From Riot Hyatt to Andaz West Hollywood on Sunset Strip

LA Times | Travel

Four floors below me, a double-deck red tour bus paused, the driver almost certainly regaling passengers with tales of wild times at this hotel when it was the Hyatt Continental or, popularly, the Riot Hotel. Sipping my coffee and taking in the Sunset Strip scene from the floor-to-ceiling win...

By Beverly Beyette // 02.18.09

Four floors below me, a double-deck red tour bus paused, the driver almost certainly regaling passengers with tales of wild times at this hotel when it was the Hyatt Continental or, popularly, the Riot Hotel.

Sipping my coffee and taking in the Sunset Strip scene from the floor-to-ceiling windows of my room, I focused suddenly on some small orange lettering on one glass panel: "Come on baby, light my fire. Try to set the night on fire." The Doors, 1967.

This storied 257-room hotel -- until recently known as the Hyatt West Hollywood -- reopened Jan. 8 as Andaz West Hollywood after a $48-million makeover. Andaz doesn't hide its headline-making '60s and '70s rock 'n' roll heritage under a blanket of respectability; it flaunts it.

The balconies -- from which, lore has it, Rolling Stone Keith Richards and the Who's Keith Moon once hurled TVs -- are gone, but that has more to do with changing tastes than some fear that a guest might push a flat-screen over a railing.

Andaz West Hollywood

8401 W. Sunset Blvd.

(323) 656-1234

Brochure rates begin at $295.

"The balconies really weren't being used," said Hal Goldstein, a partner in Janson Goldstein, the New York architectural and design firm that reimagined the hotel into Andaz, from a Hindi word for "personal service." "We made every one of those rooms into junior suites" by enclosing them.

It works well, creating a feeling of spaciousness and a cozy, well-lighted area for reading, eating, soaking in city views or watching a small wall-mounted flat-screen.

I booked a Saturday night stay using the hotel's website, which offered the best rate -- $265.50 for a king room with AAA discount. At the entrance I was greeted by my "host," Dean, who showed me to a chair in the lounge (a.k.a. the lobby) and offered me a complimentary glass of wine. He then produced a nifty little hand-held computer that not only contained my booking information but also allowed him to swipe my credit card and code my room keys. "Our front desk," Dean said. I was upgraded to a city-view room, presumably because of my Hyatt Gold Passport membership.

My room was large, sleek and well-arranged, with recessed lighting over the bed and a generous, well-lighted desk. The walls and carpeting were gray, and the only decoration was a fanciful white-cut graphic of a flower on one wall because, in these rooms, the views are the pictures. The platform bed had a comfortable pillow top and the requisite white duvet.

The good: linens by Frette, complimentary snacks and nonalcoholic beverages from the minibar, 24-hour room service. (My morning coffee -- $7.66, including tax and tip -- arrived on the dot, in a four-cup carafe and with a French porcelain cup and saucer.) There were two flat-screen TVs, Wi-Fi and an iPod clock radio. The bad: no coffee maker, no safe, no robes.

The building dates from 1963, and the bathrooms -- small, with a single sink -- betray its age. My stall shower was partly enclosed with a fixed glass half-door that did a so-so job of keeping water off the floor. I did love the Red Flower soap, a little ball that looked like a crab apple on a white dish. But another hook or towel rack would have been useful.

Downstairs, the lounge (lobby), with its black leather sofas and bejeweled and feathered pillows, invites guests to linger. Here and throughout the hotel there are Hollywood-themed books for guests to read. The idea: This is more living room than a lobby. One wall is a huge, colorful photograph under glass, sort of psychedelic and open to interpretation. A carpet of pink, berry and gold defines the lounge space and contrasts with the dark oak floor.

The old bar-restaurant area, which was dark and red, has been replaced by an inviting light-filled bar with views of the passing parade on Sunset. A wall of polished stainless steel tiles behind the bar reflects the light. The adjacent restaurant, RH (as in Riot Hotel or Riot Hyatt), is four spaces, really, all flowing together: the main room, kitchen, an area with two large marble communal tables and -- my favorite -- the Wine Gallery, where an entire wall is a wine rack holding up to 400 bottles of California wines. This space has three desirable tables, tucked away behind a gauzy curtain.

RH is OK, not haute cuisine, and on a Saturday night it was fully booked, young and noisy. The emphasis is on organic and locally produced food, and guests customize their meals by choosing from a market list of mains ($18 to $23), sides, condiments and sauces. It's like in a dining car on a train, with little dots on the menu to pencil in. I had a nicely cooked hanger steak with chile-lime chutney, baby spinach and some gluey mashed potatoes.

The Andaz, at Sunset and King's Road, is across from the House of Blues and next door to the Comedy Store. It's an easy walk to the shops and cafes at Sunset Plaza. You can't miss the building, which is fronted by an 11-foot-tall sculpture, titled "The Departure," by former Angeleno Jacob Hashimoto. It's composed of 700 hand-painted pieces strung on little steel cables.

The Strip is noisy, but the hotel's new sound-reducing windows do a good job, as does a heavy curtain that can be drawn to divide the former balcony area from the bedroom. The most noise I heard was from slamming doors. New plush carpets in the hallways also absorb sound, but are not ideal for zooming around on a motorcycle, as one rocker is alleged to have done back in the day.

The rooftop pool on the 14th floor has amazing views -- the city and the Strip on one side, the Hollywood Hills on the other. It's been spruced up with big round pots of succulents, a Bose sound system and new furniture, including four canopied daybeds for two. At mezzanine level, there's a 24-hour (unstaffed) fitness center.

Goldstein stayed in a mock-up room at the Andaz on 30 visits to Los Angeles during the renovation, wanting to feel a connection to the property and the neighborhood. In the Hollywood Hills, he saw "a real sophistication," while the Sunset Strip vibe was "really sexy." Andaz is a bit of each.