620 Santa Monica Blvd.
Santa Monica, CA 90401
The Event: I had an assignment, writing style -- it was time to ID th best Italian spots in LA, and La Botte was a contender. New, subdued, sans a lot of buzz; what would I uncover?
La Botte sits on the bottom floor of an unassuming office building on and in Santa Monica. Somewhat tough to spot, I was disheartened to see it almost empty on a Thursday night - right about 7-ish. Crickets chirping, hushed silence - yet they couldn't trump the interior. It's modeled after a wine barrel, and it's quite stunning. Lots of dark wood hues and burgundies, with the ever present wine bottles dotting every wall. We were granted a large, comfy table, and our delightful Sicilian server started the spoiling. Which, I should mention, he wouldn't cease, the whole eve. Charming doesn't even cut it - and that's a rarity in our fair LA, so I'm still smiling from it all.
The white truffle tasting menu was still being offered (this was way before the holidays) so, I figured, let's just Go. My companion was a first timer in the high-eating realm, and what better way to initiate. . .
A general note about the experience on the whole - it *was* extraordinary. I loved all the savory dishes immensely. But they menu itself wasn't crafted to match white truffles per say; instead, they simply added the gems on top of existing dishes (most straight from the ala carte menu). That's a bit of a peeve, but a minor complaint.
I must also note that the white truffles at Providence where slightly superior; again, however, this is a tiny infraction.
La Botte rocked this menu.
Impressive, yet overly priced wine list. We opted for a $90 Sicilian white with a black label - mild and crisp and perfect for not overpowering those luscious white mushies.
Yummy crusty offerings with a trio of olive oil selections, which I found truly classy.
Course One: PROSCIUTTO D'ANATRA
Home cured duck breast, thinly sliced, drizzled with a mild gorgonzola dressing.
- THE most unique, outstanding meat-based carpaccio I have ever tasted. The duck was outlandishly succulent, zapped to life by that creamy gorgonzola goodness. The white truffles threw in a salty addition that balanced the dish way more than I expected - possibly my favorite of the eve.
Course Two: ANIMELLE CON POLENTA E SALSA AL MARSALA
Pan seared sweet breads served in a bed of soft polenta and marsala wine demiglace.
- Did I say the last dish was my fav? I blatantly lied. OMG, these Sweetbreads were just divine. Better even than those at L'Atelier in PARIS, for crying out loud - wow. Super crunchy on the outside, perfectly most and mouth-melting on the inside, and matched beautifully with the soft, grainy polenta. The truffles through this sucker over the top and slammed dunked them all the way down. Hot hot fire!
Course Three: RAVIOLINI DI FORMOGGIO
Homemade ravioli dumplings filled with cheese and topped with a fontina based cream sauce.
- These little honeys were not on the menu; this was the one dish made exclusively to match the the white truffles, and the chef shoot/scores/makes me all kinds of happy. Fontina is the perfect compliment for soft, billowing dumplings and the subtle, earthy taste of the truffles. The combination was a creamy dose of paradise. Quite rich, however, so I was grateful for the smaller portion.
Course Four: TAGLIOLINI ROSSI CON SALSICCIA DI QUAGLIA E SALSA DI PARMIGIANO
Homemade beet tagliolini with homemade quail sausage in a bed of parmesan fondue.
- Beet pasta with quail sausage - instant bonus points for originality! This is a premiere item from La Botte's menu, and I *highly* recommend it; absolutely succulent, with unique flavor bursts and an incredible texture. My complaint here involved the truffles -- they just didn't add to the dish. The flavors were overpowered by the sausage spice; the funghi were an afterthought, and an expensive one at that. Otherwise, the dish is stellar.
Course Five: FILETTO AL BAROLO TARTUFATO
Beef filet mignon with truffle Barolo wine sauce.
- A really tasty and marvelously prepared filet, but the accompanying brocolli and potatoes were bland by comparison. The sauce was also vibrant and rich, but once again, it drowned the delicate truffles. Black fellas would have faired better, but even still, a Barolo is never shy. Not that we would want him to be, even with a mountain of truffles on top.
Course Six, Dessert: PROFITEROLES WITH NUTELLA and CHOCOLATE CAKE WITH RASPBERRY SAUCE
They had two desserts to offer, and we of course chose one of each.
Puff pastries stuffed with hazelnut Nutella, served with a white chocolate raspberry sauce.
- I knew just by glancing at the offerings that savory was their specialty. Since I was full to the hilt already, this was not a disappointment, even though this stale little numbers didn't delight in the least.
Chocolate mousse cake on a chocolate wafer crust with a raspberry coule.
- Slightly better than the creation above, but still far too sickly sweet and amateur.
Suggestion - indulge in a port or other sweet libation rather than overload on sugary nonesense. Yes, good call.
Damage for 2 White Truffle Tasting Menus and a $90 bottle of wine: just under $400.
Worth it? Yes and no. You won't pay nearly this much for the regular tasting menu, which will be very similar to what I described above, sans the truffles. And guess what? You won't miss them. La Botte's food doesn't need any extravagant extras - it is absolutely fantastic Italian fare.
RESTAURANT REPORT CARD - La Botte Visit 1
Ambiance - B+
Service - A-
Food (Taste) - B
Food (Presentation) - B-
Wine/Drinks - B
Value - C+
Vibe/Energy/Scene - C
Overall Experience - B
Parking: Valet on side street
Attire: Business casual
Pros: Nice decor, great service, heaps of wine choices, really fantastic flavors and original to boot
Cons: Expensive wine options
Final word - I really love this place. I'll be back before you can say Tagliolini.
Come home with me.
Or have yourself a poem.