this weekend, i watched rango and dined at bottega louie in downtown los angeles; this is my review for both.
friday night, boyfriend and i used the discounted amc tickets we purchased through various groupon-like sites to watch rango. until the movie came out, i had little desire to watch the movie based on the trailer. to be honest, i am pretty biased and tend to think the worst of most animated family films with the exception of pixar. but the reviews for rango have been very good with many people already claiming that rango will win best animated film at the oscars. and if there ever was a year for pixar to lose, it would be the year cars 2 is released. why? because cars is their worst reviewed and just plain worst project in their portfolio. it doesn’t mean the movie is bad, just that it isn’t nearly as good as their other films. for them to release a sequel is based mostly on the profitability of the franchise (nascar is huge) and john lasseter’s own fondness for cars and route 66.
anyways, back to rango. the movie indeed was very fun and good. this is george lucas’ industrial light magic (ilm) studios’ first foray into feature film animation and they have done an amazing job. not only did the graphics look great (and life-like at parts), the animation was superb–the characters’ movements flowed naturally. and i was pleasantly surprised to find that the cinematography was very stylized and beautiful even.
the plot follows a pet chameleon, who gets through his lonely, caged life with thespian theatrics, as he gets lost in the desert. he stumbles upon the town of dirt, which is experiencing a severely diminishing water supply, and creates a new identity for himself as the sheriff. the overarching themes of the story were hope, identity, and self-discovery.
i had previously read in reviews that the movie is more for the adults, rather than the kids and i definitely agree with this. many of the jokes were adult and i found myself wondering if kids would really enjoy this movie since i think they might not get 70% of them. some of the aspects of the movie that i found fun were the references to other movies and figures (fear & loathing in las vegas; the good, the bad, and the ugly; and clint eastwood) and so many characters had mustaches, including one of the villains, rattlesnake jake, whose mustache was more like painted on since snakes don’t have hair.
the animal characters were not cute at all…maybe because westerns are gritty. i couldn’t even tell what a lot of the animals were. the film is essentially an animated western and influenced by the those that came before it; this can be seen in the visual style.
conclusion: i recommend the movie and wouldn’t be surprised if it did win best animated film at the oscars this year.
bottega louie is an italian restaurant located in the heart of downtown los angeles. with over 2,000 reviews and 4 stars on yelp and rave reviews seemingly everywhere, i’ve been wanting to try this place and finally did so on saturday night for dinner. bottega louie doesn’t accept reservations and as boyfriend and i were heading over there around 7 pm, i read yelp reviews on how the food was mediocre to delicious; the service was horrible to excellent; the wait time is long; and the environment is beautiful and loud.
we parked at the $6 valet next to the restaurant (there isn’t really an other alternative besides searching for street parking, there are other lots that are cheaper, but not by much). we quickly realized that we had seen bottega louie in passing before and had said we wanted to try it out because it looked so interesting. the restaurant was once a parking lot with homeless people that was transformed into a dining destination in 2009. it has tall glass windows all around and is a huge space that includes the restaurant, bar, and patisserie. as we stepped inside, we ogled at the large space, the hordes of bodies dining or waiting, and the beautiful architecture. the simple white contrasted with gold, high ceilings, and intricate moldings transported us from the grime of downtown los angeles to new york city. i think the high ceilings also had a hand in creating the echoey loudness of the restaurant.
we were greeted by a line of people–a line just to put your name down for a table. expecting at least a 30-minute wait, when the maitre’d told us it would only be a 15 minutes, we agreed that it would definitely be longer than that then hurried over to the patisserie to check out the decadent desserts. it couldn’t have been more than 5-10 minutes when the hostess tapped me on the arm and asked if i was part of mr. boyfriend’s party and told me our table was ready.
upon seating, we were given complimentary sparking and still water and asked if we had any food allergies. i think the service throughout the night was very good. the waiter explained the menu/dishes and gave a few recommendations since we were first-time customers. we decided on the portobello fries small dish and a 50/50 pizza of the sausage and napoli to share, i ordered the orecchiette pasta, and boyfriend got the recommended trenné.
