71Above: Where The Meal’s As Good As The View
“During the day you look out at LA and it looks like a giant snow globe,” describes 71Above’s general manager, Alex Hasbany, his arms outstretched as he beckons to the sprawl of LA some seventy-one stories beneath his feet. “...but at night, when the lights of the city come out,” Hasbany smiles, “it looks like Christmas.”
71Above sits on top of the US Bank Building. As of now, it is the highest restaurant west of the Mississippi. (“That won’t last forever,” Hasbany says with a shrug.)
The view is, of course, incredible. Looking out over the LA basin one can see all the way to the ocean on a clear day. Looking closer, you can see the growth of downtown as numerous towers go up far, far below your feet. Even the spire of the Wilshire Grand Center, currently capping off the tallest building west of the Mississippi, is lower than eye level, since the US Bank Building is built on higher elevation.
“We know that anybody will come here once for the view,” explains Hasbany, “but we didn’t want just that. 71Above is designed to be a restaurant for locals, somewhere you’d want to come more than once. Of course, all are welcome, and we love it when out of towners come, but our best marketing is when a local resident tells their friends how incredible of a meal they had here.”
The meal has been crafted by Chef Vartan Abgaryan, and for $78 you get a three-course dinner (“As well as an amuse bouche before and a digestif after,” notes Hasbany). Chef Abgaryan grew up in a close-knit Armenian household where Grandma cooked every meal.
“The first time I had Thai food it blew my mind,” he says. “I went home to tell my mother about the flavors I’d never tasted before.”
During college all he could think about was food, so he dropped out (“My parents weren’t too pleased,”) and enrolled in culinary school. He attributes the food he cooks at 71Above to the multicultural tapestry that is LA.
“We try to source as local as possible,” he notes. “We want people to walk in and admire the view, and leave here talking about the meal.”
The menu changes seasonally, “I get excited by change,” Chef Abgaryan smiles, yet has two staple dishes that are always on the menu: The poached oyster (“I’m very inspired by sushi,” he notes) and the sunchoke. “I grew up eating that in Armenia,” he says. “That one is very close to my heart.”
If the view and the meal aren’t enough, the bar and wine programs are truly outstanding. The bar puts out stellar cocktails while Lead Sommelier Catherine Morel guides the wine program. Drinks are front and center at 71Above. The first thing you see after exiting the elevator to the restaurant is the wine collection, the second thing is the bar overlooking the city below. “It’s the best spot in the restaurant,” says Hasbany.
71Above transcends the notion that a restaurant in the sky is a tourist-only venue. If this place was on the ground floor, it would still be considered one of LA’s best and most affordable high-end meals. But by bringing it up some 700 feet in the air, high above the city we call home, the experience becomes heavenly.
Written by Abel Horwitz | Photography by GL Askew II