Pull into 12181 Bluff Creek Drive, and you’ll see a giant KAWS statue — a towering, pop-art, blue Pixar-like creature with X’s for eyes. It’s so imposing and idol-like one would expect swarms of people to be actively praying to it, but here this gigantic blue dummy just sits restrained in the middle of a cul-de-sac surrounded by tech and social media companies.
YouTube and Google have base camps in Playa Vista, sure, but there’s also places like Fullscreen Studios, a “social content company that provides creative, strategy and marketing services for both talent and broad clients in order to grow, engage and monetize their social audiences.” Kelton Global, just across the way, is another brand strategy company that offers “cultural insights.” Via their website, “we’re passionate about understanding culture, and its impact on human beings.”
Where do these branding necromancers eat after a long day at the social media factory? Submitted for your consideration — The Conference Room, a hip new restaurant with chic architecture and a clear after-work aesthetic. Call it what you want — New American, a gastropub, elevated casual dining — there’s a familiar style to the room and even the menu. Dig a little deeper, though, because The Conference Room is at its best when Chef Miguel Aliaga gets to shine.
Throughout the menu Aliaga shows his Italian and Peruvian roots. Born in Peru, he moved to Italy when he was young, then got his start cooking in Florence after finishing culinary school. Miguel’s training there resulting in a spectacular attention to detail — each dish at The Conference Room possesses noticeable refinement.
Most impressive is just how well Miguel cooks with meat. The octopus possessed a flawless char — tender and meaty tentacles with a flavorful crust. It’s a dish that’s composed simply — grilled potatoes, tomatoes, olives and white vinegar, but those elements work well to highlight the octopus itself.
Less conventional is his lomo saltado, a perhaps new American take on the traditional Peruvian dish. Here he swaps out the traditional French fries for potatoes au gratin. With a tomato coulis and red onion, the flavors here again err on the side of Mediterranean. Fatty, tender beef filets are seasoned with coarse salt and fanned out for sharing.
Aliaga’s Italian prowess is also on full display — semolina gnocchi, broccolini ravioli, and lasagna round out the pasta section of his menu, but his lobster spaghetti is gorgeous. Perfectly cooked spaghetti with thick chunks of lobster meat (claws, tail, knuckle, all of it), in a cherry-forward bisque that is exactly the right type of rich. That pasta itself is seemingly cooked in the bisque, as it fully takes on the liquid broth resulting in a silky, delightful noodle that’s dense with flavor.
The Conference Room is the result of a thriving tech economy in Playa Vista; it doesn’t pretend to be anything else. Even the way it’s being marketed makes it sound like you’re going to walk into a giant boardroom with a bunch of suits and new money, but it’s a little more than that. You’ll probably run into a couple branding savants, sure, and the KAWS statue out front feels like we’ve been praying to a PIXAR god, but it’s worth checking out for chef Miguel Aliaga’s skill and vision alone.
The Conference Room, 12181 Bluff Creek Drive, Playa Vista; (310) 862-6436. conferenceroomrestaurant.com