LA Weekly critic Besha Rodell masterfully slices through the heart and intentions of 71Above, the grand restaurant sitting atop the U.S. Bank Tower in Downtown Los Angeles. And while she’s still much complementary of chef Vartan Abgaryan’s food, the critic does a helpful job of explaining how the restaurant itself fits into the greater city’s dining culture. Take, for example, the astute observation that despite its appeal as a romantic restaurant, the best tables require at least a table for three (or four) to reserve:
This is a romantic restaurant above all else, which makes it a little lame that those window-side tables must be purchased for three or more guests. If you want to come as a couple and also be guaranteed a window-side seat, you need to buy a table for three. The extra $70 — the cost of the empty seat in the eyes of the restaurant — also is applied to your final bill. So if you drink a bottle of wine and have a dessert (not included in the three-course prix fixe), the math should come out in your favor.
Meanwhile, she points out her largest complaint about Abgaryan’s cooking, in that it mainly looks better than it tastes:
This was true of a sunchoke soup that was gorgeously textured and looked amazing as the server poured it from its little vessel to surround the whipped creme fraiche and orange pearls of trout roe already in the bowl. But the soup itself had very little flavor, so mild it almost tasted as if potato was the featured tuber rather than sunchoke, and the trout roe were oddly resilient, making the work of biting through their skin a distraction.
Rodell also points out the necessity of mass appeal, from the ribeye and roast chicken on the menu to the "techno-lite" soundtrack.
This is the paradox of our era: We reject fine dining as too stuffy while also feeling as though the unstuffy places don't quite cut it for special occasions. And when a place like 71Above comes along, which tries to reinject a sense of occasion and grandeur, it feels a little out of date.
She finishes the review by saying that the restaurant itself would’ve been incredibly exciting twenty years ago, but today feels a little tired and dated. That comes despite an incredible interior and suave service. Three stars out of five.