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Chef José Andrés Brings Dinner Magic Back to Downtown Los Angeles

Inside ThinkFoodGroup’s big new Downtown dining hub, where one of the world’s most famous chefs is backdropped by Spanish flavors, California produce, and the LA skyline

A cocktail in a white and tan colorway within a smoking box.
Cocktail innovations at SED
Wonho Frank Lee

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Farley Elliott is the Senior Editor at Eater LA and the author of Los Angeles Street Food: A History From Tamaleros to Taco Trucks. He covers restaurants in every form, from breaking news to the culture, people, and history that surrounds LA's dining landscape.

Los Angeles has been without the talents of chef José Andrés for nearly two years, ever since his Bazaar and Somni restaurants closed on La Cienega in summer 2020. It’s not that Andrés has been lounging around, waiting for the right time to return — he’s been busy facilitating a variety of humanitarian missions as part of his World Central Kitchen, and also patiently waiting for developers to build the right kind of space for his return. Andrés isn’t flashy (he’s usually spotted in a multi-pocketed, muted-toned vest, moving fast from one need to the next), though his nationwide network of restaurants can be. Even by those standards, his newest sprawling project is an architectural feat: dropping right in the heart of Downtown and opening next week.

Andrés’s ThinkFoodGroup has taken up residence in several simultaneous spaces inside the Conrad Los Angeles, an upscale hotel that is itself part of the larger Grand LA shopping and entertainment development across the street from Walt Disney Concert Hall. Built by Related Companies and designed by famed architect Frank Gehry, this project has been years in the making for Andrés, for the 305-room Conrad hotel, and for Angelenos eager to see one of America’s most celebrated chefs return to the city. The party starts now.

First up is San Laurel, meant to be an anchor restaurant for the Conrad hotel property. Keeping all-day hours from 7 a.m. breakfast through lunch and into dinner (5 p.m. to 11 p.m.), this is the place where Andrés’s team will reinterpret California cuisine with a more decidedly Spanish lens. There are fine dining trappings that feel right at home in a high-end hotel, like the bone-in wagyu ribeye, but fans will also feel the flavors of the Iberian peninsula in simple ways, like a manchego espuma over grilled romaine or a meatless carpaccio made with celery root.

A close up shot of thinly sliced lobster in an orange sauce on a blue and white plate.
Lobster salpicon at San Laurel

On the design front, San Laurel was built by Tara Bernerd & Partners and sits on the 10th floor of the Grand LA, which doubles as the lobby of the Conrad hotel. The height means more opportunities to take in the city views around the building, while inside, the restaurant is awash in brass touches and a range of textures from leather to velvet. Expect banquette seating, a formidable bar, and a robust terrace with views of the also-Gehry-designed Disney Concert Hall.

Next up is Agua Viva, a rooftop option that’s meant to capture the beach club energy of coastal Spain, but with flavors pulled from across the Latin and Asian diaspora. Here, diners can wile away the summer with shared plates of coconut ceviche, do-it-yourself salmon handrolls, a ribeye burger, and plenty of drinks. There are two dining spaces in all, one upper and one lower, offering views out to the San Gabriels and across Downtown. Hours here are 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily.

Elsewhere at the Conrad, the ThinkFoodGroup has turned on Airlight, a poolside deck situation with snacks and drinks — think tiki punch bowls and grilled meat skewers, for those looking to lounge along the water between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. And then there is SED, a cocktail enclave nearer to San Laurel that aims to push the spirits forward with drinks like a Japanese whisky milk punch. The small space centers around a mid-century drinking room with a curved bar, and keeps hours from 5 p.m. to close daily. The Beaudry Room will also offer drinks, balancing a dozen or so cocktails on the menu across both classics and riffs in a more open space, with hours from 11 a.m. to close daily.

It’s all a massive undertaking for Andrés, the ThinkFoodGroup team, and the Conrad at large, but the world has come to know nothing less from one of the most important people in the culinary world. Mostly, Los Angeles is just glad to have him back — soon, another location of Bazaar Meat located elsewhere at the Grand LA — once more. San Laurel, Agua Viva, and the rest of the ThinkFoodGroup’s projects are fully open for reservations as of Friday, July 8 at 100 S. Grand Avenue in Downtown Los Angeles.

A close up shot of sliced salmon and greens on a blue plate.
DIY salmon hand rolls at Agua Viva
A hand pours a dark brown liquid overtop of rare-cooked lamb chops.
Rack of lamb from San Laurel
Two lamb racks sit side up, showing meaty interiors on a white plate.
A rounded stone bowl holds cut fruit and cream at a new restaurant.
Strawberry and cream for dessert
A close up shot of a smoking tan cocktail with florals on top.
Bergeron’s secret chest from SED
A light orange cocktail with lemon peel garnish and block ice.
Squaring the Circle from SED
A moody cocktail in all black glass against a black background.
An evening view of a large airy dining room at a new restaurant showing skyline beyond.
Indoor-outdoor dining at San Laurel
A design touch shows off spindles on a white stone plate at a new restaurant.
A dark vertical photo of a dining room at a fancy new hotel, with muted tan tones.
A sunset view of a tiled and leather restaurant bar.
The bar at San Laurel
A terrace at a restaurant looks out over the Walt Disney Concert Hall.
Big LA views, too
A tall look at a restaurant that is open to the air and partially roofed, at sunset.
Desert plants and light tones touch off this new restaurant terrace.
A long open-air bar punctuated by wooden beams at sunset.
The bar at Agua Viva
Rounded tables and wooden beams and skyline views at a new rooftop bar.
Hangouts and heaters
A tall side shot of small round tables at a rooftop lounge at sunset.
An off-tan table with marble looks at a new rooftop restaurant at sunset.
A soaring open-air dining room with lots of greenery at sunset.
A long path down the middle of a dining area to a bar at a new restaurant on a rooftop.
Walking into Agua Viva
A lobby bar at a sky-high elevated upscale hotel at sunset.
The Beaudry Room bar
A tall look at a deep red and stone bar space inside a hotel.
A tall look at a lobby bar at a new hotel at sunset.
A curved bar and lounge area at sunset inside a new hotel.
SED at the Conrad

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