To fully experience the conference room, it’s important to understand the story of the chef whose masterwork makes the restaurant tick. Because in a city like LA, where the so-called formula for a restaurant is typically something along the lines of ‘start with Italian, add some exotic-sounding stuff, and hope for the best,’ it’s rare to find a chef that has actually lived in the areas his menu represents. The Conference Room, while checking many of the hip and trendy boxes necessary for its roots in Playa Vista, in turn pays homage to the journey taken before the restaurant ever opened its doors.
Executive chef Michelangelo Aliaga grew up in a small town in northern Peru. With a Peruvian mother and an Italian father, he moved to Barcelona as a teenager, where he then began his culinary training. Aliaga proceeded to spend the next several decades across many of Europe’s finest culinary cities, from Florence to London and many places in between. His next chapter took him to the US, where he met illustrious chef Ricardo Zarate, a fellow Peruvian, and a collaboration of South American fare with a heavy dousing of global influence blossomed. This takes us to The Conference Room. Chef Aliaga demonstrates tremendous pride in his work, from making pastas in-house to sourcing ingredients of the highest quality.
Case in point with the truffle semolina gnocchi. Simple in nature but rich as can be, this decadent creation soaks up a rich cheese fondue with layers of beautiful black truffle shaved on top. Each bite makes it becomes harder and harder to keep your eyes open and remain composed. Then there’s the lobster spaghetti, equally luxurious in its own right with behemoth chunks of lobster claw and tail folded into a tangle of house-made pasta and an oh-so-flavorful lobster bisque sauce.
Chef Aliaga has an eye for indulgence (as if his pastas didn’t already make that clear), and has prepared several comfort classics accordingly. The American smothered fries showcase a mountain of crispy potatoes enveloped in a house-made cheese sauce with hefty morsels of bacon on top. The chicken and waffles are presented with a surprising addition of avocado, fried egg cooked so perfectly that the yolk could burst with a slight gust of wind, and an addictive unification of maple syrup and buffalo wing sauce. But comfort food takes many forms, and for a Peruvian, that means lomo saltado. And lomo saltado chef Aliaga delivers, in grand fashion.
The Conference Room’s menu and ambiance are like siblings: they get along in many ways, and yet in some cases it’s hard to believe they’re related. On one hand, loud ultra lounge-style music is a bit over-the-top for a restaurant surrounded by office buildings (even if those buildings play host to trendy tech giants such as Google and Facebook) but on the other hand, the restaurant’s capacity is limited to around 60 people, patio included, providing an intimate environment that’s as close to a classic Italian trattoria as you can get in the bustling context of Los Angeles. The trendy crowd and faux fireplace are always surefire reminders of being in a big city.
The Conference Room is located at 12181 Bluff Creek Dr Suite A1, Playa Vista, CA 90094. Open 9a – 9p Mon – Wed, 9a – 10p Thu – Fri, 5 – 11p Sat. Avg. out-the-door price for appetizer, entrée, split dessert and 1 – 2 drinks is ~$95/person. For more information call (310) 862 – 6436 or visit ConferenceRoomRestaurant.com.
Benjamin Brown is a seasoned restaurant writer and hospitality consultant, serving up SoCal's hottest food news and reviews.