At 38 with one teenage and one toddler daughter, it takes some effort for my wife and I to arrange a night out in Los Angeles. On a clear evening in October, we had one opportunity to do just that.
It was a night of dinner and dancing for my sister-in-law‘s birthday. She didn’t plan for it to take place on the same night as game seven of the National League Championship Series between the Milwaukee Brewers and our very own Dodgers but that is what occurred.
The dinner reservation was set for 6:30 PM at Officine Brera. The restaurant is nestled between the Los Angeles River, the Fashion District, and Skid Row. Like most businesses in the area, the place seems to be a converted warehouse turned high-end establishment. The name of the restaurant was projected onto the massive wall of L.A. Boulders next door.
We sat down on the patio at a table set for ten people. There was a warm fire behind us and a pleasant night breeze. Thankfully, I was not the only Dodger fan at the table. Since we had the patio to ourselves, we set a phone on the center of the table streaming the live audio so we could remain abreast of the goings on in Milwaukee. The Dodgers already had a 2-to-1 lead at that moment.
My wife ordered the Guancia di Manzo, a plate of beef cheeks and polenta with a glass of Rosé. I ordered the grilled swordfish with mussels and spinach with a glass of Goslings Black Seal Bermuda rum. Both plates were delicious but it was the beef cheek that stole the show. Each bite of the perfectly seasoned beef melted on your tongue and burst with flavor.
We were still enjoying our meal when Yasiel Puig hit the 3-run home run that made it 5-1. We ordered our desserts and listened to the last few innings as the bullpen completely shut down the Brewers to cement the Dodgers’ second straight trip to the World Series. This time, they would face the explosive Boston Red Sox.
Dessert was a shared plate of Castagnole. The waiter described it as a plate of fresh doughnuts with sugar and caramel sauce. The plate was brought to us and much to my delight, the doughnuts were more like oversized doughnut holes. Each was sprinkled with sugar and accompanied with a small bowl of a caramel sauce with a hint of bourbon whisky. This subtle combination of sugar and alcohol proved to be the perfect transition to the second half of the evening.
It was only a short ride to Chinatown. We got out of the car and crossed the street toward the nondescript building with a sign reading “Melody Lounge.” Below the sign was an open door and a bouncer taking ID cards and sliding them on a small handheld device. The dark room inside was illuminated only by hanging red globes all over the ceiling.
We ordered a first round of drinks and sat down for a birthday toast. It took me some time to realize what was going with the music despite the DJ being only a few feet away. This was not your traditional club with a DJ in front of a laptop.
As the 40’s era grooves played at full volume through the small space, the DJ turned away from the turntables to a box and began to flip through it until he pulled what he needed: the next record in his set. Yes, we found ourselves in a club spinning actual 45-rpm records.
The night included a mix of instrumentals of eras past, chill oldies, Spanish covers of American staples, and bonafide Latino hits as part of the club’s Noche Romantica. As the music played, more guests came in to congratulate the birthday girl. The Melody Lounge is not a big place and it looked like a third of the place was here for the birthday bash.
I took a few trips to the bar but I was also handed plenty of glasses throughout the night—as did my wife. In between drinks, we danced. When I needed a break, she had her sister and plenty of other girls to keep her on the dance floor. Before long, Saturday turned to Sunday.
Slowly and quietly, guests began to make their way out. By about 1:15, there were only a handful of us left of the group that had taken over the four walls of the Melody Lounge. We all took one final look at the table littered with glasses and bottles and knew it was time to call it a night.