Delphine at W Hollywood: You're Beautiful but M'Eh

Delphine's pistachio brownie with hot chocolate and marshmallows

Delphine's pistachio brownie with hot chocolate and marshmallows

Oh, Delphine. I was swayed by your W swank ways, charmed by your French name and drawn in by all that online hype via LA Times‘ Daily Dish, UrbanDaddy and LA Weekly‘s Squid Ink announcing your debut. But despite your gorgeous space and intriguing cocktail menu, I discovered after an impromptu rendezvous last night…that you actually aren’t all that.

Yup, blogger H.C. of LA-OC Foodventures and I swung by the new barestaurant located in the brand-new W Hollywood. After a very educational sake tasting at Kabuki Hollywood (more on that later), we were in the mood for some dessert and cocktails.

On a Monday night the bar area was empty-ish with a couple of patrons taking up some bar stools. The restaurant located further toward the back, however, was a-buzzing. But we cozied up to the gorgeous marble bar and admired the French cafe style setup of the seated area behind us. A quick study of the cocktail menu revealed unusual concoctions for prices ranging from $9 to $14.

  • The Eva ($11): Cazadores Blanco Tequila, agave nectar, lime and grapefruit juice
  • Eden ($10): Belvedere Cytrus Vodka, Marie Brizard Cassis de Bordeaux, lemon sour, prosecco, Grand Marnier-soaked berries
  • Monaco Breeze ($11): Bombay Saphire, St. Germain, rhubarb bitters, green grapes, lemon juice
  • Van Gogh ($10): Abyss absinthe, ginger syrup, H2O

Seven Seas cocktail

Seven Seas cocktail

The cocktails sounded so unique that they could easily go either way of good or terrible. There was only one way to find out. I was this close to ordering their Manhattan (which is actually on the menu for $10) but decided to be adventurous and go for their Seven Seas ($11), made up of Seven Tiki Spiced Rum, walnut liqueur, agave nectar and red bell pepper.

Now, I don’t usually like red bell peppers. Frankly, I hate ‘em but decided to give them a shot here. Who knows? It might open my eyes to something fabulous. Plus the bartender said that you couldn’t really taste the bell peppers anyway, and that the drink tasted like Thai food. Uh, yeah. Again, could be good or terrible.

Unfortunately, it was terrible! Rum is a sweet spirit and the vegetable-ness of the red bell pepper just completely interfered with that. Now, I usually love spicy and sweet but here the bell pepper wasn’t that kind of spicy. “It tastes like a salad,” H.C. wrinkled his nose after tasting it. “Ugh, yeah, I don’t like it at all,” I replied, pushing the glass away from me after many sips of “Hmm” and “Nope.”

Couldn’t even finish it. Sigh. A little part of me dies every time I leave a half-full cocktail behind. We found out later that the bartender had subbed Captain Morgan’s for the Seven Tiki since they were out of it but had neglected to tell us. Regardless, I doubt that could have saved the drink for me.

Boa 405 cocktail

Boa 405

H.C. had ordered the Boa 405 cocktail ($12) which is made of 42 Below Vodka, fresh lemon sour, balsamic vinegar, cracked pepper and strawberries. When I sipped it, all that cracked pepper clung to the back of my throat along with the taste of balsamic vinegar.

I choked a bit but then the sweetness of the strawberries soothed it away a bit. “I’d have this as an aperitif,” H.C. said. It did have that salad-ness to it. Unlike the yummy dessert finish of the Library Bar’s Last Tango in Modena. This cocktail was m’OK but I wouldn’t go out of my way for it.

Hoping to have ended the night on a positive note we dug into our desserts ($9 each). I opted for the warm pistachio brownie served with a cup of hot chocolate with marshmallows while H.C. went with the apple hazelnut crostada with goat cheese and vanilla bean ice cream. His was better.

My dessert, although oh-so promising, was incredibly disappointing. 1) The brownie wasn’t warm and it was very dry, 2) the cocoa wasn’t all that sweet and its marshmallows tasted like erp, 3) I couldn’t even taste the pistachios even while I was chewing them.

