What used to be Bar Centro Terrace, previously anointed on this site as among the hippest cigar bars in Los Angeles, is now Bar Blanca. The most important aspect of the change, though, is that cigar smoking is back at the SLS Hotel near Beverly Hills (the “L” stands for luxury and that is abundantly present).
Maybe you hadn’t noticed that enjoying a cigar had, for a couple of years, been pushed into the later hours of the night at this Chef José Andrés tapas terrace. No one at the hotel or The Bazaar, the Andrés fine-dining galaxy within the hotel, is quite sure what happened to marginalize cigar activity, but they are certain that the arrival of Ricardo Gomez, a cigar lover and the new general manager of The Bazaar, is why cigar smokers are now welcome again on La Cienega Boulevard.
“I worked with the company in Miami and in Mexico and other places,” Gomez, a Madrid native, said. “When I got here, I did not understand why we didn’t allow cigar smoking on the terrace anymore. I spoke with Chef Andrés and he was puzzled. You know, he loves cigars, and after that conversation, we moved quickly.”
The return to cigar-friendliness is being promoted with the establishment of “cigar night” the third Wednesday of each month in an effort to build a stronger presence in the cigar community, explained Anna Gaidaenko, the SLS marketing manager. Generally, there will be a spirits company representative present on cigar nights who will feature, say, Balvenie single malts, and how they pair with your cigar. Maybe there will be a cigar roller there. On some occasions, there might be a business networking event going on, but anyone who wants to can find a seat on the terrace, order a drink, some acorn-fed Jamon Iberian, and puff on your own cigar or one you purchase from the revamped cigar menu at The Bazaar.
The offerings on the cigar menu range from mild to rare and hard-to-find cigars. Mild includes an Ashton Cabinet Selection Pyramid at $34; Arturo Fuente Chateau at $22; and the iconic Macanudo Hyde Park for $20. Medium has an Arturo Fuente Short Story for $22. Moving into full bodied, you can drop $96 on a Fuente Fuente Opus X or $49 on a Padrón Anniversary 1964. Sizes can vary.
Where the humidor menu gets really interesting is in the rare and hard-to-find category. That’s where you find a 1940 Gurkha “Shaggies” Churchill for $175 and a Gurkha His Majesty Reserve for $2,000. Of course, it’s infused with Remy Martin 1970 Louis XIII Cognac. And, it’s in a thick glass tube.
On a recent evening, everyone nearby is smoking Padrón cigars. A 3000 here, a 1926 Series 80th Anniversary there. Even a Millennium! Oh, wait, there’s an Ashton ESG. This crowd is drinking Knob Creek Bourbon and Diplomatico rum. The Liquid Cherry Manhattan, a cocktail of American whiskey, sweet vermouth, Angostura bitters and a liquid cherry sphere, is very much worth your consideration.
Gomez sends out a plate of Spanish sausage along with pa amb tomáquet, the Catalan bread smeared with fragrant tomatoes. This is followed by Olives Ferran Adria, named after the famed Catalonian pioneer of molecular gastronomy. The plate includes traditional olives and the molecular spheres that are essentially little balloons of olive essence that burst in your mouth. The olives, with an underlying sweetness, complement the cigars remarkably well despite their generally briny nature.
The culinary tapas highlight arrives at the end in the form of the air-bread Philly cheesesteaks. These sliders are described as "air bread, cheddar and Wagyu beef." Of course, the bread is essentially inflated and pumped full of molten cheddar, sharp and creamy. The bread is topped with thin slices of the Wagyu.
In 2012, we reported that this terrace “ultimately brings together what you want in L.A. This is people-watching central. Car-watching, too, if you focus on the driveway a little bit. If the cigar menu is properly expanded, as promised, this is going to be among the three best places to enjoy a great cigar, great drink and unmatched food in all of California.” That goal is still to be achieved, but with Ricardo Gomez now at the helm at The Bazaar, aficionados have reasons to keep hope alive.Bar Blanca At The Bazaar
SLS Beverly Hills
465 S. La Cienega Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA
Open Sunday through Thursday: 6 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.
Friday: 6 p.m. to 12:30 a.m.
Saturday: 5:30 pm to 10:30 p.m.