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While rumors swirl that SoHo House might be opening a second location, those in the know are already enjoying a new West Side spot for meals, cocktails and exclusive hobnobbing--and this summer, it's open to everyone as a "prospective member." Shhh…

Tucked down an arcade, 41 Ocean has the sexy vibe of a Havana speakeasy. Hostesses lead you through a wrought-iron gate to your table in the tiled courtyard or to a bar-side banquette. Start with a Wilde Howard cocktail ($14; tequila blanco, muddled mint ginger, honey, cucumber and lime juice) and king crab fritters with lime salsa and crème fraîche ($14). But exercise self-control with the hand-cut Parmesan frites ($7) or you won't have room for your entrée, a juicy pan-roasted herb chicken with artichokes ($25).

Opened a few months ago, the club is the creation of Max Russo (son of Bette Midler's legendary manager, Aaron Russo), who learned VIP service at Las Vegas's Pure Nightclub. He knows how to cast a room--the night we dined, agency suits, pretty young things and hipsters mingled happily. Come Labor Day, it'll cost an annual $2,000 fee to enter, but 'til then, we've got a happy new clubhouse west of the 405. 

41 Ocean, 1541 Ocean Blvd., Santa Monica; 310-566-3870 or

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