It's been said before, about other restaurants and cafés and stores, but when sitting on the outside patio of the new Ace Hotel's restaurant, L.A. Chapter, there's a real sense of a future downtown L.A. that has yet to fully come to fruition. Located near the corner of Olympic and Broadway, the Ace resides in the old United Artists Theatre, and the restoration of this absolutely stunning piece of architecture gives a glimpse into the treasures that lie behind the boarded-up façades of some of these old downtown buildings, which have gone unused for so many years.
The Ace's interior is by far its greatest asset, but the collection of brass-topped tables and black-and-white chairs on the sidewalk in front of the restaurant space is a great place to marvel at the grungy grandeur of the surrounding buildings. It looks and feels very much like a Paris café but with an L.A. backdrop.
There are a number of eating and drinking options at the Ace. A high-quality coffee operation was the first to open, serving coffee from Stumptown. Then came L.A. Chapter, a full-scale, all-day restaurant, and Upstairs, the rooftop bar serving "world-traveled twists on traditional tropical cocktails."
L.A. Chapter was put together by chef Ken Addington, fashioned after his Brooklyn restaurant Five Leaves. It's an ambitious venture, and at dinner the menu tends toward dishes such as a liquorice-rubbed duck breast and lemongrass rabbit ragu.
Five Leaves was funded originally by Heath Ledger, who died before it, but as a result of his involvement there are some Australian overtones at Five Leaves and also at L.A. Chapter, particularly on the breakfast and lunch menus. You can get the Melbourne café breakfast staple avocado on toast, or a burger topped with beets, pineapple and a fried egg. Yes, that's really how Australians eat their burgers.
I tried the lamb ph? dip, a sandwich that was a cross between a bánh mì and a lamb dip but with a ph?-inspired au jus. Sound confusing? It actually worked beautifully. The sandwich came on crusty French bread, and was stuffed with shaved lamb, pickled vegetables and creamy rillettes. The anise-tinged, ph?-inspired jus for dipping was intensely meaty.
There's also a Moroccan scramble with housemade merguez and crushed avocado, and buckwheat waffles with kumquat, salted peanuts and malted banana mousse. It may be one of the most ambitious breakfast menus in town.
At night, the bar Upstairs (it's called Upstairs, and yes it's upstairs, although you have to take an elevator) affords one of the best skyline views of downtown, and the tropical drinks are very well made. You can lounge around the tiny puddle of a pool, or sit on wooden stools and stare up at the glowing top of the gorgeous building.
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