Saturday, October 16, 2010

Bottega Louie - Downtown LA

Bottega Louie. With a name like a well-oiled Italian handbag, it’s exterior also has the aura of a Louis Vuitton store. With tall open windows, bold crown molding and white with gold accented faux-euro architecture reminiscent of ancient east coast banks, it’s no wonder the bakery restaurant (or as some call it, gourmet market) captures your attention. Standing like a lioness on the corner of 7th and Grand in Downtown Los Angeles, it has a reputation for good dinners, pricey but delicious desserts and a loud andcrowded youthful atmosphere after work hours. Luckily for K and myself, we had Columbus Day off and indulged ourselves by traveling to this recommendation from M. Parking in downtown is always a pain just two levels short of pulling teeth, but thank God fthe parking lot located just behind the restaurant on Grand has $3 parking after 4PM on weekdays. Win.

We sauntered over to the restaurant and immediately the bright boxes and culinary equipments in the open bakery (the restaurant also has an open kitchen and pizza bar) excited us. (Or me. If you want to excite K, just hand him a bottle of Peruvian aji sauce to eat with anything and you’ll see excitement.) Ahem. Anyways, there’s a side door to go to the bakery and a small opencooler area with premade foods, not unlike at Fanima or 7-11, probably for the grab-n-go lunch crowds. We went around to the front of the restaurant, in through the large heavy double doors, ready to be awed. The interiors were very nice, high super-vaulted ceilings, a lounge/bar area and behind that, the main restaurant. We’d arrive at 4:40 and were informed that due to Colombus Day, they were on a limited café style lunch menu and the dinner menu would not be available till 5. Boo. On the other hand, our suave good looking waiter did mention that the much heralded Portobello Mushroom Fries were off the menu but available. Yeeeeees. [insert fistpump here]

We peeked through the regular menu but were relatively hungry enough that we decided to try their lunch one and then add on more if still hungry. We had the Club Sandwich and a wood fired pizza. I wanted to try more than one flavor for the pizza so went half and half with Burrata, which included burrata, proscuitto, rapini and granna parmesan. The other half was Sausage, fennel sausage, tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese. We also clung onto the dinner menu is anticipation of the so-close-yet-so-far 5 o'clock.

After getting a nice glass bottle of chilled tap water which the water left with us after serving our glasses, we sat looking outside the restaurant. This is in the heart of downtown and it shows. Security kept walking by our window seating along with businessmen, the homeless, and the "casual crowd". Our mushroom fries came before long and boy, were they delicious just like we'd heard. Thickly sliced portabello mushroom dipped in a light batter and fried, I could see the mushroom through the fried outerskin and also the salt and seasoning dashed on lovingly. Served in paper in a metal cuplike container, what made it just right was the aioli dip served with it. Creamy with the flavour of classy mayo, it gave the light salted batter exterior and the meaty tender interior of the mushroom a nice pair of handcuffs to tie together and swim straight into my tummy. Not too greasy at all for a fried dish, this is a must order uniqueness at Bottega Louie.

After gobbling up our fries and making a crumbling embarrassing mess on the table paper, our water informed us the kitchen was ready for dinner orders so I added on a French Onion soup. (I adore soup.)

Our pizza holder was delivered with standard cheese and pepper bottles. (Oh, how I miss the fried garlic bottles of Il Chianti.) When the pizza was served, it looked yummy and Italian and not unlike Italian style pizza I've had before. The sausage pizza was my first taste and it had a nice meaty flavour, a good pairing with the mozzarella although I felt they could have put a little more cheese. In major chunks of slices, there was just marinara with a dash of spices-no meat or cheese. Maybe it's the style, but if you're eating the combination of sausage, cheese and sauce, you should be able to taste all three in every bite. The prosciutto burratta was good too, K liked this one more although I found the rapini to be a tiny overpowering and the arrangement only one slice of prosciutto for each slice to be disappointing. As Oliver Twist said, "Might I have some more, sir?"

All in all, true to the taste of Italian pizza making although not my favorite rendition. The crust was a bit thick and neither of us ate more than a bite of it, leaving a sad little mountain of discarded crusts sitting on our plates.

Next was the club sandwich with French ham, turkey, tomato, gruyere, avocade, watercress and slices of hardboiled egg. Apple smoked bacon hide out somewhere between all that, somewhere between all the healthy stuff. Served with a side of thick cut potato chips, the chips werely inedible in my view. Flavourless, dry with a oily touch, I recommend asking if you can substitute for something else. The sandwich, which comes crustless and quartered was Meh. Not mindblowing considering the ingredients had given it at least a decent palatte to work with, it is nothing more or less than an okay club.

By now we were full so the soup was a good ending. Served with a square of bread and cheese baked over, it looked really really good.

It wasn't. It was on the bland side, the simple onion soup just a little too late, the cheese not able to bring out it's flavour fully with it's onion soup partner floundering in the tastes department. The bread, which looked really pretty actually hurt the soup. Because it took up such a large space in the soup, there wa not too much soup to begin with. And because slices bread suck up liquid much the way my Dyson sucks up cookie crumbs, what was limited became less. Hardly $8 worth of soup in my opinion.

We were full and not thrilled but surely Bottega Louis could not let us down in their speciality, desserts. The waiter recommended the Le Grande Macaroon, two large Italian macaroon cookies with ice cream sandwiched between and fresh berries. The macaroon was very hard, the taste sweet but the consistency of hard cookie cake, the bite sticky as if there were jam mixed into the cookie. I admit, I'm not familiar with much macaroons but this was not my idea of a to-die-for dessert. Nevertheless, the fruit was fresh and the ice cream at least was good.

I hear their dinner menu is good but to be honest, I have yet to see any example of exemplerary cuisine. However, a large variety of desserts still await testing along with a reasonably sized lounge area, not too expensive pricing (except for the disappointing soup) and a late closing time. If I'm feeling snacky for mushroom fries while in downtown LA, I just might come back.

Bottega Louie
700 S Grand Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90017
(866) 418-9162

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