Apple hazelnut crostada

Apple hazelnut crostada

This all made me wonder if it was all done on purpose. Maybe the cocoa wasn’t sweet so that it wouldn’t overpower the brownie. Maybe the brownie was dry so you could wet it with some cocoa or the accompanying whipped cream. Whatever the case, I didn’t like it.

But H.C. fared better with his apple tart. The combo of goat cheese, apple and ice cream was divine. We even took turns dipping the vanilla ice cream in the hot cocoa. Mm, made it better!

Now the service was friendly and accommodating enough and I would have tipped our bartender 20 percent but it still surprised me to find that the bill had already accounted for a 15% service charge. Wuuut? For just two people? I never heard of that before. A party of six, understandable. But to add that in without warning the patrons first? What if people don’t bother to add extra since they feel the tip was already figured into the bill for them? Or what if people double tip?

So, yeah, Delphine was lovely and maybe a sexy, luxurious option for those seeing a show at the Pantages who can’t find an empty bar stool at the Frolic Room. But I wouldn’t make a special trip here.

Although I do suggest taking a stroll around the W Hollywood’s lobby next door. Purty!

Delphine at the W Hollywood
6250 Hollywood Boulevard
Los Angeles, California 90028 (map)
(323) 798-1355

28 Responses to Delphine at W Hollywood: You're Beautiful but M'Eh
  1. Jennie
    February 2, 2010 | 7:06 pm

    Sorry for your experience, but glad for the warning! I was planning to scout this place for a potential party spot next month. Bad drinks and added tip? Boo!

    Be warned – Capital City in Hollywood also adds 18% tip for 2 people.

  2. Food GPS
    February 2, 2010 | 7:42 pm

    Sounds like a rough first experience at Delphine. Thanks for the report.

  3. Caroline on Crack
    February 2, 2010 | 8:11 pm

    Jennie,
    Well, you def should check it out for yourself. It’s a gorgeous space and fun to people watch. Maybe just stick to basic cocktails. What is up with these added service charge? Are we in France and no one told me?

    Food GPS,
    My pleasure!

  4. H.C.
    February 2, 2010 | 9:21 pm

    To clarify, the 15% was a suggested tip — but the way our credit card receipts were written out (with the suggestion right underneath the subtotal and above additional tip and final total) makes it seem like the 15% was automatic.

    So yeah, a very confusing lesson in math was involved post-cocktails. I guess that’s one way to test our BAC.

  5. SinoSoul
    February 3, 2010 | 12:07 am

    I loved the 15% “service compris” operating model, especially when it came to the dining bill. No thinking, just sign, & guaranteed no muted bitching afterwards by staff. Even with the set 15% suggested service, our waitress was beyond friendly & the 5 additional suits roaming the front rooms were beyond gregarious.

  6. Caroline on Crack
    February 3, 2010 | 12:13 am

    H.C.,
    Yeah, it def looked like it was part of the bill.

    SinoSoul,
    Our bartender was lovely and so helpful, too, but if they want to do that with the service charge they should at least give patrons the heads-up. But then again, like H.C. said, maybe it’s a good gauge for whether you’re sharp enough to get back on the road.

  7. Esther
    February 3, 2010 | 3:03 am

    Meh? Okay. Got it.

    …of course, I’ll still want to just peek. Doesn’t have to be a whole dinner. But very good to have the warning.

  8. Ron
    February 3, 2010 | 6:34 am

    I wanted to love this place, since it is so convenient and I like the beachy vibe in Hollywood. It saves gas, right?

    But, even though I’ve been to enough opening weeks of restaurants to expect rough edges, I’ve never had an experience quite like lunch there last weekend. You know you are in trouble when there are 3 or 4 managers drifting from table to table apologizing. It was like those Gauchos in a Brazilian steakhouse, but instead of meat, they brought contrition.

    As we waited an hour for our lunch to arrive, no less than 3 young manager types stopped by to assure us that they were on it. And this was with maybe a 40% full house. When the food finally arrived, some was ok, some was pretty inept. At least it’s priced relatively well for a hotel, I guess. But with heavy heart I can’t imagine when I’ll justify going back.

    • Caroline on Crack
      February 3, 2010 | 3:06 pm

      Esther,

      It definitely is work a peek and maybe a Manhattan!

