Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Star Alliance Lounge, TBIT, LAX

As I mentioned in my review of the Delta Sky Club at SFO, I flew to Sydney on an airline that wasn't One World (Virgin Australia).  This meant that I also got to check out a different lounge at LAX: the Star Alliance lounge.

Overall, it was a lovely place to spend an hour, and I think I even preferred it to the Qantas lounge (the one in LAX that is, certainly not compared to the Sydney Qantas First Class lounge!)

Setting

The lounge is located in the same general area as the Qantas Business and First lounges I had visited before, but up one story.  I did not have access to the separate First Class lounge, only the business lounge, but I hear it has a la carte dining.

The regular business lounge however was plenty nice.  While it did not have a la carte dining, nor a spa, nor premium services like that, it was large, not crowded, had decent food selections, and, had an amazing outside terrace with fire pits.
Seating.
The space is large, but broken up in many different seating sections, with all your standard options of seating (hard chairs, soft chairs, tables, etc).

The wooden floors were stunning.
Media Room.
One of the many different distinct areas was a media room, with bucket seats and television.  I only ever saw 1-2 people using this space.
Open Lounge.
The bar is two-sided, but because it was so quite when I was there, only the interior side was in operation.  The back side is part of an deck of sorts, overlooking the restaurant below, with live music playing.  A lovely atmosphere.
Walkway to Terrace.
But the most impressive space was down the hall, following another stunning wooden floor.  Shower suites were located to the side, but the hall itself lead to the outside terrace ...
Terrace Seating.
The terrace was incredible.  Open air, overlooking the runway, with comfortable padded chairs and planters.  Most seats were clustered around fire pits.

Because it was Wednesday, they also had a taco party set up out here, where you could get made-to-order tacos and nachos.
Fire Bar!
Besides the comfortable lounge seating there was also a high counter with tools, and of course, more fire.

The terrace was an incredible oasis and escape from the terminal, a very unique touch.
Dining Area.
Back inside, adjacent to the buffet area, was more standard dining with tables, both high and low.
Bathroom.
The bathroom was clean and modern, with high quality amenities.

Food & Drink

Enough of the boring stuff, on to the food!

Besides the tacos out on the terrace, food was self-serve from a buffet.  There were several self-serve drinks stations in addition to the tended bar.
Snack Mix, Coffee, Tea.
Drink stations had coffee machines, tea, sparkling water, and juices.

One had snack mix, which I eagerly made a beeline for as I love snack mix, but, I was pretty sad to see that two of the three snacks were just goldfish crackers.

The final one was a mix, with pretzels, corn chips, nuts, cheese crackers, and rice crackers.  It wasn't particularly seasoned, beyond salty.  I liked the rice crackers, but otherwise, this wasn't an impressive snack showing.
Water Tap.
No bottles of water were available, but instead, water taps with still and sparkling water were located around the space.  I wished they had bottled sparkling water for me to grab and take with me!
Noodles: Wheat and Mung Bean.
Most of the food was in a central buffet, but around the corner was a DIY Vietnamese Noodle station.  You had the choice of two different types of noodles to start.
Mix Ins.
And then plenty of mix-ins, including proteins (krab, chicken, tofu), veggies (chard, green onions, bean sprouts), herbs (mint, basil, cilantro), and chili pepper.

I didn't make soup, but I did try the krab.  It was, well, standard krab stick.
Vietnamese Beef Broth, more toppings.
The broth was only beef, but there was a sign saying veggie was available.

Chopsticks and sauces finished this noodle station.
Buffet.
The rest of the food was in a long buffet, double sided, with an impressive wine bottle wall behind it.
Sandwiches, crudite, dip.
The first section had sandwiches (horseradish pastrami cheddar flatbread and a chicken gyro wrap), assorted raw veggies, and two types of hummus (artichoke, red pepper).
Salads.
Next came a bunch of composed salads.  I had them all, and they were all pretty good, although fairly overdressed, and thus the ones with greens were a bit limp.

First was rigatoni pasta salad, with roasted eggplant and sundried tomatoes.  The pasta was nicely cooked, not mushy, and overall it was pretty flavorful. The eggplant wasn't too slimy.

Next was caesar salad with anchovy dressing, standard croutons, romaine lettuce.  This was good flavor-wise, but was incredibly soggy.  Soggy lettuce is no fun.

Next came a "Winter harvest kale salad" with red wine vinaigrette, cubes of winter squash, kale, and pumpkin seeds.  This was the only salad with greens that wasn't incredibly mushy, and it was a fairly inspired salad, I liked the crunchy pumpkin seeds.  Very seasonally appropriate.

After that was asian napa salad with roasted chicken in a sesame ginger dressing.  I avoided the chicken, but the cabbage and dressing were quite tasty, and the cabbage remained relatively crisp.

Finally, not pictured because it was being replaced, was a spinach salad with candied walnuts, beets, and shallot vinaigrette.  This one was just as soggy as the caesar, even though I got a fresh batch, so clearly, it was all made up long in advance and was just sitting in the back.  If it wasn't for the sogginess, it would have been quite good, again, great flavors, and I really liked the candied walnuts.

They clearly put thought into these salads, but need to work on the freshness.
Cheese, Dried Fruit, Chips, Crackers.
I was fairly impressed with the cheese selection, piles and piles of cheese (English Sage Derby Cheese, Asiago Cheese, Holland Smoked Gouda, New Zealand Cheddar), crackers, dried fruits, pita chips, and kettle chips.

I tried a few cheeses and they were fine.  I did wish they had some charcuterie or compotes to go along with the cheese.
Hot Foods.
Finally, hot foods.: "wicked thai soup", garlic rosemary chicken with pan gravy, cumin citrus vegetables, oven roasted garlic potatoes. 

The soup had rice and bits of chicken in it, and I'm not sure what made it "wicked", but it was comforting and flavorful, coconut milk based.  Like the salads, I was impressed with the seasoning and fact that this food was not bland.

The cumin citrus vegetables were also a nice surprise, a seasonal mix of veggies including mushrooms, carrots, sweet potatoes, bell peppers, onions, cauliflower, and more.  Nicely roasted, a wide variety, and, well seasoned.
Desserts!
And finally, my favorite section: dessert!

I was really happy to see that they didn't just have cookies and brownies (and in fact, there were none of these).  The closest to cookie/brownies was a rice crispy treat, er, "rice and marshmallow chocolate square".  Other options were chocolate mousse garnished with an oreo cookie and pumpkin spice rice pudding.  I avoided the fruit section as it had watermelon which I'm allergic to, but there was also a mango peach smoothie, grapes, and fruit salad.

I went for the rice pudding, since I love pudding, but I did have to roll my eyes a bit at the "pumpkin spice".

It was decent rice pudding.  Kinda mushy, kinda gloopy, but, that works for rice pudding.  The spicing was actually fine, not too strong on the nutmeg, lots of cinnamon.  The only thing I didn't like was the rice crispies on top.  I get what they were going for, rice pudding and then crispy rice, but, they just tasted stale and strange.
Margarita.
At one point, the bartender came through with a tray of passed drinks, including a White Sangria, Salt-Rimmed Margaritas, and a "Tokyo Tea".

I had a margarita but it wasn't very good at all.  Way too sweet.
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