After over 5 years of operation, LA Live began the process of refreshing its tenant mix in 2013 with the introduction of several new concepts. Offering Chinese fusion cuisine, Triple 8 China Bar & Grill (the number “8” is a lucky number in Chinese), which officially debuted on May 21st, is the latest addition and replaces the once venerable Trader Vic’s on the Olympic Blvd side of LA Live. Although Triple 8’s menu is not overly large at this stage, it offers enough variety to satisfy most tastes and is a welcome addition to LA Live’s evolving dining mix. During my recent visit, I toured the space and sampled a variety of menu offerings including xiao long bao dumplings and several delicious entrees.
The first thing you’ll notice about Triple 8 is that it looks absolutely nothing like the concept it replaced, which is a good thing in many ways. I loved the Tiki theme of Trader Vic’s and its history in the LA area, but the LA Live location always felt like a mismatch for me. The once dark and enclosed home of the Mai Tai has been redesigned to literally embrace the city outside with open arms. An expansive indoor/outdoor patio is both eye-catching to pedestrians and engaging for diners inside to see the city outside. The interior, meanwhile, foregoes Asian kitsch in favor of a clean, contemporary look that includes reclaimed wood, a large bar area with specialty cocktails and tasteful Chinese design elements. In many ways, the food reflects this same embrace of the modern.
I started my meal with the pork xiao long bao and Asian duck wraps. As someone who regularly patronizes the Chinese restaurants of the San Gabriel Valley, I’m picky about my soup dumplings. While the pork filling was tasty, the skin was too thick and there was little soup inside. I confirmed with restaurant staff that the chefs are still perfecting these dumplings so I look forward to sampling them again on my next visit. The Asian duck wraps served in the style of Vietnamese spring rolls, however, were great and perfect example of the fusion elements present throughout the menu. The duck meat was nicely prepared and the hoisin dipping sauce was a tasty complement. Both served as a good lead in to my favorite dish of the evening, the seafood garlic noodles.
When I think of garlic noodles, Crustacean in Beverly Hills is the first example that comes to mind and while those are a gold standard, the Triple 8 offering is very good. Served with shrimp, calamari and clams, the dish is flavorful, but not overpowering and is addicting. This dish, like all menu offerings, may have been served family style, but I quickly found myself hoarding it for myself.
For those looking to splurge a bit, Triple 8 also features some notably higher end offerings. Some of these include the half roasted duck, a whole steamed lobster and pepper salt wagyu beef. Having sampled the duck earlier in the wraps, I came away impressed with the half roasted duck. Tender, juicy and not greasy, it really was delicious and the portion size easily served a party of 4. Paired with the seafood garlic noodles, it’s a perfect meal. Both the steamed lobster and wagyu beef offerings are also delicious though they come at an understandably higher price when compared to other menu items. Of the two, I enjoyed the lobster the most. Steamed in a subtle ginger, lime broth, it was well cooked and served in a way that makes it easy to eat sans crackers.
Overall, Triple 8 is a good option for those looking for a higher end Chinese dining experience in Downtown that’s unique from the other offerings at LA Live. The menu offers some standout items and will likely continue to evolve over time.
All photos by Brigham Yen
Now the food…