Waaay back in the 1920s or so, Wilshire and Rampart was a snazzy place to be. The nearby Park Plaza hotel hosted some of the town's ritziest parties and fashionable folks stayed at the neon-topped Wilshire Royale Apartments, popping over to Bullock's Wilshire for tea and Perino's for dinner. Unfortunately, we all missed those days, when MacArthur Park was an actual park instead of a vast den of iniquity.
But with the ongoing revitalization of downtown, the Wilshire Corridor is also getting some sprucing up, and I was invited recently to try Royale Restaurant and Lounge, which is well in the vanguard of revitalizing the area. It may, in fact, be a few years too early for a spot this vast and ambitious to catch on in this area, but hopefully it can hang on until people move into all those condos.
Design score: You enter the Royale through an imaginatively-decorated lounge area with a giant conversation pit booth, pool table, stuffed birds and branches on the wall and other tres-2007 decor touches. Stop for a cocktail or continue directly to the restaurant across a large courtyard (smokers, get off here). The restaurant on the other side of the courtyard is the former hotel's ballroom, and it's an airy white space with twinkling lights over the bar and more branches, making for a not-unpleasant Miami Beach-meets-hunting lodge effect.
Now the chow: The food is fine, covering all the bases du jour -- spareribs, various raw fishies, Jidori chicken, truffle burger, but it has a lot of competition from the stylish room and pricey restroom accoutrements. My short rib main course with buttermilk mashed potatoes and chard was quite good and the garlic parmesan fries were rather addictive. Desserts seek to placate your inner child; the cotton candy made my teeth hurt, but there's also root beer floats, Valrhona cake and chocolate chip cookies in case you don't do blue food.
Don't forget to stop by the bathroom with its show-stopper $6,000 toilet, which was already covered by The Knife -- suffice it to say that sitting on a pre-heated seat and then being gently cleansed by a stream of warm water in a restaurant restroom is probably something everyone should try once.
What it's good for: dates, parties, Downtown and Koreatown dwellers, lovers of updated comfort food, the young and young at heart
Not so much: kids, vegetarians