Tag Archives: Pizza

Areal Restaurant

Areal

2820 Main Street
Santa Monica, CA. 90405
310-392-1661

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My boyfriend FutureGreg (FG) and I found ourselves at Areal in Santa Monica recently enjoying another of our Monday date nights.

We sat at the bar, as per usual, and were fortunate enough to have our drinks made by their head barman Rich Andreoli.

A very Happy Hour

We arrived at the tail end of happy hour but managed to order a couple of bar bites and a daiquiri off the smaller happy hour menu before it ended.

We started with the Vegetable risotto, it was creamy but not too rich and had a slight chicken stock flavor to it.  The peas and asparagus were perfectly cooked, not too crunchy and not too soft.

Risotto: Spring peas, asparagus, lemon parmesan $9

Next we had the beef tartar which had a nice light spiciness.  The meat itself was soft, moist and had capers and onions mixed in. It came with hot toasted bread on the side which made a nice contrast with the cold beef.  Both dishes were great options for the price.

Beef Tartar: Fresh herbs, capers, shallots, arugula $8

The Daiquiri was a nice simple classic, it was slightly sour for my tastes but FG enjoyed it and it was a bargain at $6.

Original Daiquiri: White rum, fresh lime juice, sugar $6

More Food…

After the happy hour tasters we ordered off the main menu.  We couldn’t decide between the steak or the shrimp pizza…so naturally, we got both!

The 14oz Rib Eye with vegetables was a great choice, the dish reminded me of Sunday Roast dinners my mum would make back in England.  All the vegetables were delicious, crunchy and full of flavor.

Yes, you heard correctly, the Fussy One (who used to shy away from anything green on her plate) ate a whole plate of veggies… and enjoyed every one of them!  There was Artichoke, Purple Cauliflower, Asparagus, Roast potatoes, Parsnips and Carrots…plus some caramelized garlic and shallot pieces that gave a delicious sweetness to the plate.  It was very very good indeed.

Ribeye: Roasted seasonal vegetables, sautéed garlic spinach, herb butter $38

I had high hopes for the pizza we ordered, however sadly the menu didn’t mention it had chilies on so it was a little too spicy for me.  The pizza base was delicious though, soft and crispy dough with powdered flour on the edges.  I do enjoy a good pizza crust.

Wood Fired Shrimp Pizza: Goat cheese, Roasted garlic puree, Cilantro marinated shrimp $14

Drinks please!

Rich is a great bartender and gave wonderful suggestions for pairings with the food.  He convinced me to try a large variety of drink options,  so we sat at the bar and enjoyed many an alcoholic beverage.  He chose me a great glass of wine to enjoy with the steak which was a nice change from the cocktails too.  I’m not usually a red wine drinker but he gave me a glass of the medium bodied Mondave Cabernet which worked beautifully with the meat, it was fruity with just a hint of oak.

The first mixed drink I ordered was the ‘Secretariat’. It was a nutty, very rich and sweet drink.  It was a little too intense for me at the start of the meal but had a great combination of flavors. The pistachio honey really came through nicely, and worked well with the walnut liquor and bourbon. I didn’t really pick up on the lavender bitters because there were so many other overpowering flavors present. Certainly an interesting option, although i’d personally suggest it as an after dinner drink as opposed to with a meal.

Secretariat- Bourbon, Pistachio honey, Walnut liquor, Sweet vermouth, Lavender bitters $12

FG tried the ‘Single Village Fix’.   He certainly enjoyed it, mainly due to the Mezcal, which has become one of his fast favorites recently. The drink itself had a fair amount of sweetness to it from the pineapple gomme (which is basically a syrup) but the smoky mezcal flavors were the most overpowering part of the drink and not really my style.

Single Village Fix- Mezcal, Fresh lime, Pineapple gomme $12

I so wanted to like the Cameron’s Kick, because all the ingredients are things I enjoy.  The orgeat was very light, so the drink itself was pretty strong and I didn’t like it as much as I thought I would.  FG enjoyed it a lot and described it as balanced but strong. I’m just fussy it would seem…haha who knew?! 🙂

Cameron’s Kick- Scotch, Irish Whiskey, Fresh lemon, Orgeat $12

The ‘Infante’ was the only drink that I honestly had no interest in trying because I’m not exactly a tequila fan but FG and Rich convinced me to give it a go at least.  Of course, it turned out to be my favorite drink of the night.  The tequila wasn’t overpowering at all and the rose water mist and nutmeg on top gave a great nose.  It was balanced, refreshing and delicious! I highly recommend this drink.

