Friday, August 29, 2014

The Bowery: Not Your Ordinary Pub

by guest blogger Brian L. @iam_robot

To be honest, Los Angeles is the mecca of overhyped burger joints and gastropubs. Is it a conspiracy to think a group of Los Angeles restaurateurs collude every week to create another gastropub? I understand public’s desire to drink peanut butter beer from a local brewery or to devour a grass-fed bison burger without the 4 hours commitment in a jacket and slacks; But when there’s too many of them, the flux of turnovers is inevitable. I mean you might fall in love with a burger joint only to realize they had closed down before you made your second visit 6 months later. That said, it's still sad to think of some of the burger joints we recently lost: Kalbi Burger, The Parish, Haven Gastropub, Hamburger Hamlet, and the utterly delicious tamago (egg) burger at Fuku. Till this day, I regard that tamago burger the same way I regard tequila – if I ate one, all of a sudden I wouldn’t be able to stop, and suddenly I’d be broke and jobless.

Initially I had some trepidation when I got the invite to The Bowery. It’s another gastropub – years of experiences have taught me I typically got bored halfway into eating the food that I over-ordered and I’d ask myself, “Is it wrong I kinda wanna cook top ramen in my kitchen rather than eating here?”  But after entering/ observing the Bowery and talking to owner George Abou-Daoud, I knew I was in for a treat.

 Here’s my reasoning: First, George is probably the pioneer of this gourmet burger movement. He’s done it since year 2005, way before we knew the juggernauts: Umami, Father’s Office, and The Counter. The most impressive part is – he did it when the odds were stacked against his favor – Tower Records and The Palladium were closing while those ritzy apartments were probably a rolled-up blue print.
 As a fellow entrepreneur, I admire his fervor. Second, looking at the menu, The Bowery is no ordinary gastropub. Granted the menu could be a smorgasbord of all things irresistible and forbidden on any sort of diet, but they didn’t neglect people who seek balance. There are so many healthier fares I can’t wait to try on my next visit: Roasted Tomato Soup, Spicy Tuna with Saffron Risotto Crostini, Chickpea Falafel, and the Vegan Burger (with Black Bean & Roasted Beet Patty…Interesting!).  
Third, since I love anything pertaining to NYC, I just love the NYC bar nostalgia in this place. The place looks like one of those hip dens you found on a whim during guys night out around lower Manhattan – a dimly lit old beer hall with a shiny metal ceiling, mahogany bartop, black leather booths and chalk board beer listing. I also like the adornment of black and white tile along the walls – it’s a façade of a Subway Station in NYC. I just hoped Velvet Underground’s “Run Run Run” was playing in the background…it wasn’t  L

The Bowery Burger is sight to behold – the grass-fed beef patty looks humongous among the craters of English muffin.
 I customized my burger with gruyere cheese, caramelized onion, sautéed mushrooms and Jalapeno. I thought my combo was a winner – The beef patty was cooked medium rare, allowing maximum amount of tenderness and juiciness. The deeply charred patty went well with the gruyere, giving a nice layer of fat and some saltiness. Combining those with the caramelized onion, mushrooms, and Jalapeno – you get the perfect blend of salty, savory, spicy, sweet, and crunchy.  I didn’t mind the smaller English bun as well – sure it could get messy but I didn’t come here to get dainty and dignified.

Next up is the Moules Frites – mussels with French fries.
In Belgium, steamed mussels and fries pairing is as natural as Fish and Chips in England, or Beer and Pretzels in the States.  The mussel here was what I expected – plump, briny, sweet, and luscious. The broth tasted pretty good, I presume it’s a mixture of white wine, butter, garlic, herbs, chicken stock and fennel. Thought the broth was rich and savory, but pleasantly tame enough not to dominate the mussels’ overall salinity. I’d definitely ask for a slice of crunchy baguette to soak up the broth. Finally, the accompanying side of deliciously salty French fries is the icing on the cake.

I also had the chance to taste the Lamb meatballs with feta and Mediterranean yogurt.
The slightly charred lamb meatball had a good crumbly texture but it came too well done for my liking. As far as taste, it’s very robust in flavor and not overly gamy. The yogurt added some tang to the overall dish.
All in all, this is probably my new favorite burger spot in East Hollywood. I thought the customized burger concept veers toward modern, fun, and whimsical.  The burger alone is delicious, but all the other food in general is a step above common pub grub. It’s definitely one of those places where you can pop in for a quick drink with friends without compromising on good foods. My 2 cents here is that I wish they have an expansive dessert menu.  I’ll definitely be back here for late night eats, pre/ post show at the Palladium and occasional Sunday Brunch.  

The Bowery
6268 W Sunset Blvd
Los Angeles CA 90028
(323) 465-3400
The Bowery on Urbanspoon


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