L.A. Prime - A New York Steak House Comes to Town
35th floor, Bonaventure Hotel, 404 S.Figueroa, Los Angeles, CA 90071

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The revival of the Steak House scene in Los Angeles has reached a new level with the opening of L.A.PRIME atop the famous Bonaventure Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. The hotel has been featured in many major motion pictures such as True Lies, Rain Man and In the Line of Fire. The hotel has hosted many major events, so a flagship restaurant here has to be something special. The restaurant opened around the time that the new Staples Center opened in Los Angeles, a superb concert venue that also happens to be home to the high profile Los Angeles Lakers and the Los Angeles Kings. No expense has been spared to make this place something special where the food easily matches the spectacular views from the 35th floor of the hotel. Some earlier critics had complained about the difficulty in finding the place within the hotel having to negotiate more than one lift to get to the place, but if that is all they could find wrong with the place then that certainly seems like nitpicking.

All the old fashioned classics are available here such as a superb Shrimp Cocktail, Baked Oysters Rockefeller, Maine Lobster Bisque and Escargots in Puff Pastry and Beluga Caviar. Credit must be given to the creator of L.A.Prime, ex-chef Stephen Hall, a 22- year veteran of the restaurant and hotel scene who has thought of every little detail. Hall has an impressive CV with stints at places like Trump's Taj Mahal Casino in Atlantic City and the 5-star Boca Raton Resort in Boca Raton, Florida. He was honest enough to admit that the previous restaurant that occupied this prime space and was known as Top of 5 serving California cuisine had finally lost its way after 22 years.

No problems with the new restaurant that occupies the whole 35th floor, and on a Wednesday night in May the place was jumping with guests from the hotel as well as local residents. Aside from the superb Shrimp Cocktail ($14.95) I also tried along with my two dining companions a very tender Crispy Calamari served with Indonesian Sambai sauce (10.95) and the excellent Maryland Crab Cake with homemade Tartar sauce (12.50). The crab cakes were comparable to the highly rated version served at the Frontrunner restaurant in Arcadia, and had the perfect blend of lighter dry breadcrumbs and were nicely balanced with the brown and predominately white crabmeat. Chopped fresh parsley and finely chopped spring onions added to the perfect mix.

A choice of sixteen main courses features six steak selections and other items such as veal, lamb chops, lobster, chicken etc. The steaks are all aged, hand selected from Stockyards Packing Company of Chicago and come in various sizes-New York Sirloin 14oz or 18oz, Filet Mignon 10oz, Delmonico 24oz or Porterhouse 26oz or 40oz for two. Cooking selections range from rare all the way up to Pittsburg style that features a charred outer crust. Sauces are also comprehensive with Béarnaise, Peppercorn, LA Prime steak sauce, lemon herb butter or Hollandaise to choose from. In short the place is a steak lovers paradise, and the 14oz New York Sirloin ($29) I opted for was succulent, thick and one of the best I have ever tasted. Sautéed mushrooms provided an equally brilliant side dish. My two dining companions were just as pleased with their choices from the menu: The ubiquitous Pan Seared Chilean Sea Bass ($28.50) that literally melted in the mouth, and the 16oz Provimi Veal Rib Chop ($34), seared and charred outside but tender within. Side dishes selected for these two dishes were Sautéed garlic spinach and garlic mashed potato.

With a wine list of over 250 wines to choose from it was a daunting choice to make a decision, so playing it safe we went for the 1997 Merryvale Sauvignon Blanc from St.Helena in the Napa Valley at $33 a bottle. A stylish and classy wine from a winery opened only in 1983 with no more than 20,000 cases a year produced, it proved to be a smart choice considering the variance of the three main courses selected.

Desserts were also of the same high standard with Pear with vanilla ice cream and a delicious Lemon Citrus tart that rounded off a close to perfect meal. LA Prime deserves to be a must see dining venue when in Los Angeles, and I expect it to be around for quite some time.

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Tel: 213 612 4743
Reservations: Advised

Opening hours:
Sunday - Thursday 5:30 - 10 p.m.
Friday and Saturday 5:30 - 11 p.m.

Dress: Smart or Casual Elegance
Parking: Valet parking is complimentary with dinner
Dinner for two w/wine: $120

Mike Hepworth, June 2001

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