Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Qantas Business Class Lounge, LAX

Update Review, January 2016

Much like last week's update review of the Qantas First Class lounge at LAX, this week is another update review, this time of the business class side of things, which of course I went and cruised through on my recent journey through LAX.  As always, feel free to start with my original review of the business class lounge, and then return here for the update.

Business Class Lounge 

After eating dinner in the First Class lounge, I took a quick trip over to the business class lounge, just to see if much had changed since my visit a couple years ago.

The lounge is buffet-style, with a salad bar, a juicing bar, a hot foods area, and dessert.  Yes, there is a juicing station, and I totally forgot to get a photo of it, but there is raw fruits and veggies, and a juicer, to do your own creations.  I didn't go anywhere near it however, as there was watermelon, and I'm deathly allergic.
Salad Bar.
I did try a few items from the salad bar.  On offer was a bunch of pre-made salads: 
  • Cherry tomato salad with spiced salsa
  • Roasted vegetables with pearl barley
  • Escarole salad with grapefruit and crispy fried quinoa
  • Wedge salad with ranch dressing
  • Potato salad with herb mustard mayonnaise
  • Kale caesar salad
  • Raw root vegetable salad with tahini and chickpeas
I love caesar, and in particular kale caesar, but this was incredibly underdressed, so there was no flavor at all.

The wedge with ranch was a classic, and brought out some of my old cravings, but, it also wasn't very flavorful.

The roasted veggies were ok, not too mushy, but not particularly exciting.

The potato salad however was tasty.  Small potatoes, just sliced in half, large chunks.  The potatoes were nicely cooked, not mushy, not too al dente, just the right amount of bite to them.  And, unlike the caesar, this was nicely dressed, plenty of the creamy, mayo-y goodness.  I enjoyed this, perhaps more than anything from the First Class lounge, and, as always, I appreciated being able to just take a little bit of this or that from the buffet.

The hot food was all in covered dishes, so hard to take a photo.  The lineup was:
  • Butter Chicken
  • Steamed jasmine rice
  • Roast potatoes
  • Potato and leek soup
  • Egg noodle stir fry
  • Roast eggplant with fetta and olive dressing
I tried a bite of the egg noodle stir fry, but it was mushy.
Desserts.
Of course, you know me, I'm generally there for one thing: the sweets.  My heart sank when I saw the choices though, just a raspberry lemon cake and a chocolate brownie with macamamia nuts.

I tried a small sliver of the cake, mostly out of desperation.  I don't really like cake, I don't like lemon desserts, and there was no frosting or whipped cream to help this out.  It was ... well, a cake.  Dense, sweet, lemon-y.  I didn't hate it, but, I definitely didn't like it.

And with that, back to the First Class lounge I went.

Original Review, March 2015

On my recent trip to Sydney, I had the "joy" of connecting in LAX, on both my outgoing and return flights.  Of course, I took full advantage of this time by exploring the lounges.  And I'll be honest, I was actually a bit excited to check out the brand new Qantas First Class Lounge, which I reviewed last week.

But after dining in the restaurant in the First Class lounge, I wasn't entirely satisfied.  Also, curiosity got the better of me.  Thus, I had to lounge hop, over to the Business class lounge next door.  And of course, on my return trip, I also had to visit again, just to see what was different ... I do it for you, my dear readers!

The business area is about the same physical size as the First Class area, but in the evening, it somehow had even more people in it than the First Class area.  Yet somehow it seemed calmer, and was considerably more quiet.  On many levels, the atmosphere was far nicer.  On our return daytime visit, just like the First lounge, it was mostly vacant.

It is a more casual lounge though.  Instead of a sit down restaurant, there is a buffet for food.  I appreciate the buffet, because I do like to try bits of everything, and often when in transit, I don't want a heavy meal.  However, the food wasn't very good, and there weren't any snack stations.

The First Class lounge was certainly nicer, and maybe we just happened to be there on a day with a lot of loud people, but that space obviously wasn't designed with noise isolation in mind, and it really effected the experience.  If you want a nice meal, certainly go there, but if you like salad bars and grazing, the Business Class lounge really is fine.

Seating

Bistro-style seating.


Like the First Class lounge, there are a variety of different seating options, including high bistro tables and chairs.  Even when it was packed, no one seemed to pick these, as they didn't seem comfortable at all.
Lounge-style seating.
The lounge style seating was most popular, and this area was quite crowded.
Slightly more comfortable.
There were also slightly more comfortable arm chairs.  These were occupied during my evening visit, but blissfully empty during the day.
Fire pit!
There is also a big round fire pit, with round seating around it.  Very nice esthetically, but perhaps not the best use of the space.
Less crowded wing.
The far wing was far less crowded, even at night, I'm not sure why.  Perhaps the layout just wasn't good for groups?

Food and Beverage

Bar with Espresso Machine.
There is a staffed bar for hard alcohol and espresso drinks.  I never saw much of a line there.  The only snack here was the same mixed nuts they had in the First Class lounge.
Self-serve wine.
The lack of lines was likely due to the fact that the wine was self-serve over on one side of the bar, and there did seem to be a constant line there.
Self-Serve Drinks.
There was also a self-serve station on the other side of the lounge for soft drinks, water, coffee, and tea.
More Self-Serve Drinks.
There was also a second drink station behind the food buffet, which made it fairly cramped as people were bumping into each other constantly, which didn't make much sense.
Cold Salad Menu.
The food was all in a buffet, with menu cards placed throughout ... at least, on my first visit.  The second time I visited, there were no cards.  Since many of the vegetarian looking salads contained meat, this would be unfortunate for vegetarians! The cold salad section contained:
  • Red and white quinoa with feta and spinach
  • Penne pasta with pesto with pinenuts
  • Cauliflower, hazelnuts & chickpeas (v)
  • Broccoli, raisins, & almond with yogurt (v)
  • Spring greens (gf, v)
  • Kale & parmesan caesar salad
  • Wedge with prosciutto, ranch, and parmesan (gf)
  • German potato with bacon
  • Raw root salad (v)
Why the first two were not listed as (v), which I'm assuming is vegetarian, I have no idea.  They looked it, and the menu didn't list any non-vegetarian ingredients.  I momentarily thought that perhaps (v) meant vegan, but that also made no sense, since a dish with yogurt was marked (v).  Anyway.
Salad Buffet.
The layout didn't exactly match the listed menu, and there were items here that I never saw descriptions for.

