Monday, August 6, 2012

Fun with Americana Nostalgia at Towne (Downtown LA)

It isn't often I walk into a new restaurant with no expectation and come out wowed. That happened recently to me at the new Towne in downtown LA. I didn't know much about it coming into the media tasting other than that they make their own twinkies, but left pretty impressed. Towne is a large elegant restaurant in the WaterMarke Tower in the South Park district of downtown LA. The bar to the left and the pastry case near the entrance is Bottega Louie-esque, without the high ceilings and the loudness (at least so far).


The warm pretzel bread, complimentary for the table, served with mustard butter made a great first impression.

We started with some appetizers including the Kanpachi Tacos, avocado, hijiki, aji amarillo, creme fraiche ($12)
While you can't see if at first glance, the crispy shells were filled with chunks of fresh kanpachi.

The head barman here is Jason Bran, who has designed a cocktail menu ranging from little twists of some classics to some fun, completely out-there cocktails. More on that later, as we first started on the tamer side with Eastern Mule: Russian Standard Vodka, lime, house 5-spice ginger beer ($13).

The hint of the spices were subtle but unmistakable.

Another nice refreshing classic: Genesis Collins with Beefeater 24 gin, grapefruit, honey, soda, "invisible touch" ($13) - not sure what the invisible touch was..

Chicken Liver Popcorn, yogurt, zatar ($11)
If you like chicken liver and pates, you would certainly love these deep fried goodness (one of the other bloggers at the table just could not stop eating them)!
On the other hand, if you don't like the taste of liver, avoid this. Just because they're deep fried doesn't mean they've lost that liver taste!

Lobster "Mac" ($14)
This wasn't as good as I had expected, I guess I wanted more of the "and cheese" part. For fun lobster dish, I preferred the Lobster Smokey "Pig in a Blanket", mustard seed relish, lobster mayo ($12)

Tuscan Kale Chop Salad, enoki, Monterey Jack, white beans, cabbage ,chili and garlic vinaigrette ($10)
Kale salads don't have to be boring and this one certainly isn't with all the different flavor and texture components in them. If you don't typically like kale salads, give this one a try and it might just change your mind.

Bone Marrow Matzo Ball Soup, shiitake, beef consomme ($9)
So .. I actually have not had matzo ball soup before this, and now they've spoiled me with their bone marrow matzo ball!
Consomme poured on the table and the matzo ball disintegrate somewhat quickly in the hot broth (it did, after all, have bone marrow in it!)
The shiitake also added a lovely earthiness. I don't know how I can go back to regular matzo ball soup now.

We only tried one pasta dish, which was the White bean ravioli, smoked ham hock broth, swiss chard ($17)
With the dense bean filling and generous chunks of ham hock, this would have made a nice entree in itself.

The pizza options include things like chorizo, mustard greens, taleggio ($14). I love finding a strong musty cheese like taleggio on a pizza!

There's also the artichoke, sheep's milk ricotta, egg sauce, bacon, and fontina ($15) pizza

Crispy pork shank for 2, sweet and sour cabbage, whole grain mustard spaetzle, mustard jus ($18 pp)

This one is a must try! This particular cut is actually the ham hock, which you don't see very much since it requires a long cooking time. Crispy skin, fall-off-the-bone tender meat, and just bursting with flavor. This was a definite favorite.

There are two cuts of steaks to satisfy different palates, both of them excellent:
Bone-in 28-day aged Prime Creekstone strip loin ($46) and the Bone-in 28-day aged Prime Creekstone rib eye ($46)


Brussel sprouts with tamarind glaze as a side:
The tamarind is a nice touch although the dish was a tad too salty for me.

So, I mentioned earlier about some fun cocktails they are doing here. I saved one of them for dessert since it sounded appropriate. The CoCo Punch (50s-60s) is made with Jim Beam, Cocoa Pebbles cereal milk, nutmeg, cocoa pebbles ($14)
It's obviously on the sweeter side but it was both wonderful and nostalgic. I even bought a box of Cocoa Pebbles the next week because of this!

The owner is a vodka lover and wanted to serve great vodka properly. Lacking an ice room like Nic's vod box, they came up with another ingenious way to serve vodka at the right (chilled) temperature and keeping it cold: an ice-glass mold in a glass!

The cereal cocktail isn't the only childhood memory you'd find on the cocktail list. It wasn't ready during my dinner, but Towne will soon have adult "Kool Aid" cocktail! This isn't the usual Kool Aid, though, as Jason Bran is desiccating a mixture of bitters for the "Kool Aid" mix, which will be put into their own little packets.

For desserts they have, as I have mentioned before, housemade twinkies. In red velvet, original and chocolate.

These were fun, and while it's much better than the original Twinkies, I'm still after all not a Twinkies kind of girl. I much preferred the housemade push-pops, with ice cream flavors from chocolate, coffee, to cinnamon.
OK so I actually did not grow up in the US and never had push pops prior to this night but I'm an instant convert.
The twinkies are displayed and sold in the pastry case at the front of the restaurant, just like at Bottega Louie, along with donuts, cupcakes, and macarons. I highly recommend the lychee and peanut butter jelly macarons.

Towne is definitely a downtown opening to get excited about with both great food and great drinks. There are a lot of playfulness. Some may seem gimmicky to you, but when they're done well, why not go along and have fun with it?

705 W 9th St
Los Angeles, CA 90015
(213) 623-2366 



The matzo ball soup looks amazing. I've never had matzo ball before, and I love bone marrow, shiitake, and beef consomme! Ham hock sounds quite gimmicky, but crispy skin and tender meat? I want one.

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