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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Bottega Louie: Get Pampered, Skip Dessert

I like that Downtowners now have more lunch options beyond the old-school steakhouses and chains, thanks to eateries like Bottega Louie, that's part of the boom of fancier restaurants popping up in this office-filled area. It's a beautifully converted space with exceptional service and good food -- just short of fantastic to match the ambiance. Of the small plates and pizza our group shared, here are my favorites.

The calamari was crispy and soft on the inside, with a light batter and a slightly spicy cocktail sauce.

The portobello fries were crispy but in a different way. The batter was a bit thicker than the calamari but it somehow worked. It helped that it came with a wonderfully garlicky aioli dip spiced with a bunch of herbs. Delicious.

The Bianco pizza topped with fresh arugula was light and the greens added a crunch to the cheesiness. The ricotta, mozzarella and parmesan cheese combo wasn't overly heavy and the crust was thin and much better than the complimentary dry and mediocre baguette slices before our meal. The butter was great but what's with the bread? I used the crust as the bread and slathered the butter on it to good effect. I'd say it was on par with Pizzeria Mozza, except the ones I had at Mozza had more interesting toppings.

Other dishes were just ok, including peas with prosciutto, asparagus with hard-boiled egg, burrata with tomatoes atop a pesto sauce and my least favorite, risotto rice balls.

The peas were serviceable but nothing to write home about. I think the prosciutto chunks made that dish and it was probably meant to be like a deconstructed pea soup (with ham hocks).

The asparagus were just blanched and topped with what was described as "sauteed egg" but basically appeared to be chopped up hard-boiled egg that was likely sauteed. It was fine but again, a bit on the bland side.

The burrata was ok but my palate had recently been titillated by the sumptuous burrata at Cube so this one didn't seem as good. Maybe it was the pesto sauce that it sat on top of that I wasn't a big fan of. The grape tomatoes on the vine were not that sweet. Maybe once tomatoes are in full season, this dish may improve.

The deep fried risotto balls were crispy but the parmesan cheese for some reason had too strong a smell that ruined the experience for me. I usually love parmesan cheese so it's a bit puzzling but I won't be ordering that again.

I absolutely loved the service, which was efficient, attentive but not solicitous, knowledgeable but not snooty and plentiful (lots of wait staff standing around in case you needed something). Amazing how a bit of investment and training can make a difference in one's experience.

The adjacent bakery was such a joy to behold when I walked into the restaurant, tantalizing me with colorful macaroons neatly displayed alongside other baked goods. But alas, the chocolate eclairs I got were overly sweet and utterly unremarkable. In fact, I would go as far as saying they were bad. For the price and type of place that probably prides itself in its "patisserie," it was a sore disappointment. I also tried its pain au chocolat (chocolate croissant), which was just slightly above average. I think I had better at Breadbar and even Le Pain Quotidien. And don't get me started on its apple turnover. It was bad. It was non-traditional because it didn't have the apple paste inside, just chopped apple topped over the croissant. It didn't do it for me. Croissant wasn't as flaky as it should be.

Bottega Louie

(213) 802-1470
700 South Grand Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90017


persimmongirl said...

not sure i like the preparation of the asparagus - while the combo sounds tasty, the presentation doesn't quite work - but the review of the calamari is promising. haven't seen anything like that here in seoul so am suddenly craving a nice, fluffy, tender fried calamari...

ironchef442 said...

yeah, asparagus wasn't great. great places of calamari await. second reason to visit la, or ny (4th of july?!)...