Monday, February 19, 2018

71Above (Los Angeles, USA) ★★★★☆

Less than 15 hours after our dinner at La Boucherie, we found ourselves back in downtown Los Angeles once again. Coincidentally, 71Above, our lunch venue today is also perched on the 71st floor of a skyscraping building in the downtown area. Can we expect the same breathtaking view? We're all a little curious to find out.

Housed atop of the US Bank building on the 71st floor with panoramic view of downtown LA, 71Above (thus the name) is touted as the highest restaurant west of the Mississippi.

I can now confirm that the view is every bit as stunning as the one at La Boucherie.

Of course I didn't just come here for the view. The other bit of business for me is to check out chef Vartan Abgaryan's contemporary American cuisine which is supposed to be innovative and refreshing. Chef Abgaryan, born and grown up in Armenia, immigrated to the United States in 1991. After getting his formal training at Le Cordon Bleu (Las Vegas) and then honing his skills at the famed André Soltner restaurant, Lutèce, he went on to lead a number of kitchens in California including a famous stint at Cliff's Edge where he made a name for himself. In late 2015, he left Cliff's Edge to open 71Above.

Despite its billing as an upscale fine-dining restaurant with a view, the 2-course pre-fix modern American menu by chef Abgaryan didn't exactly burn a hole in my pocket. As a matter of fact, I was a little surprised how reasonably priced it was (at USD$35 only).

Hamachi, passion fruit, mango, citrus, white soy, serrano - First up for me was some fresh hamachi. This was almost like a classic Peruvian tiradito with the raw fish drizzled over with a flavorful dressing of passion fruit, white soy and serrano. There was further acidity coming from the slices of mango and citrus on top. For the most part, I like the dish a lot especially the hamachi but the mix of acidity really overwhelmed the natural flavors of the raw fish.

Chestnut soup, black truffle, salted maple cream - Very nice and silky. The shaved black truffle has really taken the richness of the chestnut soup to another level.

Steak tartare, shallot, mustard, olive oil, olives - Kind of reminded me a little of MUME's signature wagyu tartare. It had the making of a really good steak tartare with all the interesting variations in color, flavor and texture. Only if they could tune down the truffle and mustard a little for a bit better balance and perhaps adding some crunchy notes to the equation, it would be perfect.

Diver scallop, squash risotto, sage, parmesan, brown butter - I was mighty impressed with the size of these diver scallops when they showed up. They made Hokkaido scallops (which Hong Kongers are very accustomed to seeing) look small.

This is just a perfect dish in every way. The scallops were seared to absolute perfection. The squash risotto (Oh, I love anything with squash) was wonderfully creamy and the touch of parmesan was right on. Very enjoyable.

King salmon, salt roasted beets, charred fennel, sunchoke cream, mandarin - Incredibly tender with a lovely crispy skin. Really nice with the sunchoke (or Jerusalem artichoke) cream, dill and salt roasted beets.

In terms of facility, you just couldn't ask for more. They have a pretty large bar area for those who're waiting for their table to be ready or for their party to show up. Just a real nice place to get a drink or two before the meal.

I didn't expect such great results from a restaurant better known for its stunning view. Without question, I will recommend this place to anyone looking for a special dining experience in downtown Los Angeles.

Food Rating: 6.5/10
Price: $$$
Address: 633 West 5th Street, 71st Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90071, USA
Tel: +1 213-712-2683

71Above modern contemporary American restaurant breathtaking downtown Los Angeles view chef Vartan Abgaryan

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