Wanted to go to la botte before the guide comes out and the star's in and it gets harder to get in.
Service as always was impeccable. From the greetings - not sure if stefano really remembered me but it felt wonderful - to the waiter asking if we valet parked when he brought the credit card back and when told yes, he requested part of the parking ticket which he took outside to the valet so that our car would be ready. Little things count.
Wine - list had good selection, but as I was the only one drinking just had a gavi de gavi by the glass and it was great. single glasses average $10 a glass - and there are wine bottles priced as low as the mid-20's (AND as high as four digits so there's something for everybody).
Appetizers - I had a special octopus salad with small potatoes, tomatoes etc in a light fresh dressing. The octopus was the sweetest and most tender - no rubber here, that I've had in recent memory - no not so recent, really, maybe once in greece i had some marinated octopus that was as soft as this, like a medium soft cheese. Great.
THe key to this place is everything is impeccably and impossibly fresh (tasting at least). Went with my parents - one had the housemade plate of duck prosciutto (a cut of duck is heavily salted then set HERE in a refrigeration unit for ages so that it basically freeze-dries partially, similar effect to air/wind curing in the mountains) - fantastic, and the other had an another special, a plate of three large round ravioloni stuffed with sweetbreads (thymus not pancreas, as we were told) and a sauce made with six varieties of wild mushroom.
In addition - we began with a tasting of three olive oils, one was a sicilian oil - low acidity, bit tomato-ey, fresh fresh and buttery (dad's fave), an oil from basilicata/lucania - medium acidity, told that it had an artichoke like aftertaste, power of suggestion? maybe, but it did - (mom's fave) and a pugliese oil, spicy, almost piquant - my fave. small bottles are brought to table - about the size of a hotel shampoo bottle, if any oil is left, the tops are replaced and you take it with you.
Seconds - (not secundi), I had the house plate of raw branzino presented like carpaccio. Love me my sushi so this was heaven - think a light italian vinaigrette in lieu of a ponzu. There was a little bit of sea urchin brushed on the branzino (mediterranean sea bass) that was then rolled about it like loose involtini - i'd have liked more as i'm a huge fan of good ricci/uni/urchin, but it was subtle and fresh fresh fresh. The folks each had a serving of the chick pea soup, hearty and yet the vegetables, while having given much flavor to the broth, were still even a bit crunchy, the chick peas, heck the garbanzos had a nice toothy texture. There was a bit left over (quite filling and we'd been gorging on the bread in the oil) so I had a few spoonfuls as well. I liked it quite a bit. They also had a roasted pumpkin soup but we didn't try it.
btw in re the oils, i'm not in general a fan of the oil or oil cum balsamic dip that's ubiquitous in certain italian places, and i did ask for butter which was excellent. But when we got the olive oils, these were far and away the best oils i've had served at a restaurant for dipping. A whole different animal ($6 for the three bottles, no charge for bread - yes i guess it's not that authentic, usually pane e coperto gets you stale chunks in italy, here the bread was wonderful).
Mains (real secundi, kinda), my dad adores the casunziei all'ampezzana, (as in cortina d'ampezzo) specialty of the house - round small stuffed pasta filled with sweet beets cooked to a paste and then served drowning in poppy seeds with a light butter sage sauce. A bit diffrerent than 3 venezie - actually a lot different, i like these and have had a problematic run with 3 venezie which i have to admit was service related, but it spills over into the enjoyment of the food. In any case, casunziei perfection as always.
I split the branzino special with my mother - a whole (cleaned and scaled and gutted) med. sea bass is placed in a pan with some white wine and baked/roasted (served with small roasted potatoes and young broccoli) brought to table for your ooh and aah - then carved/filleted tableside and in our case, split which was great as we weren't pacing ourselves all that well. Light and just how i like that type of fish cooked. A simple lemon caper sauce (probably enrichedwith some pan juices) and finished with butter comes on the fish. no gilding the lily here (no attack on urasawa who does gild stuff).
Dessert - shared the ricotta cheesecake -pasticceria di ricotta or close, and the baretti di cioccolata. (sp on all these). The second was a plate of two high squares - a crunchy croquant base, a chocolate paste and a chocolate-hazelnut paste. the squares came with two sauces, one a raspberry thick -reduction?, the other a deep chocolate sauce with perhaps coffee or some liqueur that had been similarly reduced.
the ricotta cheesecake - best described by a friend with whom I ate at la botte back in august. my friend, a new yorker, started by saying that he didn't like neapolitan ricotta cheesecake, tasted this one and said without flinching that it was great, that he liked it, andthat he'd never had a ricotta cheesecake as good as this one. The cheesecake has bits of corn (granoturco, mais) orange peel and something else, don't remember now, but it was refreshing and just hit the spot.
One of us had a caffe latte (yes it's a little early for a caffe latte, usually you wait till 7am but they were accommodating). And two bottles of san pelligrino. not all that fancy after all.
La Botte Ristorante
620 Santa Monica Blvd.
Santa Monica, CA 90401
Ph: 310 576 3072 LaBotteSantaMonica.com
this info thanks to google.
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