"We're traveling out of the SGV for Chinese food?" asks the Gastronomer as we carpooled down the 110. Indeed, I had the same bewildered thought too ~ but how can we resist a chance to check out bar bites & drinks at WP24, celeb-chef Wolfgang Puck's latest resto housed high in the Ritz-Carlton Residences Tower @ L.A. Live.
Of course, longtime Angelenos know that this is not Puck's first foray into Far East fare. That honor goes to Chinois in Santa Monica, which opened in '83 and put some major steam behind the Pan-Asian fusion movement that is pretty ubiquitous, some say overdone, in the urban food scene now. So color me curious as to what else can be fresh and innovative in this realm more than a quarter century after.
As expected, one of the biggest draw for WP24 is its spectacular view, overlooking the downtown LA skyline and the 110 freeway. Coupled with the modern-chic vibe of the lounge, it's definitely a nice spot to impress a date, out-of-town visitor or business acquaintance.
The drinks we sampled that night all leaned on the fruity side with a slight Asian flair, such as the Pinarita above with Thai basil-infused tequila and pineapple juice and the Pearfect Asian with Absolut Pear, Canton ginger liqueuer & lime. Overall they were a bit too sweet & mellow for me, but I appreciate the slight envelope-pushing aspects of the menu to gently wean the crowd away from the likes of margaritas, cosmopolitans and other vodka-based "-tinis," hopefully over time the bar will develop even more edgier selection for those looking for a real palate challenge worth the ~$16 price tag (maybe pair that ginger with wasabi to clear the tastebuds? how about something with Chinese five-spice to blend with the cuisine? Or an aromatic cocktail with fresh yuzu and jasmine tea? Or better yet, incorporate traditional Asian spirits and liqueurs for a truly fusion cocktail match against the menu!) But for now, Rivera & Cana reign supreme when I wanna get my cocktail on around L.A. Live.
As for the bar bites themselves, it depends on what you deemed acceptable as Asian-inspired fare. My best analogy so far is that this is the equivalent of "modernized, fusion rolls" against traditional sushi (and funny enough, the sushi & sashimi are offered as bar bites here too!) The lounge dishes we sampled included an array of dumpling and spring roll variations, which like the fusion rolly sushi, are very saucy with more richer, more pungent ingredients compared to traditional deal. Symbolic of this is the "dan dan" chicken dumplings we tried, assertive creatures with a one-two-three punch of peanut, garlic and chili -- unlike the more delicate flavors of the steamed, boiled or even pan-fried dumplings that I'm used to. I don't mean it in a better or worse way, just different.
Since I easily admit to indulging in the occasional fusion rolls with spicy tuna, avocado, mayo and teriyaki sauces, there were definitely a few not-quite-authentic fusion treats on here too. My favorites included the tiny dumplings that were huge on flavor with its vibrant chili oil and black vinegar combination that delightfully complemented the rich pork belly filling and the above peking duck rolls that was packed with juicy, moist meat and made for a dippable, finger-friendly variation of the original. Too bad I didn't get a chance to try the baby pork belly bao buns, which were in short supply and high demand @ our tables.
The fusiony sushi rolls were pretty decent too, but I wasn't able to ID this one from that given the hasty pace that they were served and how fast everyone devoured them after, giving me little opportunity to determine what I actually ate.
Overall, lounging @ WP24 was a pleasant experience with a surprisingly number of tasty dishes if one can check their authentically Asian expectations at the door and overlook the amusing redundancy in some menu items, such as the Shrimp Har Gow and Bao Buns. I for one, plan on finally feasting on those bao buns while indulging some classic drinks and maybe a delectable sweet bite, all the while soaking up the glittery landscape of the city.
More photos from the media dinner here
900 W Olympic Blvd.
Los Angeles, California 90015