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Delphine clandestinely nails happy hour with booze and a raw bar

June 22, 2011 |  1:51 pm

Oyster The perfect happy hour is a tussle between impulses. If you drink too much, well, then you've just gotten drunk at 6 p.m. and are down for the count for the night. If you eat too much, then you've thrown off your circadian dinner rhythms and will wind up half-asleep at 1 a.m. trying to make a peanut-butter burrito. But if you hold back on either, then why go to happy hour at all?

Delphine at the W Hollywood hotel has a Solomonic wisdom about handling this conundrum. By day and night, it plies a low-key California spin on straightforward French brasserie fare in envrions so sleekly opulent that Newt Gingrich might want a line of credit there.

But between 5 and 7 p.m. every day it unexpectedly transforms into an exceptional raw bar value. The selection is kind of absurd for a posh bar in a high-end hotel: $1 "East Coast" oysters, clams and New Zealand mussels; larger, $2 "West Coast" oysters; a $3 melange of olives doused in rosemary and sun-dried tomatoes that you can almost make a meal of (excellent for non-seafood-eaters); and a $5 spread of roasted-garlic hummus, fattoush and pita round out the food highlights alongside staples of ceviche and shrimp cocktail.

I've interviewed several rappers at the adjoining hotel for music features, and the genre's current drink of choice, sparkling rose, clocks in at $5 a glass, alongside a pinot grigio and a fruity house vodka cocktail. There's even a decadence to the cognitive dissonance of drinking a $4 PBR out of a classy pilsner glass. Everything's at the exact flashpoint of an inexpensive indulgence that won't derail your night if you have to be productive later. And if you don't have that expectation, there's Frolic Room right across the street.

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-- August Brown

Photo: Raw beauty. Credit: Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times

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