunch inside the studio [laughs].”

Bai Ling, Actress (The Crow, Crank: High Voltage)
Oscar Pick: “I like The Artist. I think it’s very original. It’s not much dialogue. I think that’s what a film’s supposed to be – it’s through images, not through dialogue – that’s what theater is more like. Also it’s a love story…It’s cold like wintertime – you have to have some love!”
Current Projects: “I write songs and I released a song on Valentine’s Day called ‘I Love You My Valentine.’ It’s on iTunes and YouTube. So if you ask your fans to follow me at @realbailing on twitter or, you’ll see it. I shot a music video and everything, it’s fantastic.”

Music or acting? “I’m a professional actress. That’s what I do. Music is for fun. It’s like, I have a gift I want to share, you know? Encourage other people to do the same thing. If I can write it – I didn’t even know music – then they can do it, too. A lot of people are afraid of – to put it out there – so that’s what I’m doing.”

Where she “Where To’s”: I like Chan Dara. Also I like Katsuya. Mr. Chow is also nice. You see all the celebrities there. I’ve seen Arnold Schwarzenegger. Everyone is there. You always see people there.

KD Aubert, Actress (Turning Point, Percentage) 
Oscar Faves: “I have a couple of favorites, but I’m just keeping my fingers crossed for some close friends.” 

Current Projects: “I’m really excited because I have a Nigerian film coming out this year called Turning Point, which was pretty insane because it was like the first time they ever merged American actors and Nigerian actors. And Queen Latifah produced a movie I’m in called Percentage. Cam’ron was in that, Ving Rhames was in that. [It’s a] pretty cool action, drug-dealer-type movie.

“And I did an independent movie. It’s kind of close to home. It was a film in regards to – it dealt with domestic violence and sexual abuse, and things like that. I played the counselor to some young girls who kind of dealt with a lot of those issues, and it was based on true stories. There was a pastor out of Detroit named Pastor Miles who actually – these women actually go to his church and he formed an organization for those women because of these situations, so they decided to make a movie out of it.”

Where She “Where To’s”: “You know, I’m on this weird vegetarian kick right now and I don’t really know where it came from, because I started it right before Thanksgiving, which is really weird, and then I went even further and did the organic raw. So the SunCafe. But, I had a steak the other day, so I don’t what I am now [laughs]. And then the other thing is, it’s like, I have favorites and I have different genres. Like for Jamaican food, We Jammin’ is the best, but then my friends own Coley’s, so I probably shouldn’t say that [laughs].”

Vincent De Paul, Actor (The Artist, Sex and the City 2)
Would you consider yourself to be a Modern Man? “The Modern Man is the classic man and if you have an awareness of the traditional styles, you can take those traditional styles and make it modern and make it your own. I shop and I try to – with my help with my stylist – pull things that I can wear now and a year from now and two years from now that are not too trendy. George Blodwell who is my friend who you were just seeing, he is your traditional, wonderful stylist who understands about men’s grooming. And with men’s grooming, it’s important that you have an idea of what you like and use it…I’ve been working in film and TV for 23 years, and I love the fact that I learn everyday when I go to set and the stylists pull looks together that really help my character and help me project the character on screen and on the small screen...” 
His Sunglasses: “I’m very fortunate – I was in the original movie called Hairspray with John Waters and then years later John Waters cast me in another film called Cry-Baby. Johnny Depp wore these same glasses, and they’re 1950s style. Randolph Enterprises have created this style frame for the military since the ‘50s.” 

Oscar Pick: “This year I’m going to the Oscar parties and I’m very happy I had a very small part in the Oscar-nominated film called The Artist. A lot of buzz about this silent black-and-white film, and thank you to Harvey [Weinstein] for employing everyone.”

Where He “Where To’s”: I love the SoHo House in LA. And quite honestly, I love just meeting up with my friends in either Beverly Hills or in Hollywood and just enjoying each other. I love the Sunset Plaza area where I can sit and enjoy a wonderful meal outside.

And the thing I want to tell anyone for the nightlife; the nightlife is all around you. You have to find out what you love. It can be anything from eating somewhere in Los Feliz – you can do anything. It’s just a wonderful experience.”

Said Faraj (Green Zone, 24, NCIS: Los Angeles, Undercovers) 
Who’s the Modern Man – are you the Modern Man? “With extreme modesty, yes I am. I feel that Hollywood reached a moment right now that they lost the touch with class – I mean understand the way it is, because I feel that it is very important to bring back the old Hollywood. Because when old Hollywood – wherever they go, even they go to the market – they always dress up, and they have this beautiful sharpness about them. So I feel that what I did – I took the old Hollywood. I use scarves a lot of times. I always wear like blazers, no matter what it is. I always groom myself I mean because it’s very important. It’s very important, as we are an example to so many people that they look at us.”

Projects: “I’m an actor and my film is Green Zone that I came in opposite Matt Damon. I was one of the main leads and last year I was submitted for the [2011 42nd Annual NAACP] Image Award for Best Supporting Actor. This year, I shot my own film – executive producing, directing and starring.”

Article of Clothing the Modern Man Must Have: “Personally I always like blazers. I don’t like to wear a shirt without a blazer. If I’m going out, I always know that I’m in colors. The old Hollywood – they used to stick to like white and the grayish and the black – and now, they come up with like purple, red, pink. But we have to know how to wear the whole outfit. I also like scarves a lot.”

Where He “Where To’s”: “A hookah lounge. It’s called Ocean Café & Restaurant It’s in Northridge, on the corner of Balboa and Devonshire, and they do the best hookah. They have Middle Eastern food, Mediterranean food and it's very healthy – I’m pretty much into health. It’s half outdoors and indoors and I enjoy it a lot.

George Blodwell, Gen Lux Editor and Fashion Stylist
Looking Dapper! “I’ve been working like this all day.”

You’re looking like the Modern Man: “I guess I am a modern man. I’m quite an old man.”

Where He “Where To’s”: “I like the Petite Ermitage. I like Chateau Marmont. And there’s a little place in the Valley I like to go called Tony's Darts Away. It’s a vegan bar that has lots of different homebrews – different beers and vegan food. I’ve been vegetarian for 40-odd years. I love being at home and having lots of good friends over, some celebrities and such. I’m a stylist. I dress people and I’m editor of fashion magazine, so I get around [laughs].” 

** All photo credits by Winston Burris, except for photos of Said Faraj and George Blodwell, taken by Tulani Watkins
Interviews have been condensed and edited for length purposes.