The gravlax at Sip at the Renaissance Hotel. Photos by Brian Addison.

When one walks into Sip at the Renaissance Hotel in Downtown Long Beach, there is one major bummer: the massive glass windows overlooking the corner of Ocean and Pine have equally massive curtains, shuttering out what would otherwise be a fantastic view of urban life in Long Beach.

“Those will be the first to go,” noted Pam Ryan, General Manager of the Renaissance. “Then we will contemporize the furniture, give it a bit of a face lift, activate the space more with a better ambiance and, of course, better food.”

Sip01Ryan doesn’t enjoy the fact that when people think hotel, they think tourism and banality. She thinks that hotels have the role of not only catering to their guests, but catering to locals. Hotels should play with attracting not just the conventioneers across the street looking for TGIFs on the water but locals who crave unique, locally driven places to hang and drink—and that’s precisely what she plans on doing, beyond the recent renovation that occured earlier this year.

Take, for example, her commissioning of local artist Esic (aka Zach Howard), the co-founder of The Rogues Gallery. His surrealist style—visit Rogues and see his swimming elephant mural along Alamo Ct. at the gallery’s East Village Arts location on 3rd—will be used to help cover the edge of the balcony lining the upper terrace that sits above Sip. Ryan notes that, come the end of July, Esic plans on doing an “inverted ode” to Wyland’s massive whale mural on the outside of the Arena.

Furthermore, Ryan wants to activate not only the Renaissance pool, but insists that pools throughout the Long Beach hotel scene should be open to the public every now and then.

“We’ve replaced the furniture already,” Ryan said. “Come Sundays, we plan on having a ‘Sunday Funday’-like event where we bring out a DJ, host a local craft bartender, and charge a minimal cover charge for anyone who wants to hang out poolside… We’re even looking to have a speakeasy-like VIP room in the back where this beautiful space that is currently being unused will cater to our new cocktail menu.”


The calamari bolognese.

Beyond the physical, there is Ryan’s hope that the hiring of former Top Chef contestant Janine Falvo to head Sip as its newest Executive Chef to oversee a new menu bring the space a lift in food quality. Once home to Suzanne Tracht’s inaugural Long Beach restaurant, Tracht abruptly left once her contract was done and the space has since then struggled to maintain an identity, with its last chef, Michael Poompan, leaving for the Ritz-Carlton.

Falvo hopes to ditch the American-inspired fare of Poompan in favor of sticking to her own Italian roots. Her family’s heritage, based out of Calabria in Southern Italy (whose local chiles she uses often), has always been the source of her culinary inspiration. The area’s love of seafood is, for Falvo, the perfect starting point for her new adventure in Long Beach.

Sip04Falvo’s ocean-to-fork menu, debuting today, offers tidbits like fried oysters with caramelized onions and roasted jalapeños that sit on top of an awesome tartar sauce made with pickled ramps.

Italian food and deconstruction are Falvo’s strengths, as exemplified through her take on gnocchi bolognese. Rather than the typical ground beef for the red sauce, she grounds fresh calamari and adds a more-than-admirable dose of spice that makes it almost feel like an gorgeously chunky arrabbiata. Or her “Falvo family sausage,” which she puts chunks of over maxima clams with fennel and Calabrian chiles.

When it comes to deconstructing dishes, her take on Nordic gravlax is nothing short of impeccable: lemon cucumbers with a strong dill marinade sit underneath vacuum-pickled salmon while deep-fried balls of cream cheese sit atop sliced beets and are paired with thinly sliced and baked bagel chips. Even better? The anise-like flavor of the salmon pairs perfectly with the restaurant’s house gin made by TRU—something Falvo insists that guests try when having the dish.

Speaking of gin, Falvo has honored Long Beach history with gin-and-juice popsicles that are sure to be a poolside adult favorite.

Falvo’s success with Sip hasn’t come easily. Following the departure of Poompan, she was thrown directly into the lion’s den on Grand Prix weekend, facing a cohort of Real Housewives (including that ever-picky GiGi Hadid) and Shahs of Sunset who insisted they have their own menu.

“So I grabbed a napkin and created an entirely new menu on the fly,” Falvo said. “Thank God they approved. In fact, they loved it.”

The growing popularity of Falvo’s dishes encouraged Ryan to move Sip away from the apps-and-drinks-only type of establishment and encourage Falvo to explore with full-on entrées. First up to be offered to the public is her brined-and-smoked chicken that sits on top of a pickled ramp Italian salsa verde and comes with grilled Castelvetrano olives and deep fried cherry tomatoes.

“It’s been a ton of work,” Falvo said. “I’ve been at it non-stop but in the end, I believe people will get it. We want Sip and its food to be its own thing for both guests and locals.”

Sip is located at the Renaissance Hotel in Downtown Long Beach, 111 E. Ocean Blvd.

Read more:

{FG_GEOMAP [33.7674056,-118.1915634] FG_GEOMAP}