Emil Eyvazoff is literally and figuratively back in the clouds. The longtime operator of US Bank Tower Restaurant 71Above sounds eager and excited, even if he gets a phone call last week, as he’s about to unveil a brand new open-air project in downtown Los Angeles that’s about 69 floors above street level simply Vista.
“Most of the people who experienced this terrace were tourists,” says Eyvazoff from his place above the city. In fact, the building’s 69th floor, called Skyspace, was primarily used for expensive (and short) slides down a glass slide that hung on the side of the skyscraper; a new moment, but little more. The Skyspace terrace was always available at a ticket price – and two floors below the free 71Above restaurant – but the beer and light bites overseen by the building’s then owners didn’t often inspire return trips. Enter the pandemic and with it a whole new owner for the US Bank Tower building in New York Silverstein properties. Now the slide is no longer in use, but Eyvazoff can do handicrafts on the terrace. A welcome addition considering 71Above was unable to offer outdoor meals throughout the pandemic.
“We had this crazy plan,” says Eyvazoff of his first thoughts on using the 360-degree open-air terrace two floors below the kitchen of his restaurant. “Between circulators, steamers, warming ovens and all that stuff, we wanted to do the lion’s share of the heavy prep for that food level to 71 and then bring it down to 69. That was the plan.”
Needless to say, it all turned out to be logistically challenging and along with the beginnings of the transition from LA to successive, less restrictive reopening stages (i.e. indoor food for 71Above), at an incorrect time. So Eyvazoff and Chef Javier Lopez decided to switch to a more stable facility, to build a kind of storage kitchen on the 69th floor and to use the 71st floor for preparation during the day.
The menu reads like a relaxed Mediterranean wine bar with lots of mezze on the whole, including a rotating collection of small dips, salads, and snacks. “It will be hummus, Lebanese moutabel, muhammara with ground walnuts, a coleslaw, a fattoush salad, maybe something like a tomato-cucumber-feta salad, olives and cucumbers that we are making here,” says Eyvazoff in suggested menu items an expected rush. It all comes together quickly and Eyvazoff adjusts the speed.
He’s right to be in a rush as Vista will be arriving for its first service tomorrow night by April 6th. There are a few more kinks that need to be ironed out – for one thing, the deck can’t offer traditional pressurized gas heaters due to the obvious fire – concerns associated with being 904 feet above the ground – but that’s fine. Eyvazoff is a downtown guy, he has been running restaurants there for more than a decade and he believes now is the time to get back in flux after such a year of stasis and loss, also because it allows him to to recruit more of his staff on leave. And with plans to do so 71Open again soonThat number will only grow, although Eyvazoff himself knows that things must of course look, feel, and even taste a little different, at least when compared to before the pandemic. He is also happy about this challenge.
“We wanted to get out again and show Angelenos that we can not only eat well, but also not only American,” says Eyvazoff. “We have a wide range of options. We didn’t want to do anything near the wheelhouse, anything near the comfort zone. “