We don’t usually blog about two establishments in the same post, but this was a special exception. My husband and I are big fans of the Viceroy Hotel Group. Among their line of fine hotels are two unique, very individually-styled properties. Bar Noir, (housed inside the lobby of the cozy, intimate, Parisian-styled Bed-and-Breakfast Maison 140), and Oliverio, (located on the first floor of the retro-sheek Avalon Hotel). Both located in Beverly Hills, and sister properties not far from one another, these distinct gems present a wealth of intriguing offerings. Bar Noir seductively draws you into it’s romantic, dark Parisian-styled lounge space contributing to an intimate, private feel with a classic connotation. This modest-sized bar is petite in comparison to most, but exudes abundant character and substantial charm.
Oliverio emanates that poolside patio upscale-retro appeal that was eminent in the 50s and 60s. With their private pool-side cabanas, one can indulge in the airy, open outdoors without having to be inside on an agreeable evening. For cooler temperatures, Oliverio furnishes overhead heaters in the cabanas, while around the outdoor open seating area, stand-up heaters are provided. This property embraces the spirit of both the young and the young at heart with its suave style, it’s commanding attention to details, and its undeniable elegance.
Let’s get down to business! At Bar Noir, there is what’s called their “L’Heur Verte” Daily Absinthe Tasting. For $5 a tasting, a masterfully-skilled mixologist will not only prepare a fantastic concoction with the pre-2007 forbidden liquor (you know, the one which was banned in the U.S. in 1912), but will also entertain you with an entire presentation as he prepares your beverage taking advantage of their hundred-year-old absinthe dispenser at the bar! L’Heur Verte means “the green hour”. Absinthe is a green shade due to the herbs contained within it (mostly Green Anise, wormwood and fennel). If you’ve never tried absinthe, it is a highly concentrated anise-flavored extract. As with any concentrated extract, it is intended to be combined with water. The colder the water, the better it is.
We arrived at Bar Noir and took a seat at the intimate bar. Our bartender, Jake, was courteous and happily welcomed us into the property and the lounge. We ordered an absinthe tasting for each of us, and Jake got right to work. First, he presented the the ages old absinthe dispenser in front of us on top of the bar. Antique-looking, distinguished and intriging, this device is filled with ice and water in the upper glass portion. The ice water was left to thoroughly chill, then two cognac glasses were placed before us. Silver feuille-shaped absinthe spoons were then laid upon each glass and a sugar cube distributed atop each spoon. The sugar mixed into the absinthe counteracts the bitterness of the liquid, thus making it more enjoyable.
The word “absinthe” is the French word for “wormwood”, a plant from which medicines and tonics were made long ago. People took to drinking it for pleasure in the 18th and 19th centuries, then continued until eventual banning of the extract occurred. Thujone is the ingredient that was removed from absinthe before it became legal again in the United States, but even without this “essential” ingredient, it is still a lovely apertif to have before dinner.
This is where things get interesting. A shot of absinthe is poured into the glass over the resting sugarcube, and then lit on fire! (How great is that!) It makes for quite a presentation. The sugar cubes are lit on fire because not only does this enhance the visual experience, but it also carmelizes the sugar, which gives the added sweetness a delightful flavor. While the water is still chilling in the absinthe dispenser to it’s coldest liquid state, the sugar cubes are allowed to melt a bit more just until they are perfectly caramelized via the bartender’s watchful eye. Up until this point, the absinthe is a crystal clear green vibrant hue.
Next, the chilled water is released from one of the four absinthe dispenser spigots straight down onto the flaming sugar cube. This not only stops the sugarcube from flaming any further, but it also is what is needed to complete the cocktail. Three parts water to one part absinthe. Anything less, the extract would be too bitter and too concentrated to swallow or enjoy.
Once the chilled water is finished being added to each glass and briskly mixed, the absinthe turns a milky green shade. Very appealing, and definitely a sight well worth the wait. (Certainly unlike anything else I’ve ordered before). The taste of anise when you take the first sip, the subtle hint of fennel in the background, and the cool refreshing chill of the beverage all combine to create quite an exclusive cocktail.
The absinthe tasting was indeed outstanding, and the staff couldn’t have been more warm or welcoming. We look forward to returning for our next absinthe tasting soon. (We’ll bring some friends along with us next time to share in the fun)! After we left Bar Noir, we went just down the street to their sister property, the Avalon Hotel, where the Olivolio Lounge sits. We then walked into the main entrance at the indoor portion of the restaurant. After being told that we could take advantage of their Happy Hour anywhere in the indoor or outdoor seating areas. We elected to sit outside inside in one of the poolside cabanas. (Enter “Part 2” of our Savor Hour for the evening).
