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Chef Jose Andres is known world-wide for his humanitarian efforts to feed the hungry, whether it be to hurricane victims in Puerto Rico or Ukrainians in the war-torn country. His mission through the organization World Central Kitchen provides meals to countless people across the globe who are in crises.
In addition to his humanitarian work, the Michelin-starred chef continues to create innovative restaurants, including Agua Viva at the Conrad Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. Located in The Grand LA, a live-shop-dine concept designed by Frank Gehry, Agua Viva is a chic rooftop restaurant with an outdoor terrace. Across the street is Walt Disney Concert Hall and The Broad Museum is just steps away making it a culturally rich destination.
Located on the 10th floor of the 28-story hotel, Agua Viva showcases chef Andres’ Spanish roots while weaving Asian flavors into his dishes. He recently debuted a new brunch menu which we were there to experience.
The urban oasis aesthetic at the beautifully designed restaurant features wide oak plank floors, polished concrete surfaces and floor to ceiling windows allowing in an abundance of light.
Among the many highlights on the weekend brunch menu are Andres’ famed gazpacho and a whole fried sea bream. Sliced yellow tomatoes, cucumber and bell peppers enrich the velvety, pureed tomato broth spiked with sherry vinegar. Diners can add lobster or King crab to the chilled soup for an added delight.
Chef de cuisine Ty De Dios, formerly of the Pendry in West Hollywood, prepares sensational dishes at Agua Viva, including a deconstructed soba noodle dish that comes together with a dashi broth. Spicy tuna, carrots and watermelon radish that looked like rose florets topped the noodles. Chef Ty poured the broth over the noodles which also had a handful of small button mushrooms, thin ribbons of green spring onions, seaweed and micro green sprouts. The combination of the Japanese stock seasoned with soy sauce, mirin, sake and a touch of sugar brought all of the flavors together – sensational.
Croquetas De Cangrejo, or jumbo crab fritters, were baked and not fried like traditional crab cakes. A kick of heat with each bite was tamed by a creamy tartar sauce topped with herbs and olive oil.
A beautiful bright red cooking dish held savory patatas bravas potato wedges strategically placed in slightly spicy tomato sauce. Curls of paper thin paleta Iberia jamon weaved in between the tender potatoes, dotted with white aioli and a poached egg.
For something sweet, we ordered the French toast that arrived in a unique shape. Scored repeatedly on top about an eighth of an inch, the bread was slightly crisp to cut, but soft inside. Dazzled with a sprinkle of fine white power sugar and colorful edible flowers, the plate also had ruby red raspberry compote and whipped cream. It was also served with maple syrup, however, I didn’t pour it on top, because the berry and cream additions were ideal to swirl around the plate.
The large, “for-the-table” dishes like the sea bream, are on my list to enjoy on our next visit. I spied the whole fried fish being delivered to another table – it’s dusted with fresh herbs and served with a Puerto Rican style mojo verde sauce made with herbs, garlic and citrus. For those wishing to dive into a shareable plate of raw seafood, try the Ocean’s Bounty – an array of oysters on the half shell, King crab salpicon and tuna ceviche for $38 per person. A 12-oz. rib eye steak is grilled and served with pee wee potatoes.
Come to Agua Viva with an appetite. The views of downtown are incredible and so is the food. Make a day of it and visit The Broad or a concert at Disney Concert Hall.
Agua Viva is open daily at 11 a.m. Brunch is from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dinner service on Sunday through Thursday is until 7 p.m. On Friday and Saturday, Dinner service runs to 11 p.m.$$-$$$ 100 S. Grand Ave., (213)349-8585.
Karen Villalpando contributed to this article.
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