      Ron,

      Yeah, for new places I’d like to give them the benefit of the doubt and come back months later. Maybe I’d do that with Delphine but we’ll see.

      Theodore,

      True, but I think red bell pepper would probably best work with vodka, not with rum where I’d expect something to complement that spirit’s particular flavor.

      And I did say I liked the Apple Crostada. Didn’t like the brownie dessert. Don’t know how anyone can get around a dry brownie no matter how fab the other desserts may be.

      And why not just sit at the bar and review the dessert and cocktails? It’s a great way to get the gist of a place. Plus I’m sure because I’ve only reviewed the dessert and cocktails, readers will want to check out the place anyway and maybe try the rest of the menu to form their own opinions. But at least in the back of their minds they’ll remember that the brownie dessert wasn’t so great, maybe try a cocktail other than the one I had and, oh, keep an eye out for that 15% service charge.

  9. Theodore
    February 3, 2010 | 8:42 am

    First of all i think any cocktail with red pepper in it is for a specific taste. And second of all the Boa 405 is AMAZING. It even won best cocktail of the year award in Vegas. So not sure how you could possibly not like that drink.

    And dessert??? I’m sorry I dined there last weekend and thought their desserts were excellent. especially the Apple Crostada.

    But most importantly why would you write a review and just sit at the bar and have dessert?

    And btw…it’s a hotel. That’s why there’s a 15% service charge. You should be leaving at least that anyway. So why complain about it?

  10. Thirsty in LA
    February 3, 2010 | 7:18 pm

    Thanks for the review! I’ll definitely check it out at some point, with your experience as a cautionary tale. Hope the drinks at the Living Room will be better.

  11. joan H.
    February 3, 2010 | 8:37 pm

    This review struck me as odd. I too ventured to try Delphine in it’s infancy, and had a good experience. The restaurant is beautiful, and we had a knowledgeable server. We liked our cocktails (the eva and something with berries). As for your review on cocktails, if you HATE bell pepper, why would you order a drink that has them? That’s setting yourself up for failure. As for the 15% gratuity, it says it on the menu/placemat. I would say that’s fair enough warning. Plus, shouldn’t you be leaving MORE than 15% on your check? Tisk tisk to your tipping etiquette. Our meal/dessert was awesome, we had the ganach-like chocolate cake. We’ll be back. Hope you guys give them a fair shake.

  12. Caroline on Crack
    February 3, 2010 | 9:00 pm

    Joan,
    I didn’t say I had a bad experience in terms of service. But I guess I should have emphasized that yes, our bartender was lovely and friendly and helpful and fun. As for ordering something I don’t like. That’s just my philosophy that not everyone shares which is to give something a chance. If we never try anything new or different, how can we learn and grow? I thought the cocktail sounded different enough to warrant a try.

    And if you had read my post, you’d see that I said I had planned to tip 20. If H.C. hadn’t pointed out the included charge I would have tipped 35%. The bartender was good but not THAT good!

  13. Diana
    February 3, 2010 | 9:02 pm

    Yikes! I remember Fabio made a cocktail with red peppers on one episode of Top Chef — it did not go over well at all! Such a bummer about the drinks/dessert. Brownies should always be warm! And never dry. I think I could be persuaded to try HC’s dessert though…

  14. Nancy
    February 3, 2010 | 9:15 pm

    Auto-gratuity for two people is an obnoxious policy, and not informing diners about it is a sign of poor hospitality. I’m of the 20% tipping camp, but if I came across something like that, I would just leave it.

    If you want your 15% so bad, fine. Have it your way.

  15. Bianca @ South Bay Rants n Raves
    February 4, 2010 | 2:37 am

    Sorry about your experience. Your description of those drinks just seemed really nasty. Glad the dessert was ok so it wasn’t a total loss. I do agree that the auto grat was weird…and the fact they didn’t tell you is just very odd.

  16. Jennifer
    February 4, 2010 | 5:42 am

    Do I smell a couple of shills in the comments?

  17. danieleats
    February 4, 2010 | 6:32 pm

    I’m not sure I like the auto-tip policy of 15%. If they want to tack on an extra 15%, shouldn’t they just roll it into to the prices, and then leave the tipping to us?

    I still want to try this place…maybe in a few weeks to let them work things out.

