Downtown Los Angeles is in the midst of a major glow-up—transforming from a don’t-go to a don’t-miss part of the city. Now, it is brimming with hot new openings, including the stylish new Conrad Los Angeles hotel and the ultra-opulent Kaviar Japanese restaurant.
The rise and fall and rise of Downtown L.A.
Back in the early 20th century, Downtown L.A. was viewed as an appealing place to live. However, within a few decades, most of its affluent inhabitants had ditched the inner city in favor of the leafier suburbs, leaving behind a largely abandoned, dilapidated downtown area. In recent years, the number of inhabitants has slowly started creeping up again.
Adam Burke, President & CEO of Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board, says Downtown L.A. has defied the odds, leading the way to substantial recovery in the last two years, unlike many other city centers that were adversely affected by pandemic-era restrictions.
“Downtown continues to be a force as a travel destination and a hub for what’s hot in L.A., beckoning travelers and locals alike,” he says, adding that this is evidenced not least by a host of high-profile new openings in the area.
The Conrad Los Angeles
The first opening in California from Conrad Hotels & Resorts, Conrad Los Angeles launched in July as part of The Grand LA, the city’s newest destination for shopping, dining, and entertainment. Designed by legendary architect Frank Gehry with interior design from Tara Bernerd & Partners, the aesthetic of the new luxury hotel takes inspiration from Gehry’s architecture and the West Coast Modernist movement.
The hotel’s 305 stylish rooms blend calming pale oak floors with natural linen walls and rich petrol blues and light greys, and feature floor-to-ceiling windows with views of either the interior courtyard and pool or Grand Avenue.
There is a 7,000-square-foot Conrad Spa featuring a wellness bar, an enlightenment lounge, infrared sauna, and recovery cabins, while the 16,000-square-foot pool deck and rooftop terrace boast show-stopping views of Downtown L.A., from City Hall to the Walt Disney Concert Hall, also designed by Frank Gehry.
There are two on-site restaurants, both by Spanish chef extraordinaire José Andrés. Agua Viva is a laid-back open-air affair, while superb San Laurel blends the best of Spain and California to create must-try dishes like the Andalusian-style ajo blanco chilled almond soup with King crab and pink sorrel, and the irresistible vermicelli “Mac n’ Cheese” made with fideuà pasta, and Idiazábal cheese.
“Emblematic” new hotel
“The new Conrad Los Angeles is emblematic of Downtown Los Angeles’ latest chapter, located within the long-awaited $1 billion-dollar development The Grand LA,” says Adam Burke, who describes the new complex as “the picture of new DTLA, an urban oasis with modern design, locally inspired dining, and spectacular views, nestled among iconic music, art and theatre institutions”.
Conrad Los Angeles’ General Manager Adam Heffron shares this perspective:
“We wanted to be a part of the incredible cultural corridor that is Grand Avenue and actively channel the dynamic energy that lives within Downtown L.A.,” he says, adding: “Conrad Los Angeles strives to be a hub for creativity and inspiration within this culturally rich pocket of the city.”
Kaviar restaurant joins Arts District revival
The new Conrad is not alone in bringing glitz and glamour to Downtown. Following the success of its flagship in Pasadena, Japanese-inspired Kaviar recently opened its second outpost in the trendy Arts District. The new restaurant oozes luxury and sophistication, from its sultry lighting and lavish interiors featuring classic art deco elements of marble, brass fixtures, and exposed brick, combined with bespoke artworks, to the real piece de resistance: the menu.
Created by executive chef John Hans Yeo, along with his team led by Chef de Cuisine Roberto Rangel and Sushi Chef Tengis Itka, the food at Kaviar has to be seen to be believed. Dishes like the melt-in-the mouth tuna toro tartare and Kagoshima A5 Wagyu steak with truffle butter come adorned with delicate 24K gold flakes and Kaluga caviar. The margarita is work of art made with mezcal, lime, wasabi, shishito, and tequila foam. Other standouts include the uni pasta, and the decadent bluefin toro sashimi—also with truffle oil, caviar, and gold flakes, of course.
What’s next for Downtown L.A.?
There is more good news on the horizon for Downtown L.A. with further openings in the works in 2023.
Next year, Chef José Andrés will open another new restaurant in the neighborhood, this time on the rooftop of the historic Trust Building. He joins other celebrity chef projects, such as Chef Stephanie Izard’s Girl & the Goat and Chef Chris Bianco’s Pizzeria Bianco. Meanwhile, Chef Enrique Olvera’s Damian and the L.A. sister outlet of Mexico City’s iconic Cha Cha Chá have also brought attention to Downtown L.A. following their incorporation in the California Michelin Guide. Joining Conrad Los Angeles and Hotel Per La, both of which launched this year, more hotels are on the way in 2023, including Moxy Downtown Los Angeles and AC Hotel Downtown Los Angeles (both opening early 2023).