Cavatina, opening in early January inside the Sunset Marquis hotel, is Mediterranean with a twist. James Beard Award winner Michael Schlow's first West Coast venture is a tad nostalgic. Snacks include homemade potato chips with chile-green onion dip and jalapeno tater tots.

Best known for his five restaurants in Boston, Schlow is not big on sauce. “If you don't use the ingredients Mother Nature gives you, you should have your white jacket taken away,” he says. The idea is simple: salt, pepper, heat and fresh herbs. And no signs of molecular gastronomy.

Walk past musical decor along the lobby walls (classic electric guitars, song notes) and a relaxing pool lounge to enter the charming, heated outdoor patio. There you'll find Cavatina, an Italian word that means a short song or an aria. It's fitting. The Sunset Marquis is home-away-from-home for many musicians and creative types. It's not uncommon to see Marilyn Manson and his oddball crew getting drinks at the lobby bar or descendants of John Lennon dining with the beautiful people by candlelight. After all, Katy Perry recorded an entire album in the studio, Nightbird, just underneath the hotel.

Like many restaurants in the city, Schlow's mission is to move away from stuffy dining and more toward modern, casual cuisine that focuses on ingredients rather than overwhelming accoutrements. Updating its look, the restaurant will trash the white tablecloths, put in new floors and more lighting, and swap in smaller chairs. One thing that will remain the same is the Swarovski crystal balls that hang low from the ceiling.

Notable items on the menu will include fried olives, yellowtail with Santa Barbara uni and caviar, lamb meatballs, kale salad, beef tongue with lentils, rosemary and salsa verde and one of the best burgers you will find in the city. A winner of the 2008 South Beach Wine and Food Festival, the burger is dressed with cheddar, crispy onions and horseradish sauce. Pair that with a few hair-raising cocktails and you might find yourself booking a villa for the night.

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