Monday, December 16, 2019

Where to Eat: A trip to Italy, Peru and everywhere in between @ Conference Room (Playa Vista)

The Eats: Creative continental cuisine with Italian, Peruvian and other global influences

The Location: Playa Vista

The Vibes: Think Mad Men vibes: mid-century modern and masculine

Good for: Alone, dates, groups

When-To-Go: Weekdays, 9 a.m. – 9 p.m.; Weekends, 5 p.m. – close (11 p.m. on Saturdays; 10 p.m. on Sundays)​

The $$ Factor: Appetizers, $7 - $19; Entrées, $20 - $36; Beverages, $7 - $12

The Names behind the scenes: Chef Michelangelo “Miguel” Aliaga

The 4-1-1: There’s literally a themed night every single day, from Sunday and Monday football to Thursday night jazz and Friday night acoustic music.

Parking Situation: Nearby parking garage (validation provided)

I’ll Be Back…: For the “chicken loves waffles” and the “no brainer” vegan ice cream sandwich!

On a quietly subdued (and quite cold) Sunday a couple of weeks ago, I stopped by Conference Room, a brand new restaurant in Playa Vista. It’s the latest dining concept backed by Chef Michelangelo “Miguel” Aliaga (pictured below with me), who you may remember joined Hollywood’s Los Balcones team earlier this spring (you can read all about that, here!).

Still with the mission of bringing his distinct Peruvian-Italian culinary style to the masses, Chef Miguel has built out a menu that encompasses a bit of traditional Italian dishes here, a few Peruvian nibbles there, and a lot of novel, whimsical creations everywhere.

During my visit, I had the pleasure of indulging in a dinner feast of five courses, specially curated by the man himself, Chef Miguel. From falafel-crusted salmon to vegan ice cream sandwiches, it was a nice way to explore a bit of what Conference Room has to offer.

Here’s a look at what we sampled! 

Tapping into Aliaga’s background and love for Italian cuisine, there are five different pastas on the menu, from spaghetti lobster to gnocchi and lasagna. We tried the broccolini ravioli (pictured below) — a light blend of broccolini wrapped in pasta and then tossed with sweetly cooked cherry tomatoes, basil, olive oil, veggie stock and interestingly enough, fava beans. I’ve never had beans in pasta before, but thought they added a delightful dimension, thanks to their savory flavor.

There are about a dozen different entrées, with some that nod to Peruvian and Italian cuisines while others bring in and blend other cultural influences. Another first for me: the “falafel crusted salmon,” pictured below.  Falafel is a popular Middle Eastern fritter typically made of chickpeas or fava beans, spices such as cumin, and herbs like parsley. It’s typically found packed into a pita pocket with other ingredients like tomatoes and tahini sauce. Or, it’s accompanying rice and kebabs — not necessarily on top of fish. But in this case, the combination of salmon and falafel worked out magically. The crunchiness of the falafel balances well with the tenderness of the salmon, which has a subtle sweet-and-spicy kick to it, all thanks to a spiced honey glaze (more on that glaze later!).

The “chicken loves waffles” (pictured below) is another departure from the Italian-Peruvian motif. It’s a fancier version of the ever-so-popular fried chicken and waffles combo. These aren’t any ol’ waffles — they’re made with cheddar and scallions either — and the chicken’s perfectly crispy and bursting with lots of flavor. Aliaga takes what’s already pretty incredible yet to another next level by adding a fried egg, generously sized avocado slices and lots of that spiced honey glaze that also comes with the salmon. Tip: definitely order a side of the hot glaze — it’s great to dip the chicken in for an extra kick!

Our last main plate was the branzino, pictured below. Thin slices of pan-seared European bass are carefully tied together and stuffed with lemon, all sitting on a bed of hummus and grilled fennel. The branzino is mouth-wateringly moist and succulent!

Other main plates include the lomo saltado with Peruvian sauce, a lamb burger, cauliflower steak with tzatziki sauce and a handful of other choices.

Last but certainly not least, we left room for dessert. Conference Room offers a daily rotation of cookies, cakes and pastries, and also palatial sundaes that are giant enough for two — and maybe even three or four — people to share (I was peeping the sundae being consumed by the couple sitting one table over, and it was big). We went for the “no brainer” vegan ice cream sandwich, pictured below. Creamy vegan ice cream was smooshed between two gluten-free, vegan “everything but the kitchen sink” cookies that tasted a lot like oatmeal cookies. It blew my mind that there was no dairy whatsoever, because the ice cream tasted like the real deal. For those who love a little dairy in their lives, chocolate mud cookies and crispy churro croissants are other cookie sandwich options, along with regular vanilla and chocolate ice cream flavors.

While we mainly stuck to pasta and main plates, there’s also a variety of starters, salads, flatbreads, sides and even a cheese & charcuterie section. The cauliflower wings and spaghetti lobster are on my radar for next time. And currently, the bar only serves beers, wines and a limited selection of non-alcoholic beverages, including hot teas and lemonades.

All in all, I enjoyed everything so far, especially the fun twists on traditional dishes, incorporating new ingredients with old recipes. I’d be remiss not to mention that the décor ain’t too shabby either (alright, it’s gorgeous). A long, rectangular-shaped room is decked in mid-century modern appeal — comfy brown leather booths, sleek brass light fixtures and curvy lounge chairs.

So the next time you find yourself in Silicon Beach and in the mood for a out-of-the-ordinary dinner, consider stopping by the Conference Room.

See you there soon!

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