Los Angeles Staycation
Despite available airfare wars, many folks are keeping their powder dry and enjoying vacations nearer to home. This is first in a series of articles exploring nearby getaways.
We decided to vacation in our city’s backyard with an evening in downtown Los Angeles.
We had been hearing about Takami Sushi for several months, but were not convinced that we could get a sufficiently special sushi meal high atop a city skyscraper. But as we stepped off the elevator at the penthouse level into the spacious Elevate Lounge at dusk, we knew we had been missing a treat.
The broad low wood table is the centerpiece in the muted light of the Lounge. A sushi bar is recessed on one side and a semi-open kitchen on the other. But the eye is drawn to the broad windows with the vast city unfolding beyond. The vista faces mostly south and east, with the nearby office buildings providing immediate perspective. Tables are available either inside or outside, with deuces along the exterior wall.
Designers of the space are Tag Front, also responsible for the eye-catching look at Boa, Katana, The Ivar, Nacional and the Geisha House around town.
Our evening at Takami Sushi started with a ginger and orange martini, a concoction that was smooth but with a distinctively tart flavor perfect for preparing our palette.
From the Lounge Faire menu we tried Shishito Poppers (tempura peppers stuffed with spicy tuna, drizzled with sweet soy). The Lounge is a superb choice for those on a budget; the two hour late afternoon happy hour offers half prices on the appetizers and five dollar glasses of wine.
Albacore is ubiquitous at west coast sushi restaurants, but it is too rarely prepared in a novel way. Executive Chef Stan Ota has blended the smooth buttery albacore he selects with a variety of ingredients. Our favorite was the namesake Takami Roll, which combines the seemingly disparate flavors of spicy tuna, snow crab and asparagus, topped with albacore and an apple ponzu sauce.
Although not a fan of lamb, my wife was encouraged to try the baby lamb chops from the robata menu. She admitted the dish changed her mind about lamb. The thick chop was tender, gently seasoned and grilled to a succulent warm pink interior.
We were equally enamored of the Miso Chilean Sea Bass, prepared with champagne yuzu sauce and served with wasabi mashed potatoes. The wine list was eclectic, and reasonably priced.
The service at Takami Sushi was crisp, friendly, informative and efficient.
As the dusk darkened and the lights of the city bubbled to life, we became convinced that evocative sushi can be found atop a skyscraper in Los Angeles.
Various boutique hotels have looked for a toehold in the downtown Los Angeles market. The Biltmore has been serving visitors for decades. I had not visited the Biltmore in years, and we decided that its proximity to Takami Sushi made it an ideal choice. Whereas most hotels west of downtown Los Angeles are newer and sleeker, the Millenium Biltmore basks in its historical glow. I recalled the hotel as more of the proverbial dowager from my prior visit for a benefit dinner decades ago. But the tasteful sprucing up of the lobby refresehes the visitors’ first impressions. The tall ceiling and its stained glass façade leverages well the Biltmore’s old world status. Of course “old world” in Los Angeles means circa 1923, when the Biltmore opened. During the 1930s and 1940s the hotel hosted a series of Academy Award Oscar ceremonies, and for a time was the largest hotel west of Chicago.
The beaux arts design is evident throughout the public space of the hotel. The lobby’s impressive stained glass ceiling was painted by Giovanni Smeraldi, who also worked on treatments in the Vatican and the White House
Our room was comfortable, with a large king bed, desk and easy chair. The bathroom fixtures were sufficiently updated. The sounds of the city were somewhat muffled by the tall windows.
The Biltmore is located for easy access to the highlights of downtown. By adding a visit to one of Los Angeles’ landmarks (The Music Centre, MOCA, Staples Center, Nokia Live, Dodgers Stadium) one can easily enjoy a great staycation in the warm pulse beat of the city’s nerve center.
appetizers $8, entrees $15
rooms from $159