The Conga Room shimmies into its new digs at L.A. Live
It’s the start of a blustery season, but the newly reopened Conga Room at L.A. Live, the new downtown entertainment complex, promises to generate enough heat to make downtown sizzle. From the celebrity co-owners to the tropical musical acts to the pan-Latin dishes at Boca Restaurant, everything about this Latin lounge is haute, haute, haute. Get sultry with an elegant evening of dinner and dancing, Conga style.
The Buzz: In its original location on Wilshire Blvd. in the Miracle Mile area, the Conga Room earned a reputation as the “House of Blues for Latin music,” hosting salsa giants like Celia Cruz and Tito Puente and branching out to global jazz, rock, and pop acts. When it closed in 2006 in preparation for moving into the L.A. Live location, there was a noticeable void in the city’s Latin/world musical offerings. Two and a half years of anticipation have only fueled excitement for the reopening. Adding to the buzz are celebrity co-owners who’ve jumped on board, including Will.i.am, Baron Davis, Trevor Ariza, and Amaury Nolasco, who join original partners Jimmy Smits, Jennifer Lopez, Sheila E., and Paul Rodriguez.
The Scene: Climb the curved staircase in the entryway, and you’ll be delivered into the 15,000 square foot space overlooking the L.A. Live plaza and the Staples Center. Architect Hagy Belzber mapped the globe for inspiration, melding contemporary design with colorful elements by way of Barcelona, Mexico, and the Caribbean. Overhead is an undulating ceiling of white panels arranged in a recurring flower motif. Tropical touches include the Papaya Bar, designed by artist Jorge Pardo to resemble a split papaya, and murals by Sergio Arau conjuring Havana in its heyday. The stage and the dance floor are front and center, but there are plenty of nooks and brocade-wallpapered lounge spaces where you can retreat from the action.
The Music: While the club will remain true to its tropical roots with a raucous house band and a roster of top salsa acts, it will also welcome homegrown and international groups in a variety of genres, from rock en Español to jazz to World Beat. New Year’s Eve brings the Gipsy Kings; other notable upcoming acts include Rita Moreno in February, followed by Lady Smith Black Mambazo in March. Aside from concert events, the club will host weekly dance nights. Salsa lessons are offered on Thursdays and Saturdays, when the Conga Room All-Star Orchestra plays. Friday nights feature global beats and dance grooves with the resident DJ.
The Food: Boca Restaurant is tucked into the space behind soundproof glass, so you can still take in the scene but won’t have to yell across the table to your dining partner when the band is playing. Acclaimed Cuban-born, New York-bred chef Alex Garcia has crafted a menu that crisscrosses continents, a fusion of Caribbean and South American influences. Sip sangría or a fresh mango mojito while nibbling tapas such as spinach and manchego empanadas and crispy calamari salad. Or, opt for heartier plates like the jerk pork chop or mojito-lime chicken. For dessert, indulge in selections like tres leches cake and churros dipped in bittersweet chocolate. If all that dancing makes you hungry again, stay for the late-night “Mexican Hangover” breakfast menu, served weekends 11:30 pm-4 am, with offerings like the yapingachos (Ecuadorian potato pancakes with roasted pork) or huevos revueltos (scrambled eggs & chorizo).
800 West Olympic Boulevard
Suites A160 and A260
Los Angeles, CA 90015
(213) 749-0445 or 1-866-95-CONGA
Cover charge: Thursdays $15, Fridays $20, and Saturdays $25. If you dine at the restaurant, you get a $5 discount off the cover charge.
|More Downtown Nightlife: Other venues for a sophisticated evening of dinner and dancing downtown:|
|Tatou Supper Club333 S. Boylston St.|
Los Angeles, CA 90017
Founded by a former owner of New York’s Studio 54, Tatou is a sprawling supper club with Gotham glamour. To start, sup on selections from the Cal-Asian menu such as honey walnut shrimp and Wokcano fried rice. Then, get ready to move as you explore the multiple dance floors and bars — amidst preserved palm trees and disco balls aplenty — and the expansive patio overlooking the downtown skyline. Salsa dance lessons are offered every Friday at 8:30 p.m. with a DJ spinning tropical tunes to follow.
|Elevate Lounge/Takami Sushi811 Wilshire Blvd. Suite 2100|
Los Angeles, CA 90017
Occupying the 21st floor penthouse of a financial district highrise, Takami Sushi and Elevate Lounge make up a yin and yang of dining and nightlife. The restaurant, with stunning views of neighboring skyscrapers, features signature sushi rolls and decadent robata selections like filet mignon and fois gras. In the indoor/outdoor lounge, sip a lychee mojito while reclining on low-slung, ultra-mod couches or catch your groove on the dance floor. Pop and house DJs spin Thursday-Saturday 9 pm-3 am ($20 cover Friday and Saturday nights).
|J Restaurant and Lounge1119 S. Olive St.|
Los Angeles, CA 90015
J Restaurant and Lounge is a collection of swanky spaces for your dining and entertainment pleasures. In the dining room, feast on Mediterranean-inspired dishes like sea scallop fettuccine. On the outsized patio, enjoy a selection of premium cigars and single-malt scotches by the fire pit or in a private cabana. In the sleek lounge, master your dance steps at “Salsa in the City Wednesdays,” featuring salsa lessons at 8 pm followed by descargas (jam sessions). There are also live acoustic performances on Tuesdays (free) and a rotating roster of DJs on Fridays ($10 cover).