In  an adroit move to help local chefs, The James Beard Foundation and American Airlines have teamed up to reopen their flagship lounges in U.S. airports with the help of some of the best chefs in the country.  The LAX outpost opens today with  a menu representing the city of Los Angeles from Hinoki & The Bird chef Brandon Kida.

Given free creative reign from the airline,  the Koreatown native will introduce an interactionary Japanese tostada bar  as well as  dishes like broiled miso salmon with shaved fennel and radish sprouts in a sit-down dining experience as well as his version of an Arnold Palmer with matcha, Japanese whisky and yuzu at the specialty bar.

“I didn’t want to do the traditional sushi bar experience, I  wanted it to be something very unique to Los Angeles,” Kida tells L.A. Weekly during a tostada demonstration at his Century City restaurant. “You cannot ignore Mexican cuisine in Los Angeles, it’s who we are.  I wanted to do a similar feel to a sushi bar where there’s interaction but also make it a blend of cultures.  So we put it on a tostada instead of rice.”

Chef Brandon Kida

Chef Brandon Kida’s salmon tostada (Michele Stueven)

It’s a crunchy, saucy and delicate combination of textures.  There’s a choice of salmon, tuna and avocado tostadas with a range of toppings that include herbs, microgreens, a wasabi salsa, kewpie mayo,  a tamari gelee and  straightforward furikake.

Before the flagship lounges were forced to shut down during the pandemic, they were only accessible to first and business class, but now also offer a single visit pass for any American Airlines passenger.  

In the partnership with the James Beard Foundation, a carefully curated regional chef lineup across the country includes Tiffany Derry at Dallas Fort Worth Airport, a  Top Chef fan favorite and chef and owner of the  Dallas hotspot Roots Southern Table.   Born and raised in Brooklyn, Chef Ayesha Nurjaha brings the flavors of  Italy, Morocco and Tunisia, from her menus at New York City’s Shuka to JFK.   Award-winning chef and owner of Chicago’s Monteverde Restaurant and Pastificio Sarah  Grueneberg lands at  O’Hare International Airport  and Chef Timon Balloo will serve the flagship lounge in Miami.

“I want to put a plate in front of a traveler and have their  first thought be  – ok, I’m in California,” says Kida,  who never imagined he’d end up with a tostada bar in an airport before COVID-19  forced him into a new creative way of thinking.  “ I love it when a dish tells a story right off the bat.”

Chef Brandon Kida

Miso salmon with shaved fennel and radish sprouts, avocado and salmon tostadas (Michele Stueven)


American Airlines Flagship Lounge at LAX (Courtesy American Airlines)

LA Weekly