Tuesday, February 15, 2011

LA Live?

I feel as though I've spent a weekend away from home, in my own city.

In 2005, construction began on the Nokia Theatre, the 7000 seat theatre anchoring the entertainment complex known as LA Live. The Los Angeles Convention Center and the Staples Center arena were already there, one block south.

The theatre faces a plaza surrounded by shops, restaurants and office buildings, and, on the northwest corner, a high-rise tower housing two hotels - the JW Marriott and the high-end Ritz-Carlton.

The Grammy award pre-telecast program began at 1:00 pm on Sunday, so weighing our options, we decided to spend Saturday night in the JW Marriott Hotel. We checked in around 8:30 pm.

The Marriott is located in the smaller building, while the Ritz soars high above the city. But the Ritz has only a tiny lobby, while the Marriott has a huge arching space with restaurants and an expansive lounge fitted out with cool furnishings.

Our room overlooked the plaza, with the Nokia Theatre directly opposite us, and the Staples Center beyond. If you looked to the side out our window, you'd see the face of the Ritz tower, lit up with huge LED screens showing bright advertisements.

We strolled through the plaza. Rotating spotlights swirled around, images flashed and changed colors on the faces of the buildings, and speakers relentlessly pounded out a rhythmic soundtrack - this was ubiquitous both inside the hotel and outside in the public spaces. But although here were people wandering, and the restaurants were open, for a Saturday night it seemed oddly unpopulated.

Although there are flashy restaurants off the plaza, we wanted to find a place where we could enjoy the city view. So we walked around to the entry of the Ritz-Carlton, and took the elevator up to the top, to WP-24, a Wolfgang Puck restaurant.

We were seated in the lounge, where you could look north at the downtown skyline. We sat in curved plushy club-chairs in front of a low table. The room was very dark - as was appropriate, so you could see the view. Unfortunately, this rendered the menus unreadable. Although I have a rather powerful flashlight in my handbag, I thought that might be a little rude. So I read the menu by the light of the table's votive candle.

The music pounded overhead - here, instead of new dance music, they played '80s disco - we heard Blondie and Bowie. Our waitress teetered across a slick wooden floor on 5" heels, bending her knees to carefully deposit a cocktail at our low table.

We ordered fancy sushi rolls, fried spring rolls, and a dumpling called a "dan dan mian" dumpling - four little wrapped nuggets of minced pork, noodles, and spicy peanut sauce for $14 that reproduced exactly the taste explosion we enjoyed in an Alhambra Sichuan noodle shop for about $4 earlier this year.

Is it worth it? Well, maybe. You can't beat the view. Or the coterie of Russian gangsters at the table in the other booth.

So here was our mysterious, romantic, Asian lounge hideaway at last.....But it was all of 10:30 pm and we were exhausted. Back to the room - yes, there's a secret little passageway from the Ritz lobby to the Marriott Lobby - and we settled in for the night.

We peeked out our window. The plaza at 10:30 on a Saturday night?

Pretty but empty. Times Square it ain't.

It's a sad, sad thing when your city's big downtown entertainment complex is so dead that it disappoints even a tired old middle-aged lady like me.


Anonymous said...

I don't consider you a tired old middle-aged lady. Me, now, that's another thing... and I'm headed to Times Square this weekend!

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Looks and sounds like you had a lot of fun, Aunt Snow. Congrats!

smalltownme said...

Fun! We were at that locale in August and stayed at the Ritz (but didn't go to their restaurant). I confess we went to the American Idols tour. It was pretty busy then. Also, we saw Roger Waters/The Wall in December and again, lots of people. Maybe they just stay home the night before a big event?