Emil Eyvazoff is back in the clouds, both literally and figuratively. The longtime operator of US Bank Tower restaurant 71Above sounds eager, excited even, when reached by phone last week, because he’s about to unveil a brand new open-air project some 69 floors above street level in Downtown Los Angeles, called simply Vista.
“Most people who experienced this patio were tourists,” says Eyvazoff from his perch above the city. Indeed, the 69th floor of the building, called Skyspace, was mostly used for expensive (and short) slides down a glass chute that hung off the side of the skyscraper; a novel moment, but little more. The Skyspace patio was always available for a ticketed price — and two floors below the free-to-get-in 71Above restaurant — but the beer and light bites, overseen by the building’s then-owners, didn’t often inspire return trips. Enter the pandemic, and with it a whole new owner for the US Bank Tower building in New York-based Silverstein Properties. Now the slide is no longer in use but the patio is Eyvazoff’s to tinker with, a welcome addition considering 71Above has been unable to offer outdoor dining throughout the pandemic.
“We had this crazy plan in place,” says Eyvazoff of his initial thoughts on using the open-air, 360-degree patio two floors below his restaurant’s kitchen. “Between circulators, steamers, warming ovens, all that stuff, we were going to do the lion’s share of heavy prep for that level of food on 71 and then bring it down to 69. That was the plan.”
Needless to say it all proved logistically challenging and, coupled with the beginnings of LA’s move to consecutive less restrictive reopening tiers (meaning indoor dining for 71Above), perhaps improperly timed. So Eyvazoff and chef Javier Lopez decided to pivot to a more shelf-stable setup, crafting a kind of holding kitchen on the 69th floor and using the 71st floor for daytime prep.
The menu reads like a laid back Mediterranean wine bar with lots of mezze, broadly speaking, including a rotating collection of small dips and salads and snacks. “It’ll be hummus, Lebanese moutabel, muhammara with ground walnuts, a cabbage salad, fattoush salad, maybe something like a tomato-cucumber-feta salad, olives and pickles that we’ll do here,” says Eyvazoff, rattling off the proposed menu items in an anticipated hurry. It’s all coming together fast, and Eyvazoff is matching speed.
He’s right to be in a happy rush, given Vista arrives for its first service tomorrow night April 6. There are still a few kinks to be ironed out — for one, the patio can’t offer traditional compressed gas heaters due to the obvious fire concerns that come with being 904 feet off the ground — but that’s okay. Eyvazoff is a Downtown type of guy, he’s been running restaurants there for more than a decade, and he feels the time is now to get back into the flow after such a year of stasis and loss, in part because it allows him to rehire more of his furloughed staff. And with plans to reopen 71Above soon, that number will only grow, though even there Eyvazoff knows that things will naturally have to look, feel, and even taste a little different, at least compared to before the pandemic. He’s excited about that challenge, too.
“We wanted to get back out there and show Angelenos that it’s not just fine dining we can do, it’s not just American that we can do,” says Eyvazoff. “We’ve got broad capabilities. We didn’t want to do anything near the wheelhouse, anything near the comfort zone.”
Vista opens tomorrow, keeping hours from 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., Sunday through Thursday, with an extension to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday night. The opening menu, starting at $54 per person, can be seen here.