Infante- Blanco Tequila, Fresh lime, Orgeat, Rose water, Nutmeg $12

Sweet tooth

Dessert was just utter decadence. We were so full from food and cocktails that we boxed up half the pizza, but somehow Rich convinced us to try the  ice cream sundae! This is definitely not correctly advertised, ice cream sundae sounds kind of boring when you see it on the menu…but if you knew how good it was you would get this in a heartbeat.  It’s a home made toasted marshmallow ring for the base, butter pecan, chocolate and vanilla ice cream in the center then topped with cream, nuts and bourbon caramel sauce. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!

This was beyond delicious, the marshmallow wasn’t overtly sweet and had a soft almost whipped texture to it.  The ice cream was creamy, (butter pecan happens to be my favorite flavor) the bourbon caramel sauce wasn’t overpowering it just blended nicely with all the other ingredients and the toasted hazelnuts gave a nice texture.  What a dish!

Ice Cream Sundae for two: Bourbon caramel, chocolate sauce, toasted hazelnuts $12

Just when we were about to explode, the pastry chef brought us a Pavlova to try! She told us that she makes sure the house made meringues remain chewy, so we had to have a taste.  Sadly the meringues on this occasion came out a little on the crunchy/dusty side…however the intension was there and i’m sure if we ordered it another time it would be as its intended. The whipped goat cheese was a great accompaniment to the berries on top.

Pavlova: Chewy meringue, Whipped goats cheese, Seasonal berries $9

Time for some Ratings

The food was a solid 3.5 before the dessert came out, but the ice cream sundae bumped it right up to out of 5.

If you can only order one item, get the sundae!!!  The rest of the food was all very good as well, the risotto and Steak were my favorites and if it wasn’t for the chilies the pizza would have been excellent also.

I’m giving the drinks at Areal 4 out of 5 also.

All the cocktails were executed well, Rich was chatty and friendly and is a man who clearly knows his craft.  I liked that he suggested things to try and asked me what spirits I prefer so he could make a drink accordingly, it made the whole experience more personal.  I found some of the drinks sometimes aired a little on the sour side for my tastes, but seeing as I usually go for diabetic sweet they are probably fine for most people!

I highly recommend this restaurant and i’m sure we’ll be back soon. The courtyard has fairy lights everywhere and looks beautiful.  The whole restaurant has a romantic and attractive atmosphere, the bar is well stocked with lots of interesting bottles and liqueurs (some we’d never seen before) and the background music they play is great. Soft rock and chill songs by bands such as Oasis, Red Hot Chili peppers, Snow Patrol and Cold Play (all my favorites!).

All in all a great night out. Shame about the $68 parking ticket that awaited us, we were having such a good time we forgot to feed the meter!

Oops… still well worth the night out though 🙂

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Bottega Louie

Bottega Louie
700 South Grand Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90017
213 802 1470
 

*****

I love this place and rank it as one of my favorite Restaurants in all of Los Angeles.  I am finally putting up a review after my fourth visit and yet again I left utterly satisfied.

There is an elegance and attention to detail in this restaurant that I adore, from the marble flooring and delicate ceiling designs to the beautiful pink salt crystals in the shakers on the tables. If you’re going to come here for dinner you should know that they do not take reservations and it is strictly first come, first served.  It is generally always busy at night so I recommend getting there at least half an hour before you plan to eat. We always start off by giving our name at the front desk (which they write down in a gigantic reservations book) then head over to the bar for a cocktail.

The bar is small but cute, has an attractive marble top and fairly decent drinks list.  This last visit I started with a ‘Japanese Sour’ and my boyfriend (FG) had ‘A Night in Oaxaca’.

My drink was delicious, basically a Whiskey Sour with the addition of Port, I found the port added a layer of complexity to the sweetness and overall taste of the drink.  

A Japanese Sour- Rye Whiskey, port, lemon, simple syrup & egg white $12

The ‘Night in Oaxaca’ was smoky from the mezcal but still balanced and flavorful with a lightly bitter after taste.  My boyfriend seemed to enjoy it, although it was little too bitter for me.

