You know you’re in the Disney resort zone when even the newest, hippest hotel in town has storm troopers in the lobby and a gallery wall of Lego figurines on the way to the elevator. It’s a deliciously odd welcome to Blu SkyBar, the airy rooftop restaurant perched on top of the sleek 12-story Radisson Blu hotel.
To further the spirit of novel experiences, the dining room here spotlights lesser-known Spanish Basque cuisine. Few will recall when Basque immigrants had a strong presence in Southern California, back when land for grazing sheep was plentiful. Names we recognize today—Mendoza, Ortiz, Bastanchury—link to that era. Where land remained obtainable, Basque restaurants thrived as sources for hearty homeland fare.
After those places faded here, Basque country chefs refined and invigorated their dining scene, racking up enough Michelin stars to outshine any other dining destination in Europe. Edgar Beas, the executive chef at Blu SkyBar, worked alongside the most honored of them, Martín Berasategui. Beas returned stateside to yet another Michelin-star kitchen at Madera in Silicon Valley’s Menlo Park.
Now Beas is back to Basque, building dinners from a tight array of Spanish classics and season-inflected specialties that lean into the tradition. In Spain, cocktails often pair with pintxos, the deeply savory small bites that open this dinner menu. Starters also include world-class Spanish cheeses, sausages, and Iberian hams prized for their intense flavor.
A sampling of three costs $23. This is one the few local spots to enjoy hand-sliced jamón Ibérico de bellota, for an upcharge of $36 for 2 ounces. Spendy, but memorable. Do order pan cristal con tomate (grilled bread smeared with tomato and olive oil) to complete the tapas feast.
Of the pintxos, the fresh caballa en escabeche (lightly pickled Spanish mackerel) was oh-so vibrant and disappeared instantly. Bacalao al pil pil (salt cod with garlic) is not salty, despite the name. Careful rehydration ensures the complex delicacy remains plump; try it and see why it’s called prosciutto of the sea. Gambas al ajillo (wild shrimp with chorizo) is a justly popular surf-and-turf nosh. Grilled foie gras with cherries, hazelnuts, and sherry is an affordable splurge for foie fans. Don’t pork cheek croquettes sound irresistible? Alas, these were lukewarm fried orbs of whipped potato gone so gluey no pork could make a difference.
Magret de pato (grilled duck breast) is worth giving a second chance. The ultra-rich breast is expertly rendered, sliced thin, and served with unctuous rice. Too bad it’s presented in a room-temp paella pan that extracts the heat of grilling. Secreto Ibérico (grilled pork) is an uncommon, well-marbled cut from the shoulder of pata negra—pure-bred, free-range pigs that feed on acorns. Its dark, tender meat requires little seasoning.
Supporting side dishes add much life to the party. Delicate, faintly sweet white asparagus under crumbles of ham is a springtime treat. Wild-mushroom confit pairs beautifully with nearly everything on the menu. Chorizo-spiked garbanzo bean stew is so rustic and hearty it might vanish until cooler months, but order it whenever it’s offered.
The view from the 12th floor is not amazing, unless you want a drone’s-eye look at the 5 Freeway and all the beauty that surrounds it. Artful landscape design is what truly elevates the sky-high roost, with dramatic hedges creating intimate nooks and crannies furnished with trendy lounge seating.
Blu SkyBar had a difficult birth in November. Once open, it closed, then opened, then closed again in that familiar pandemic shuffle. Caveats were easing but still in place on my visits, preventing a full-throttle encounter. For every polished server there was a hapless bumbler.
But the setting is sensational and an impressive calling card for the Radisson brand. I can’t wait to dine at the chef’s counter on a fall visit. Or gab with a tourist at the bar. Or watch night owls preen to the dance soundtrack. Here’s hoping Blu SkyBar is wide open by now, luring adventurous diners and late-nighters aching for a scene unlike any other in Anaheim.
BluSky Restaurant & Bar
1601 S. Anaheim Blvd.
5 BEST DISHES
Embutidos and queso (charcuterie selections)
Magret de pato (grilled duck breast)
Secreto Ibérico (grilled pork)
Paella de bocavante (Maine lobster paella)
Esparragos blancos (white asparagus)
Appetizers $8 to $29
Entrees $39 to $75
Chef Edgar Beas was raised in San Diego and Tijuana.