We had an action-packed ladies' night on Saturday. I was reeling from all the driving during the day, but was excited about all the fun we had planned. Four girls, three destinations, all in and around Downtown, culminating with dancing. Unbeatable.
First, dinner. We went to Ocean Seafood in Chinatown. I had been here before, for dim sum -- at table after round table, diners pointed at delicious little bites from the many carts that zipped across the huge bustling dining room. Dinner is a lot mellower, but still fun. We walked through the door to the wide curving staircase that leads to the restaurant. Mirrors on all sides, lush carpet under our feet, sparkling chandeliers over our heads. It's ethnic-restaurant fake-fancy taken to an extreme degree. Upstairs, one wall of the lobby area consists of tanks of live dinner - lobsters, crabs, all sorts of squirmy things.
We ordered a few things for the table -- a dim sum sampler, a tofu dish, honey walnut shrimp (that seemed a bit too mayonnaisey for our taste), but the performance highlight was the peking duck. Two waiters roll the shiny lacquered duck out on a cart. There were also a plate of green onions, a dish of sauce, crispy puffed rice chips in pastel colors, and small plates, each of which had a small fluffy rice flour disk on it. One of the servers carved the skin off the duck, and the other made individual bite-size sandwiches -- a bit of sauce on the rice flour 'bun', a chunk of scallion, and a slice of the roasted duck skin, garnished with a pretty rice crisp. I love tableside service! It's like a meal and a little show all in one. So we ate. A lot. And engaged in some serious girl talk, each of dishing about our weekends so far, reliving some drama, seeking boy advice. Good times.
Next stop -- the Hotel Figueroa. This place may be the dreamiest place in all Los Angeles. The best place to spend a summer night. I stumbled on it a couple years back when I decided to give myself the now-famous Self-guided Walking Tour of Downtown Los Angeles (which is to say, I drove downtown and walked around some). It doesn't look like much from the outside, but pass through the front door of the hotel and you walk into some sort of gorgeous den of Moroccan splendor. The decor keeps to the theme, and every detail is beautiful, from the tiles that decked the lobby walls, to the lanterns hanging throughout the veranda. The bar is on said veranda, and people spill out to the tables surrounding the pool. There was a packed crowd on Saturday, and the peoplewatching was exemplary. This place just attracts an interesting clientele -- artsy, stylish, hip, but not too hip. So we had a drink, felt the breeze against our shoulders by the pool, made an appearance at a goodbye party, and swooned over the perfect perfect perfection of the night, the place, and at that moment, the city. And then we left -- we had places to be.
Finally. Dancing! It happens more rarely than I'd like, but it's such a treat to go dancing. The four of us were all on the same page. We didn't want anything too high-brow, just good fun music and no Hollywood scene. So we decided on Gabah. There is no scene here. It's in a borderline-shady bit of East Hollywood, it smells, as Jessica aptly put it, of 'patchouli and pee', and the decor is tacky-tiki -- fake hanging plants and all. But the music was great. Solid hip-hop, lots of old stuff, fun poppy reggae. Serious dance party, nothing pretentious, sweaty and loud.
Spent but giddy, we finally made our way home. Such a successful outing. Good people, great venues, and dancing. Makes me really love this city and all it has to offer, especially on a summer night.
Ocean Seafood is at 750 N Hill St., between Alpine and Ord.
The Hotel Figueroa is at 939 S. Figueroa St., between Olympic and 9th.
Gabah is at 4658 Melrose Ave., a block west of Normandie. Saturday nights is 'Chocolate Bar'.