The signature restaurant at Sofitel Los Angeles, Estérel, recently remodeled its look and menu and Press Pass LA was lucky to be invited to an exclusive preview dining experience where we interviewed the General Manager Nilou Rahmani about the stunning new space!
Walking into the new Estérel is like walking into a Secret Garden. The spot could not be any more inviting and romantic. The remodeled space includes two unique and colorful spaces: “Le Jardin” and “The Aviary.” The remodeled design was done by Xperiment USA and as a part of the recent changes, the restaurant also brought on new Executive Chef Victor Boroda to create new flavors for the restaurant’s Mediterranean cuisine.
The new layout includes:
“Le Jardin”a French garden patio which is an extension of the remodeled Estérel Restaurant’s indoor space. It features breathtaking accents including contemporary lighting and fountains, a Provençal inspired herb garden, colorful seating ideal for alfresco afternoon and evening dining, an expansive driftwood bar and a “living wall” of plants as the backdrop.
“The Aviary” is a more secluded private dining experience perfect for cocktail parties or sit-down dinners for 20-50 guests. Its unique environment includes bird cages that are beautifully suspended overhead, providing a conversation-starting backdrop where guests can dine under the sky with access to their own private bar.
The main Estérel restaurant includes rustic, wide plank mahogany floors and marigold-colored semi-circle high-backed booths. Blue walls are adorned with a collection of female portraits and white linen curtains and tablecloths add a beautiful contrast to the lush greenery of the patio. The dining room is 2,732 square-feet and holds 275 guests.
We sat down in “Le Jardin” to speak with Nilou about this breathtaking space and of course try the food!
PPLA: Tell me about this new outdoor space? It’s stunning. I could see get proposed to here!
NR: You could have a bridal shower, baby shower, or even a wedding here. This space is so full of life which was the whole concept behind “Le Jardin.” We wanted to bring life and vitality to this space. We are on the corner of Beverly and La Cienega boulevards and when you pass by the Sofitel Hotel on the street side, all you see is this grey high wall that goes around the hotel. You have no idea this beautiful garden and dining space is here. So when you enter onto the patio, we want you to be immediately transported to another world. The entryway now leads from the valet and as you walk in, there is another living wall (she motions to the one behind us) like this; you get the sense of colors and fresh air!
PPLA: Yes, all the beautiful purples, pinks, and oranges on the living wall are so inviting. I heard a rumor that you planted this yourself?
NR: Yes, we hand planted everything with Xperiment USA. All these plants were hand selected and we got our hands dirty and created this! I love gardening and I actually live on 3/4 of an acre in L.A. on the east side. Would you believe it! So many of my plants are potted so it was a fun thing to be able to do here as well.
PPLA: Tell us what inspired the new design both outdoor and indoor and the new menu?
NR: We’ve gone through some big changes over the last year. We have a new Executive Chef named Victor Boroda and he is absolutely committed to food that is raised in the right way, as am I. It’s very important to us here. I contact all of our vendors on a periodic basis to make sure their cows are being raised in the right way and are in fact being grass fed, and that ducks and chickens see the light of day! It is a very simple question that sadly not many vendors can say yes to. When Victor arrived we made a commitment to doing everything we could to transfer our little corner of L.A. into something that is a force for good. So that’s what we do here, and we started with what we can do, which is of course the food. Victor works with these amazing providers so we can bring in the right kind of food. The truth is if you start with a very high quality product, you are going to end up in a much better place than you would if you used industrial meats. We have to do something to set ourselves apart because we are located on ‘restaurant row’ in Los Angeles and there is a lot of competition. Anyone can serve you a steak, but not everyone can serve you a grass fed steak from Northern California. So that is something that’s very important to us.
PPLA: Tell us more about the remodeling. I remember the previous style of the restaurant ant this is a dramatic change.
NR: Yes, the other big step we did aside from the menu was transforming the space and this is where Xperiment USA came in. Gilles, Misty, and Jake from Xperiment USA are just visionaries! Before we had these beautiful laser cut composite wood branches that were coming out of the back of the booths and although it sounds nice, it gave it more of a dated look and it made if feel very closed off and cold. We wanted the space to feel more warm and inviting, and we wanted to bring some life in. I love the color marigold and so we incorporated marigold napkins and we upholstered our booths in marigold. That totally satisfied my retail therapy! I was able to bring this vitality to this space and give you that sense of comfort. We really created something that is truly ours here and we feel the guests will get that sense. We added these fantastic smoky blue walls inside which give the room an amazing contrast and we added the white tablecloths which we didn’t have before. So it’s fresh and crisp but warm and inviting! I come from an Iranian background and being able to bring people into a warm environment is so important to me. People digest better when they are not stressed.
PPLA: I will say you definitely succeeded; the restaurant feels very Pinterest worthy! Estérel is right next door to the Riviera 31 within the Sofitel Hotel and they have very different styles but they are complimentary. The Riviera 31 has that French nightclub feel and we also love that space, especially the Jazz nights. Was that intentional?
NR: They are definitely a nice extension of each other and what they both do have is the most amazing mixologist. His name is Ferrari Watts and he crafts all these amazing cocktails on a seasonal basis using the herbs we actually grow here in the garden, so their is that symbiotic relationship and flow.
PPLA: We have to ask, any favorites from the menu?
NR: For the food we have the Forestiere, which is this amazing mushroom flatbread which has truffle, arugula, bacon, and parmesan and is just so delicious. For the main dishes, the chef’s signature dish is going to be the Seared Ahi Tuna which is served with forbidden rice. The tuna is wild caught and is prepared very nicely, very tender. But for me, I am a complete sucker for our grass fed steaks. We have a 10oz Ribeye that’s phenomenal and we have a 16oz Ribeye that we serve as a platter. The platters are dishes that are meant to make you feel comfortable. They are meant for sharing with 2 or more so you can come in with your husband or partner or friends and order one large item that is suitable to share for both. Oh, and the lamb meatballs! They bring in the Moroccan flavor; they are colorful, tasty and juicy, not to miss!
PPLA: I will say everything looks amazing on the menu and I noticed it’s not just traditionally French or Mediterranean.
NR: It’s the perfect blend of California and France. California French is where French dishes become approachable. It’s so important and our location is so perfect for this! We have the French Hotel, Sofitel, and we are right here in the heart of Los Angeles so it just makes so much sense to bring together the flavors and the culture.
We can attest that the space was as stunning as it sounds and the cocktails and food were equally as mouth-watering. We took Nilou’s recommendation and tried the 10oz Ribeye, the Forestiere flatbread, and the lamb meatballs and she was spot on! Our other favorites? The cheese plate, grilled lobster, and the donuts beignets for dessert.