At the Lakers’ third home game Nov. 2, Andy Garcia was grabbing a corned-beef sandwich just before tipoff at one of the concession stands inside Staples Center. At halftime, Jeffrey Katzenberg — as he usually does — stayed in his seat the entire time; anyone who wanted to schmooze had to come to him. But with the 2010-11 season ramping up, more and more high-powered fans are discovering that not all of the action is happening courtside. The Palm (1100 S. Flower St., 213-763-4600, thepalm.com) still draws a testosterone-heavy crowd — Ari Emanuel’s a regular — but a clutch of newer entrants are drawing Lakers lovers who want outstanding food and buzzer-beating three-pointers. For those who don’t have time to eat, the ultra-exclusive Chairman’s Room is the hot spot during halftime. But don’t expect more than peanuts.
THE PLACE: When you’re at the top of your game, the only place to be is at the top of L.A., on the 24th floor of the Ritz-Carlton at Wolfgang Puck’s new Chinese-inspired restaurant.
WHO GOES: Usher, David Beckham
WHERE TO SIT: Puck’s dining room is three- or four-course menus only. “You can’t do it in 48 minutes,” says courtside fixture and former Capitol Records president Joe Smith, a fan. But the lounge, with its podlike booths offering privacy and views of flatscreens, is taking off as an early drinks destination.
WHAT TO GET: The restaurant’s incomparable Peking duck (for two, as part of the $70 and $100 prix fixe menus) isn’t served in the lounge, but the baby bao filled with honey-glazed pork belly shouldn’t be missed.
900 W. Olympic Blvd., 213-743-8824, wolfgangpuck.com
THE PLACE: Chef John Sedlar creates Latin-inspired cuisine that wows in taste and presentation, from gruyere-stuffed piquillo peppers to tortillas pressed with edible flowers. “It’s an upscale place yet has a cozy feel,” says loyalist Tendo Nagenda, vp production at Disney. “You can be at the bar and feel relaxed or sit down for a serious meal.”
WHO GOES: Halle Berry with manager Vincent Cirrincione; WME’s Mike Esola
WHERE TO SIT: In the more private Sangre Room, where the walls are lined with private tequila lockers. Annual $2,500 tequila-club membership not only includes two bottles of Rivera’s house-label extra añejo but also valet parking at the restaurant for any event across the street. (Season-ticket holder and philanthropist Nancy Davis prefers the parking at Staples. “The best thing you can get is the valet parking program. It’s $125 a game; if you buy last-minute, it’s $200. And everybody is there chatting at valet.”)
WHAT TO GET: Paying homage to the Aztec sun god, the cabeza de oro ($34) serves up foie gras, lobster, smoked scallops, truffles, jamon iberico, caviar and edible gold leaf — piled atop a golden head figurine.
1050 S. Flower St., 213-749-1460, riverarestaurant.com
THE PLACE: The fourth outpost of SBE’s Katsuya is the go-to place for entertainment VIPs within the L.A. Live complex, which also includes Fleming’s, Rosa Mexicano and Trader Vic’s. “It’s beautiful, the food is incredible, and most importantly, they are fast,” says Risa Shapiro, a manager at the Schiff Co.
WHO GOES: Jimmy Iovine, CAA’s Dave Bugliari, Zac Efron
WHERE TO SIT: The private, curtained-off Dragon Room
WHAT TO GET: “I have been eating the crab handrolls since Katsuya opened,” says producer Lynda Obst, Shapiro’s regular dining partner. “I feel the boys are always at the Palm, but the girls can’t eat that much beef before the game or we’ll get tired.”
800 W. Olympic Blvd., 213-747-9797, sbe.com/katsuya
CHAIRMAN’S ROOM AT STAPLES
THE PLACE: Accessed via a tunnel in the southeast corner of the arena off the court (the same passage leading to the visiting team’s locker room), this lounge is off-limits to everyone except floor-seat ticket holders, certain celebs and guests of Lakers management.
WHO GOES: Joel Silver, Mosaic’s Jimmy Miller, Penny Marshall
WHERE TO SIT: Mostly standing- room-only
WHAT TO GET: For a meal inside Staples, one option is to head to the buffet at the Lexus Club before the game ($5,000 annual membership; access during all Lakers, Kings and Clippers games and most concerts). In the Chairman’s Room, the options are limited to peanuts, popcorn, chips and drinks. It’s the crowd that really matters. “It’s where you run into all the agents,” says Obst, sarcastically. “It’s so fabulous. If you haven’t done that enough during the day, it’s a great thing to do.”