A restaurant in a hotel already has its work cut out for it. But a restaurant in a hotel on the Sunset Strip? We’re going to need a big reason to go there. At Chateau Marmont you’re practically guaranteed a celebrity sighting and the food is surprisingly good. Tower Bar has a legendary patio and a build-your-own-sundae situation. And while Alma at the Standard is a good restaurant, it’s not quite enough to make us want to deal with the Strip for it.
Alma was once a tiny restaurant downtown that caught the attention of Crazy Food People circa 2013 and collected almost as many awards as Yo-Yo Ma at the Grammy’s. But not even all that hype could rescue Alma from closing in 2015 (something to do with a lawsuit). Now, after re-opening as a pop-up at the Standard Hollywood, they’ve settled in permanently and are running all the food for the hotel. And while breakfast and lunch lean towards the kind of stuff you’d expect from a hotel food menu - there’s a cheeseburger and, obviously, a club sandwich - dinner is a different story, and much more like the original Alma.
Which means the food can be pretty out-there. There are things like seaweed and tofu beignets and frozen foie gras, and all the dishes come out looking like modern art. Some of them work - that foie gras is great, and we couldn’t get enough of the hamachi with whipped yogurt - but others feel overly experimental or just plain strange, with flavors that don’t go together and ingredients we couldn’t identify.
There are things other than hamachi we like about Alma. The space feels like a modern diner had a baby with a Scandinavian minimalist - it’s welcoming and cool at the same time. The service is as friendly as it gets (especially for the area), and they’re open a truly astonishing 24 hours a day. But those good things don’t change Alma’s essential problem: it exists in a strange space between hotel restaurant and destination restaurant. It’s a little too weird to please the tourist masses. But it’s not quite exciting enough for us to want to walk through a hotel lobby on the Sunset Strip.
Fluffy savory beignets that come with a yuzu sauce underneath. The beignets are a bit dense and extremely salty, but the super-citrusy sauce makes them more interesting.
This one is just odd. The beets come on top of an unidentified (albeit tasty) sauce, with fermented berries, sunflower seeds, and something freeze-dried in there as well. There was too much we couldn’t figure out on the plate, and it didn’t really come together. We are not sold.
A super rich dish of crumbly bits of frozen foie gras served with coffee granola and carrot puree - the trick is to get a bit of everything in each bite. Just see if you can stop yourself from licking the plate clean. You want this.
Probably our favorite dish. The hamachi sashimi comes with small crispy pieces of seedy toast and whipped yoghurt. It’s tart and fresh and our favorite dish at Alma.
Not our favorite. Slices of pork tenderloin and belly come with a pumpkin sauce, but the pork was tough at times and the tangerine felt like it didn’t need to be there.
All other grain salads: take note. This is perfect smoked salmon on top of tangy grains with burnt mushrooms, and if all healthy-ish food tasted like this we’d be a lot healthier.
If this was actually once a tart, it looks like it got hit by a hurricane. Which is semantics really because this chocolate/pastry/coconut ice cream thing is delicious and something we’d order again and again.