A Night in Oaxaca-Mezcal, Lemon, Punt e Mes, agave nectar & bitters   $12

The room has an open floor plan so you can see in to the kitchen and pizza ovens, something I personally love and think gives great character. The whole building has extremely high grand ceilings and is technically one giant room, but it’s sort of divided in to sections.  As you enter there is a small cafe style area with a bakery (where you can buy macaroons and pastries), there is the Bar section with the main kitchen adjacent, a large main dining room area and a pizza kitchen at the back of the room.I noticed that they don’t have background music at all at this restaurant.  It is somewhat noisy though, the high ceiling echoes the sounds from the Kitchen and the lack of material in the room allows the sounds of people talking to bounce directly off the marble flooring. I personally really like the hustle and bustle atmosphere this creates. The tables set out in such a large open space makes me think of a French court yard, especially on the ‘Cafe’ side. I almost feel like you should see little birds hopping from table to table as if you’re outdoors in Paris.Despite being busy (on a Monday night) we were seated fairly quickly and this time were placed in view of the pizza station.  I found myself staring at the cooks for ages as they made the pizzas for the restaurant.  It’s like a performance seeing them work and hard to look away. One Chef moulds and tosses the dough to make the base (and throws it pretty high) whilst the other adds toppings to order and places it in the large open fire oven behind him. After watching a few pizza bases go flying through the air, we decided on this visit we had to try a pizza.  I think it is well worth the $18 price tag when you can watch your dinner being prepared with the utmost care and baked to order in front of you.I would definitely recommend getting a pizza here, although I suggest you do it as a shared plate like we did.  The pizza was larger than I expected and we ended up taking a few slices boxed up with us.  Out of the many pizza choices we decided on the Blanco and I was impressed with how much flavor came through with no tomato base.   The crispness of the pizza crust was perfect and the addition of arugula was interesting.  The garlic came through just enough for it not to need anything else, it could be considered a little bland for some, but we enjoyed it as it came.

Blanco- Ricotta, Mozzarella, Grana Parmesan, Roasted Garlic, Wild Rocket Arugula $18

When going anywhere I always look on foursquare and yelp for reviews and recommendations. The dish that gets the most reviews at Bottega are the ‘The Portobello (mushroom) fries’.

Portobello Fries- $10

Now, if you have read the ‘about me’ section of my blog you will know that mushrooms are definitely up there with my least favorite items. I actually have no problem with their flavor, I will happily eat a cream of mushroom soup, but I find their texture to be reminiscent of what i imagine a slug would feel like to chew on. I am therefore not a fan of mushrooms raw or only partially cooked. We went ahead and ordered them on a previous visit anyway. FG really likes them, and although they’re not my favorite item, I certainly  don’t dislike them.  They are deep fried Portobello mushroom slices and come with a very rich creamy aioli.  Deep fried anything is always going to taste pretty delicious but a little too greasy for my liking.  They are an interesting appetizer though and worth trying as an alternative to fries.

Hangar Steak Verdura- Prime beef, farmers market vegetables & black truffle sauce $20

We ordered the Hangar steak (medium/rare) to share and this is what I usually get on my visits here.  The vegetables change based on what is in season or currently available,  this version had carrots, rainbow beans, mushrooms and asparagus on top.  All cooked perfectly in an ‘al dente’ style, (still slightly firm but not hard center). We ordered a side of broccolini too, which had soft ends and crunchy stalks. Delicious.  The steak was juicy and flavorful, the vegetables were tasty and fresh. The overall dish was very good.

Sautéed Broccolini $8

LasagnaTraditional Bolognese meat ragù, Béchamel, Buffalo mozzarella, Ricotta & Grana parmesan $16

On a previous visit we also tried the Lasagna.  This was ‘divine’ according to FG, and every time we return he questions whether he should get it again because he remembers it as being utterly delicious and bursting with flavor.  It has a creamy béchamel sauce and three kinds of cheese mixed in there.  For its price point you certainly can’t go wrong, so if you want a good pasta dish here then I highly recommend it.

Butterscotch Budino- Butterscotch custard with fluer de sel & Chantilly whipped cream $9

We decided to get a dessert to finish, and went for the Butterscotch Budino which was basically like a ‘Pot de Creme.’  It was outstanding.  It has a soft custard center with butterscotch flavors, and a salty creamy finish.  It was so good.  I occasionally got a little salt crystal on my tongue, but the sweetness followed quickly and made for an interesting play of flavors in my mouth.  I highly recommend this dessert,  but if you are more in to pastries stop at the cafe on the way out.  They have macaroons in a rainbow assortment of colors and extremely interesting flavors which include Rose, Chocolate Orange, Salted Caramel, Pistachio, Espresso, Earl Grey, and Tahitian Vanilla to name just a few.

Food gets 4 out of 5 Platters

For the quality of food being presented I feel the prices are more than reasonable here. There are plenty of options to choose from and all the dishes we have tried in the past have been excellent.  The atmosphere and the ambience of this place really makes for a wonderful night out.  It could be a little loud for those wanting a more intimate setting, but I think it’s still a great and fun location for a date night.

Drinks get 3.5 out of 5 Coupes

The drinks were good but not excellent, they were executed correctly and the bar staff were all friendly they just don’t ‘Wow’ me.  I feel like the drinks list could be more interesting, especially with so many great options in the kitchen. The ones we had were by no means bad, just not as exciting as they could be.

All in all, this is still one of the best restaurants to venture out to.  It is fun, young and trendy.  The food is great, the drinks are good and the ambience is exciting.  When we can’t think where to go on date night, we always know we have this as a great option.  Having a ‘FussyOne’ as a repeat customer means they must be doing something right! I recommend you go see for yourself.

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