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EATS: Restaurant Reviews and News | FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Sky Room: Reliving the '30s With a View

With Art Deco style, dancing and a classic American menu, the Long Beach spot evokes the past.

July 30, 1998|S. IRENE VIRBILA | TIMES RESTAURANT CRITIC

Fifteen floors above Long Beach, nattily turned-out couples sway to the music of the seven-piece orchestra at the Sky Room in the Breakers of Long Beach, once a hotel that's now a senior residence. A young couple leave their appetizers and join them, sashaying across the floor in perfect sync. The musicians, led by Barry Anthony, play nostalgic old tunes with verve and enthusiasm. And diners at the tables at the edges of the dance floor seem to revel in the music just as much as the wraparound views of the harbor, Catalina and the Long Beach-Signal Hill skyline.

The Sky Room, restored to its Art Deco splendor, is certainly a surprise, after the trip up an elevator with gouged wallpaper and an elevator man decked out in tuxedo, top hat and white gloves. The bar makes a mean martini, served in a conical glass that sits in a bed of ice, all the better to keep it icy cold. The music, the setting, the tuxedoed waiters create the feeling of a supper club from a '30s film.

Along with the decor, the Sky Room's owners have opted to bring back classic American dining with as much pomp and circumstance as the staff can muster. Though the concept of reviving dishes like steak Diane and duck a l'orange is intriguing, it's difficult to pull off. Even executed brilliantly, this kind of cooking has limited appeal.

Oysters on the half shell and smoked salmon with toast points are both fine. A Caesar salad prepared table-side by a glum waiter has a nice bite of garlic and anchovy, but it's marred by hard, coarsely grated cheese and limp romaine. After that, unfortunately, it's all downhill.

No doubt somewhere in the world there's a brilliant chef who could make steamed lobster in vanilla champagne sauce work. But not here. Lamb chops coated in bread crumbs, which our waiter recommends with assurance after steering us away from both the steak Diane and the duck a l'orange, are overcooked. Tournedos Rossini, another antique from the archives, manages to be both impossibly rich and dull. And the rather ordinary veal chop is not served well by a garnish of slippery mushrooms. The best cooked item, in fact, is the pommes souffles, golden puffs of potatoes so light they threaten to float off the plate.

The Sky Room is very expensive, so it comes as a disappointment that the food doesn't live up to the setting. But then that's more or less a rule of thumb for restaurants with a view.

BE THERE

The Sky Room, in the Breakers of Long Beach, 40 S. Locust Ave., Long Beach; (562) 983-2703. Open for dinner and dancing Wednesday-Sunday. Valet parking. Jacket required. Appetizers $10-$75; main courses: $19-$39.

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