Way back when they first opened, there were some mentions of the lunch specials at Louie's, mostly on the lines of them being rather expensive. In a neighborhood where rice plate lunches are available for $4-5, $8.95 is definitely on the high side.
But after having been blown away by the tea smoked bass at our chowhound lunch the other day, I noticed that it's on the lunch specials menu, and the other day I went back to try it.
The $8.95 lunch specials at Louie's are unique in that you are given a choice of two dishes off their special menu. These items definitely reveal the "California" side of Louie's California Chinese -- in addition to the tea smoked bass I chose the mango beef, which was way too sweet. But even with that ordering faux pas, I was delighted with my lunch. The soup of the day was a generous-sized bowl of very good hot and sour soup, that was definitely hot and not over thickened as they tend to be. One of the best I've had. The rest of the lunch came on a large Japanese-looking square plate: a nice-sized chunk of the bass on a bed of crisp-fried noodle threads in one corner, the mango beef in another, a large scoop of rice (choice of steamed or fried) in the third corner, and a little pile of julienned pickled cabbage and carrot in the fourth.
The bass was not as celestial as the version we had at lunch but was still good, and a nice light alternative to the stirfries generally found on rice plates. Although I didn't care for the mango beef, I couldn't fault the preparation or the ingredients.
Basically, it's not cheap, but it's a good price/value ratio. For a couple of dollars more you get high quality food, lovely presentation, quiet, upscale surroundings and the usual good Louie's service. It's perfect for a "nice" lunch in Chinatown, especially if you're going with someone (a business associate, for example) you don't necessarily want to share dishes with.
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