the portobello fries are the most reviewed item in the bottega louie yelp reviews and were also recommended by our waiter. they’re strips of portobello mushrooms battered and fried and served with a garlic-based aioli. they were delicious and one of the highlights of our meal.
the sausage pizza is made up of fennel sausage, tomato sauce, and mozzarella while the napoli is made up of red onions, mushrooms, olives, tomato sauce, and mozzarella. the sausage half was better than the napoli because, well…meat > veggies. the pizza was pretty good and would have been much better if the center wasn’t so soggy. i don’t know if it’s because they put too much sauce on it but the center of the pizza was droopy and soggy. as i ate away from the center toward the crust, the pizza got better and the crust was very good. i think mozza’s pizza is still better in terms of their dough and flavors, but bottega louie’s would be a strong contender if it wasn’t so soggy. i’d still want to try the pizza again on my next visit to see if the sogginess is just how the pizzas are made or maybe we had a “bad” one.
boyfriend’s trenné pasta was pan sauteed with braised prime rib eye, tuscan black kale, and shaved granna parmesan. this was my first time seeing trenné pasta; it’s similar to penne but more triangular shaped rather than circular (for the opening). i had a bite and i liked that the pasta was crisp on the outside. the noodle itself tasted heavily of the rib eye and i don’t think it’s a dish i would have personally liked and probably won’t order it in the future. but boyfriend enjoyed it…especially the large shavings of cheese.
the orecchiette is house made with sausage and olive oil in a a swiss chard ragù sauce. i love pasta but thought this dish was just ok. i also normally love tomatoes but thought the cherry tomatoes in the pasta were much too sweet; the dish tasted better after i started avoiding them. i was getting pretty full after the portobello fries and the pizza so i boxed some of my pasta so i could save room for dessert.
i have a sweet tooth and love macarons so we ordered le grand macaron–french vanilla ice cream sandwiched between a vanilla macaron served with berries. i paired this with my favorite wine–moscato d’asti. the wine was good as always and the macaron was also good. it was difficult to eat with a spoon/fork though since the outside of the macaron was so hard.
we were surprised by the bill–in a good way! we were expecting the bill to be pretty high since it’s a nice place but the total (before tip) was a very reasonable $75. i was amazed–i was sure they must have left something off our bill, but nope, they got everything: appetizer, pizza, 2 pastas, glass of wine, and the dessert. we will definitely be back again. after boyfriend paid the bill (thank you, dear!) we went back to the patisserie.
there were 5 flavors of macarons available when we went: chocolate, earl grey, lime, raspberry, and vanilla. i wanted to try earl grey since it’s one of my favorites and was also interested in the lime yuzu. we also thought there might be more flavors available in the patisserie since it looked like there were a lot of colors. unfortunately, lime was sold out but apparently there are new batches/flavors every 4 hours and they paint them by hand (probably why the colors looked so different for the same flavor).
we ended up buying 2 earl grey, 1 chocolate (for boyfriend), and 1 raspberry (for me) macarons. i also got a tiny blueberry tart and pistachio cupcake and boyfriend got a raspberry chocolate ganache tart.
the cupcakes are so cute because they are covered in sparkly sprinkles and topped with a tiny macaron. the pistachio is pictured in the photo above, bottom right. i ate the blueberry tart saturday night after we got home from the restaurant and thought it was just ok; i prefer the fruit tarts at porto’s. the macarons were very good and i look forward to sampling more flavors in the future. i had the pistachio cupcake a few hours ago and was surprised by how light and fluffy the cake was. most cupcakes i’ve had from western bakeries (like sprinkles) have dense, thick cake. the cupcake is vanilla with black cherries on the inside, pistachio cream frosting, and topped with pistachio nuts, sprinkles, and a mini vanilla macaron with pistachio cream inside. i was a little hesitant of cherry and pistachio but it was pretty good. because the cake was so light, it reminded me of sponge cake–which i really like.
photography disclaimer: all bottega louie photos in this post are from the bottega louie blog unless indicated otherwise.