    And have you tried the Blood Sugar Sex Magic at Rivera? Another red pepper drink, but it’s incredibly good.

  18. joan H.
    February 4, 2010 | 8:41 pm

    Point taken COC. For me though, if I know I can’t stand a certain food (cilantro, eggplant etc), no matter how much you sugar coat it, I’m not gonna dig it. As for the 15% thing, I disagree with it. But to Nancy’s comment, as a former server, don’t stiff the staff because the management has a silly policy. I like to focus on the good: chocolate cake thing.

  19. Caroline on Crack
    February 5, 2010 | 1:31 am

    Diana,
    Yeah, it especially sucked since the dessert name lead me to believe it was going to be served warm.

    Nancy,
    I like the way you think.

    Bianca,
    It really did surprise me they didn’t tell me but I guess they got tired of having to tell everyone. Or at least they could put a sign OR make it more obvious in the bill.

    Jennifer,
    I don’t know about that. I’d figure Delphine or IDG would handle it a better way than that.

    DanielEats,
    I LOVE Blood Sugar Sex Magic! Yes, that IS a red pepper drink. So see, folks out there who thought it was stupid that I drink something that I might not have liked, I do like a red pepper cocktail

    Joan,
    Yes, chocolate cake thing is always a good thing. The only thing I really liked that night was H.C.’s apple crostada. That goat cheese and vanilla bean ice cream together is just magic.

  20. H.C.
    February 5, 2010 | 7:03 pm

    RE: Danieleats, Blood Sugar Sex Magic is vastly superior to this drink. The bell pepper in BSSM is much more subdued, making a slight curious presence rather than forcefully taking over the stage like an over-the-hill diva.

  21. Theodore
    February 5, 2010 | 9:27 pm

    Why? because you’re headline judges a WHOLE restaurant without actually trying the food. You say “Delphine is not all that”. It’s an odd generalization for a person who has only tried dessert and cocktails.
    And AGAIN it’s a HOTEL that have to charge that. It is not up to Delphine/IDG or your server.

  22. Theodore
    February 5, 2010 | 9:28 pm

    *AGAIN it’s a HOTEL they have to put a service charge*

  23. Jennifer
    February 5, 2010 | 10:47 pm

    Get over it Theodore. I think it’s a pretty fair, honest review for one person’s experience. If you can’t be bothered to read past the headline to see that there’s actually more to it, then stfu.

  24. rebecca
    February 5, 2010 | 11:11 pm

    Theodore,

    Not only have I worked in a hotel restaurant, but I worked in a W Hotel restaurant in NYC and they absolutely do NOT have to include a service charge. I don’t know where you got that idea, but there is no truth whatsoever to your argument.

  25. Theodore
    February 7, 2010 | 12:13 pm

    uhh Jennifer no not gonna sftu. I just don’t enjoy people calling a restaurant not “ALL THAT” when they haven’t tried the food. Yeah it kind of bugs me. NO matter if you’ve read the whole review or not. he still claims the restaurant isn’t very good on the basis of drinks and dessert.

    And again. TRUST ME. The service charge is out of the hands of Delphine and IDG. I’m not just making stuff up. Go to BOA Steakhouse Katana or Sushi Roku. None of those restaurants have a service charge. It has to do with the W:

    http://www.usatoday.com/travel/news/2005-08-25-tipping_x.htm

  26. Jennifer
    February 8, 2010 | 2:26 pm

    Ugh. Theodore, you need to get a grip. Could you please, for the love of fuck, read the whole post and even some of the comments before you spout off again? I’m taking Rebecca’s word for it here.

    And it’s perfectly reasonable to call an establishment “not all that” if three of the four things you tried were mediocre. Come on, even the “warm” brownie was cold and dry! If you have a different opinion, fine. But if it’s just based on the fact that one of the cocktails won an award, you’re a douchebag.

    If she had tried an entrée and appetizer and still didn’t like the food, would you still be throwing a hissy because she didn’t try ALL the food?

    In conclusion, stfu.

  27. [...] Opens Up Its Patio for Weekend Brunch Debut I may not like the cocktails or desserts of Delphine but the debut of their brand-new weekend brunch on their new outdoor patio is pretty enticing. And [...]

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