Rising into the Stars: Nest at WP24

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Some of the best dining in this City of Angels can be found in Los Angeles proper, although it was once uncertain if downtown Los Angeles would rise into the dining scene at all. Having been a loft resident of downtown LA in the early 90’s before it was hip, eating out close to home meant a trek to Old Town Pasadena or a jaunt over to Hillhurst Avenue in my hometown Los Feliz, unless you wanted to grab a greasy burrito at a nearby stand in neighboring Lincoln Heights or some quick wok-fried noodles in Chinatown. But you’d have to venture beyond for fine dining. Ah, how far downtown restaurants have come since then.

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I’m not forgetting the classic diners and few restaurants that existed in downtown LA (and still do), such as The Pantry, Cole’s and Yang Chow. Even the très French Taix in Silverlake was close enough if you wandered down Sunset Boulevard a bit, but if you really wanted to dine, it meant leaving downtown for fancier fare. Outside of the downtown tangle and beyond (with several freeway changes and sneaky side street routes) there was Michael’s, Patina, Citrus, Muse, Valentino, Matsuhisa, Tommy Tang’s, Kate Mantilini, Border Grill, Ma Maison, and 72 Market. And, of course, there was always Spago.

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High above from the 24th floor inside Wolfgang Puck’s Nest at WP24, gazing out of the large windows in awe of the glittering skyline, I made the correlation between the food scene in Los Angeles back then and now.

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Then, dining in true LA style began with Chef Wolfgang Puck in 1982 on the Sunset Strip. Spago was innovative and refreshing. The young gun Wolfgang focused on fresh and casual California cuisine, flaring up the wood-fired oven and grill instead of laboring over fussy French sauces.

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It seems to be Wolfgang’s way to be among the stars, whether feeding celebrities in Hollywood or high up in a skyscraper. His culinary dazzle has held its substance over time and his chefs know just how to craft his signature California modern cuisine.

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During my downtown years I was engaged to a line chef at Spago, so I am familiar with Wolfgang’s kitchen regime (as well as a few of his kitchen tricks of the trade, like blanching garlic cloves to bring out the sweetness). And what continues to impress me most is the focus on good whole food without fuss, foam or flash.

My own experience in the elevated ambiance of Nest at WP24 was gloriously good. Chef de Cuisine John Lechleinder presented our table with an array of dishes from the featured summer menus showcasing Asian-inspired tapas like Red Snapper Ceviche and Roasted Kurobuta Pork Banh Mi (from the patio menu). Ceviche made with delicate slivers of fish that sing with the piquant tingle of aji Amarillo pepper, a burst of citrus, and fragrant Thai basil and cilantro leaves handpicked from the rooftop garden, artfully served upon a banana leaf. The banh mi kept its authentic form, bedecked with pickled vegetables, cilantro and chilies, packing some hearty Viet punch with perfect amounts of everything you’d want between a baguette.

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From the Nest menu, snappy bites of steaming lobster inside a crispy spring roll and toothsome beef chow fun noodles layered in rich brothy flavor so beefy I almost ate the whole serving bowl without sharing. Sweet hamachi nestled within a snow of crunch flakes make the hamachi crunch roll a delightful bite.

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Within a dense sticky rice wrapper an unctuous mouthful of tender pork set the Chinese Crystal Dumplings apart from all others.

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On the Sticks and Suds menu, succulent bites of satay and a refreshing cold beer made me relish in the city’s multicultural fusion with Thai and Korean flavors mingling together in gochujang, peanut and red curry dipping sauces for skewers of pork belly, chicken, lamb and beef.

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After tasting the dishes from each menu, the dessert that enchanted my palate with icy crunch and creamy sweetness was the Halo Halo Coupe, a glassful of coconut tapioca layered with silky slices of mango upon creamy condensed milk ice cream and pineapple shaved ice, dappled with the crunch of caramelized forbidden rice. The brilliant idea of condensed milk ice cream had me rolling back my eyes in pleasure with each spoonful. I was thrown back in memory to when spoonfuls of icy sweet desserts weren’t heeded by any sort of dietary caution.

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The chocolate hazelnut praline ice cream pops brought me back further to childhood summers spent eating chocolate dipped ice cream bars on a pool lounge. I enjoyed biting the chocolate off the sides of each bar and sinking my teeth into its cool ice cream at last. This dessert makes summertime cool down even sweeter, the most delectable version I've had since that Heath ice cream bar in the summer of 1982.

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Dining on the 24th floor was experience that lifted my senses up high, though even higher (just two floors up) you can sip a garden-infused cocktail above the bustling city and enjoy live jazz poolside every Friday and Saturday night all summer. Enjoying the classic California dining high above, Wolfgang Puck’s Nest at WP24 is truly heavenly above the grid of Los Angeles, serving pan-Asian cuisine at its highest altitude.

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Soaking in the city views, I longed to linger with a 10 Spice Mojito in hand on one of the luxurious lounges. The garden-inspired cocktails are made with fresh herbs, thirst quenching and exactly what one requires within an atmosphere of relaxed leisure. If you plan to rise above the city on a hot summer night, you’ll find yourself floating on the summer breeze feeling just fine, marveling at the panoramic views from the top of The Ritz Carlton’s Nest.

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Nest at WP24

THE RITZ-CARLTON, LOS ANGELES 900 West Olympic Boulevard, Los Angeles, 90015 |(213) 743-8800

Best Dishes:Red Snapper Ceviche, Beef Chow Fun Noodles, Banh Mi, Halo Halo Coupe, Chocolate Hazelnut Praline PopsDrinks:10 Spice Mojito, Bangkok Berry, Manila Sky LemonadeRooftop Patio: 6-10pm Fri/Sat, July 10th-Sept. 21st, Jazz, Asian Tapas & Cocktails