Seated inside our private poolside cabana, a waiter, (Joey), immediately appeared to hand us menus and take our drink orders. He departed as swiftly as he had arrived and returned promptly with our beverages. Ice cold and colorful, they made a beautiful contrast against the azure pool just steps away. Oliverio’s Happy Hour is accessible Monday through Friday from 4-7PM and is available at the bar and lounge tables, however, this particular evening, we were asked to sit wherever we liked, so we chose one of the private poolside cabanas, which was quite lovely.
Happy Hour cocktails are only $6 and if you’re in the mood for something other than a Dirty Martini or a Cosmopolitan, their Happy Hour well drinks (also $6) include Smirnoff Vodka, Gordon’s Gin, Jim Beam, Jose Cuervo and Myers’s Platinum. One can conjure up more than a few brew options with this list! There are also Happy Hour wines for $5 and $6 each, and Beers for just $4.
Oliverio’s Happy Hour edibles are quite surprising in taste, portion size and quality. We were happily surprised by our findings. Oliverio’s nibbles consist of the following: All for $5 each – Seafood Ceviche, Spicy Rock Shrimp, Guacamole and Chips, Truffle Fries, Spaghetti Picanti and Mini Burgers with Fries. Also, for $8 each, you can get their Napoletana Pizzetta or their Calabrese Pizzetta. We chose three of Oliverio’s appetizerse: the Mini Burgers with Fries, which is Angus beef cooked to perfection, and hands down has to be one of the BEST burger sliders we’ve had this year. We also enjoyed the Napoletana Pizzetta and the Spicy Rock Shrimp…
The miniature Angus beef sliders are dressed with onion, ketchup and melty cheese accompanies by a pile of fries and ketchup on the side. I know I’m repeating myself, but these HAVE to be some of the best burger sliders we’ve had!
Oliverio’s incredible flatbread covered in a zesty marinara-like sauce, is cut into six slices, then topped with fresh mozzerella and fresh basil leaves and parmesan cheese! This is not a small bite. In fact, it was so amply proportioned that we wound up having three slices remaining.
Don’t let the name fool you with the Spicy Rock Shrimp! These tempura-battered beauties are called “spicy”, but in reality, they were perfectly invigorated with flavor. We were hesitant to try these, being that my husband can’t handle much spicy food, but we were assured by Joey that they were a favorite at Oliverio and that the “heat” wasn’t bad at all. He was right, in fact, because we devoured these luscious bites in no time with no problem.
Now, I know we’ve covered a lot here. However, since these two establishments are sister properties, very close in proximity to one another, and since we didn’t have any edibles at Bar Noir, we thought it would be good to combine them together to make a perfect Savor Hour. The best part, is that everything from BOTH places stayed below $50. Success!
DECOR / ESTABLISHMENT: Bar Noir maintains a coveted intimacy which can be greatly appreciated. Their deep reds, blacks and whites offer a distinctively classic, welcoming feel. Oliverio expells delight also, but with a retro-hip vibe just begging to be admired. The poolside patio cabana dining makes Oliverio a terrfic spot to catch up with friends, or have a romantic evening our with a significant other.
FOOD / DRINK: Bar Noir astounded us with our very first absinthe tasting. Refreshing, incredibly dramatic presentation, and blended to perfection. Oliverio Lounge served up smashing cocktails that pack a punch and large-portioned Happy Hour bites that would complement any occasion for an evening out.
LOCATION: Bar Noir is located at 140 Lasky Driv, beverly Hills CA 90212 inside the charming and witty Maison 140. Oliverio Lounge is positioned on the first floor of the Avalon Hotel at 9400 West Olympic Boulevard in Beverly Hills CA 90212, which has a terrific corner locale.
SERVICE / STAFF: At Bar Noir, Jake was kind, friendly, knowledgeable and we loved talking with him about all things “absinthe.” The receptionists at the lobby registration area were also very professional and generous in their assistance regarding our inquiries. The staff at Oliverio was very informed, welcoming and professional.
PRICE / VALUE: Bar Noir impressed for just $5 per absinthe tasting, while the Oliverio Lounge showed comparable value with their cocktail and edibles selections.
CORKAGE FEE: $25 per bottle during Happy Hour and non-Happy Hour times of the day.
CONTACT INFO: Bar Noir – Phone: (310) 281-4003, Website: www.maison140beverlyhills.com, Oliverio Lounge – Phone: (310) 277-5221, Website:http://www.avalonbeverlyhills.com
PARKING: Metered street parking close to the hotel entrance at the Avalon or Valet service, then for Maison 140, there is parking right in front of the hotel, as well as metered street parking surrounding the property.
TOTAL BILL: Bar Noir’s two absinthe tastings totalled $10.88 (including tax), while Oliverio came in at a total of $34.81 (including tax). The grand total for BOTH totalled $45.69 for the evening. Great food, outstanding service, and a bit of education along the way!