I started with the "broccoli, raisins, & almond with yogurt".  The broccoli (actually, I think it was broccolini), was crispy and the inclusion of nuts and fruit was nice, but the dressing was way too yogurty for me.  When I had it the second time around, I again liked the crispy broccolini, particularly the stems, and I wasn't bothered by the yogurt.  Perhaps the batches were different?

I also tried the German potato salad.  It was creamy, the potatoes were decently cooked, and of course it had bits of bacon.  I wasn't into the potatoes or the dressing, but I really liked the bacon.  Mmm, bacon and mayo.  Simple pleasures.  Overall, not remarkable, but not bad.

I couldn't resist trying the kale caesar.  The kale was crunchy and fresh, and there were large shreds of parmesan, plus croutons.  The first time, I didn't really taste any dressing.  The second time, it was crazy overdressed.  It made me want it to be the kale ceasar from the Las Vegas Centurian Lounge!  I still think that was one of the best kale based salads I've ever had.  Guess I gotta go back to Vegas!

I also tried the classic iceburg wedge, but the lettuce itself was limp and even turning brown.  The creamy dressing was good, and of course I liked the prosciutto.

So overall, these are all rather heavy "salads", with lots of dressing, mayo, bacon, etc, but I do like that sort of thing, so I was happy enough to eat them, particularly on my return journey, when I wasn't ready for a full meal in the First Class lounge.

I skipped the rest of the salad offerings, and moved on.
More Cold Dishes, Evening.
Next were a few more cold salads, not labeled, and I'm not sure why they were presented on the table top rather than in the cold well like the others.
More Cold Dishes, Afternoon.
On my return visit, there was a slightly different selection of cold dishes, again not labeled.  They didn't look very good, so I didn't try any, on either visit.
Sweetcorn Chowder.
The soup both times was sweetcorn chowder.  Ojan got it, and I tried a bite.  I didn't really taste much corn, and the big cubes of potato were mushy.  I didn't like it.
Hot Buffet.
And finally, hot items.  I didn't think I'd even try something from here, as I'd had decent food in the First Lounge, and had a plate full of assorted salads already, but then I saw cheese lasagna.  I'm not sure why, but it turns out, I was really craving lasagna.

It was decent.  Sure, not fancy lasagna of course.  Just basic pasta, red sauce, ricotta, and some melted mozzarella.  But I enjoyed it, and even went back for seconds.  I liked it even more than any of the food in the First Class restaurant.  Yes, lasagna trumped raw fish and fried squid.  Sometimes, it is the simple classics that work best!

I was hoping for the lasagna to be there on my return visit, but alas, it was not, although the sign was.  It was 1pm exactly when I was there, so it would have made sense to have lasagna out for lunch.  Perhaps an evening only item?  Sadness.

They also had chicken with water chestnuts, eggplant, and black fungi, with jasmine rice on the side, which I obviously avoided.
Dessert Menu.
And finally, dessert.  The menu listed only two items, blueberry cheesecake and key lime tart, yet there were four on display.  While I appreciated the menus, it was a bit funny how they rarely matched up.  Of course, on my second visit, they didn't even bother with a menu.
Desserts, Evening.
On the far right was a burnt, dried out looking dish that I think was bread pudding.  It looked awful, but I love bread pudding, so I had to try it.  It was as bad as it looked, so dry.  Utterly flavorless.  And loaded with coconut, which made it seem even drier.  This was really not good at all.  Ojan made fun of me for even trying it, as it was pretty obvious that it was going to be awful.

I didn't try the key lime tart, since I really dislike lime, nor did I have the fruit salad, since it had watermelon, and I'm allergic.

I did have a slice of the blueberry cheesecake.  It was very basic cheesecake, not creamy, not decadent, not even really cream cheesy.  Yes, I know those are all the things a cheesecake should be, and it makes it hard to describe what this actually was, but it was basically just the absence of the components you'd expect.  It had a basic graham cracker crust and a few blueberries inside.  It wasn't awful exactly, but it certainly was not good.

While we were dining, another dessert was brought out, so I tried it too.  Again, unlabeled, and it turned out to be tiramisu, which I'd passed up in the First Class lounge since it was so late at night and I don't ever have coffee or even chocolate at night, but ... I was so unsatisfied that I tried it anyway.  Like everything else, it was lackluster.  The ladyfingers were super soggy, the cream not very rich.  Meh.
Dessert, Afternoon.
On our return visit, there was no menu, and fewer options.  I skipped the melon-containing fruit salad and the tart again, and only went for the cheesecake.

The cheesecake was slightly better this time, topped with red goo instead of blueberry.  The cheesecake itself still wasn't very good, and it was warm, which that just kills the texture of cheesecake, but I did like the buttery crumbly crust.

[ No Photo ]
Food Carts

I'm not sure where my photo went, but there are also food carts in the evening, serving hot dogs and tacos.  We didn't try these.  I was hoping they would be there when we returned, but alas, they were not.
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