For my first outing to LA Live, my lady and I headed to WP24, a restaurant in the Ritz-Carlton created by that famous chef with a name like a prodigious hockey item, Wolfgang Puck. We were out celebrating, but didn’t call ahead to make plans. This meant we couldn’t get a table, because apparently WP24 has no room for walk-ins, but it also meant we weren’t locked into an $80 or $110 fixed price dinner. Instead, we were offered the lounge, which served sushi and appetizers.
To call the lounge a consolation prize would be a severe understatement. This area boasted comfortable seating, unique decor and an awesome view of downtown LA from the Ritz’s 24th floor. Plus, when we looked at the sushi and appetizer menu, it was clear that we would have plenty of food to grub down.
The gist of the menu, both in the real food are and the lounge area is sort of a nouveau Chinese. Unfortunately, Wolfgang Puck committed the classic stumble of mixing Asian cuisines by throwing in sushi, but this made my lady happy and so I was willing to forgive it at least a little.
We began with some drinks and I ordered Tiger Beer, my favorite happy hour beer from my time in Shanghai. Then we quickly moved on to appetizers and sushi. The first to come was Baby Pork Belly “Bao Buns.” This was what is sometimes referred to as Chinese Hamburger. I actually had something very similar last time I was in China, except I have to admit I liked these more. The honey-garlic glaze was delightful and despite being pork belly, these felt neither fatty nor oily.
Next, we took on the Crispy Shrimp & Crab Sushi. It came with cucumber, avocado and a ginger-soy glaze in top of the usual sushi things like rice and seaweed. Usually I would have opted to go without the cucumber, but since I was splitting everything, we ordered all our food as-is. The result was some pretty good sushi. This has less to do with the vegetables than the fact that the shrimp and crab were fried in a tasty tempura batter.
Then we continued with the sea, but moved ever so slightly back to land with the Tempura Shrimp & Bacon Rolls. These were like nothing I had ever had before, but really damn interesting. The mix of flavors and textures was pretty nuts, but it all somehow resulted in tasting great. It came with a sweet chili aioli sauce that had a decent bite to it. With or without the sauce, these were a great choice.
After that, in our tour of fried up seafood appetizers, came the Spring Rolls. And these aren’t your mama’s spring rolls. Usually spring rolls are packed with nasty bits of veggies that I don’t like, but here they were simply stuffed with Maine Lobster and Prawns, with a 10 spice honey dipping sauce. Again I was impressed by the creativity that went into conceiving these guys. They were awesome, and the dipping sauce came into play perfectly when they got just a wee bit dry.
We followed that up with what turned out to be my least favorite dish. It was the Chicken “Dan Dan” Dumplings. They were topped with ground peanuts and chili peppers. In another situation, these might have been great, but compared to these other apps, they were just kind of disappointing. They had a sort of soggy texture and the chicken itself just didn’t pack enough flavor to be worth my while. In fact, it was almost like the peppers were covering up flavor instead of enhancing it. Perhaps had I not gone on such a culinary adventure already things might have been different, but in a relative comparison WP24 had much more to offer.
Last, but not least, was the Peking Duck Roll. This was an attempt to capture the essence of Peking Duck in a roll and made a noble attempt at it. Unfortunately, the result fell well short of a true Peking Duck experience. Rather than juicy, the duck was somewhat dry and just didn’t have that light, fresh flavor that a true Peking Duck manages. Of course, if you are simply looking for some decent duck, this will suffice. WP24 even has some great hoisin sauce to go with it. But if I have the option, I’ll take the real thing.
So, the lounge at WP24 was a truly awesome experience. The view was amazing, the staff was great and it just felt cool. In fact, if I were putting together a list of things to do in LA before you die, I would definitely say to get a cocktail and an appetizer at WP24. While I could have done without a couple of the apps, the rest left me thinking that sometimes unique food is worth a bit of a steeper price.