|TAKE A FLYER: Can a hotel restaurant become hip? The Renaissance Long Beach thinks they’ve found the formula with Tracht’s.|
Remember when steakhouse operators thought that brightening their interiors and adding a handful of non-meat options to the menu would make their male-oriented enclaves more appealing to women? It worked. In fact, this strategy was successful not only in attracting more female customers, but to the point of attracting female chef/owners who realized that the steakhouse segment was one where customers were plentiful and culinary and design imagination were in short supply. None of them found more success than Suzanne Tracht, who has, first with Jar in Los Angeles and now with the recently opened Tracht’s in Long Beach, come up with a steakhouse concept that works in a variety of locations.
Tracht’s particular spin on the steakhouse genre at Jar, which opened in 2001, was a tasty mix of braised dishes, such as her famous pot roast, and straightforward broiler offerings, plus imaginative starters, sauces and sides that elevated the whole works to the level of a serious restaurant. “Traditional steakhouses don’t base their menus on the season, but at Jar, it’s our mission,” says Tracht.
She developed that sensibility while working as chef de cuisine at L.A.’s legendary Campanile, whose chef-owner, Mark Peel, was Tracht’s partner in the early days at Jar. Her restaurant made such an impact that Tracht was chosen a Food & Wine Best New Chef in 2002, one of the few steakhouse chefs we can recall being tapped for that honor.
|BEYOND BEEF: Suzanne Tracht injects new life into the steakhouse genre at Tracht’s.|
Jar had such wide appeal that it caught the eye of Sunstone Hotel Investors, owner of the Long Beach Renaissance. It was in the market for a restaurant with a celebrity chef connection. The well-connected CZH Hospitality Group, which brokers deals between high-profile chefs and hotels which desire their services, put together the licensing agreement between Tracht and the Renaissance.
Hotel general manager Nusrat Mirza was glad they did. “Suzanne now joins Todd English, Bradley Ogden, Michael Mina and Melissa Kelly in another great chef partnership with us, helping to raise the culinary standards at the Marriott and Renaissance Hotel & Resorts,” he says.
Indeed. If it’s your job to come up with a sexy hotel restaurant that’s going to make an impact in downtown Long Beach, you’ve got your work cut out for you. Linking up with a chef like Tracht gets you almost all the way there. Also helping is the location. Ocean Boulevard in Long Beach isn’t as urbane and stylish as Jar’s spot on Beverly Boulevard in Los Angeles, but it does get a ton of traffic. The Renaissance is located next to the Long Beach Convention Center and the Queen Mary and is just steps away from other Long Beach attractions. Throw in the hotel guests and there should be more than enough hungry visitors to go around
The dining room, which has a separate entrance, seats 85. Thirty-foot-high windows give patrons a wide-lens view of the nearby action. A 62-seat outdoor patio, complete with fire pit, turns out to be a huge attraction, enabling guests to eat chef-driven food while ogling the passing parade.
|TOTAL COMFORT: Suzanne Tracht’s classic take on pot roast headlines her menu in Long Beach. A dandy outdoor patio accommodates 62 patrons, while the rest pile into the stylish bar.|
And eat they do, off a menu that is almost a carbon copy of Jar’s. Starters include “Crab Devilled Eggs” and “Black Mussels, ong choy, lobster bearnaise and fennel salt.” Six salad selections tempt those who want to keep things light.
The “Broilers and Roasts” section features seven steaks. But there’s also a “Char Sui Pork Chop” and “Lemongrass Chicken with Kaffir Lime Leaf” to spice up the mix.
“Braises and Sautes” is where Tracht trots out some of her signatures: “Braised Lamb Shank, Star Anise, Coriander, Garlic”; “Pot Roast, Caramelized Onions, Carrots;” and “Coq au Vin, Red Wine, Applewood Smoked Bacon, Pearl Onions, Crimini.” The side dish list sees the traditional steakhouse favorites livened up with items such as “Duck Fried Rice.” Old school desserts feature Tracht’s classic take on chocolate pudding.
Collectively, the menu demonstrates, as Los Angeles Times restaurant critic S. Irene Virbila puts it, “Tracht’s unerring instinct for what people want to eat now. Hotel restaurants, even serious ones such as Tracht’s, can’t seem to overcome the perception that they’re solemn and stuffy, expensive and boring. In this case, they should, because Tracht’s is serving the best food I’ve had in Long Beach.”
So how is business at this chef-driven steakhouse where traditional favorites rub shoulders with seasonally inspired cuisine? Strong enough that Tracht’s has already added lunch service, four months into its run. If you’re looking for a concept that will let you break into the hotel market, this is a sterling example to follow.