Lou on Vine has been languishing in my list of places to try for a while. A casual-chic wine bar in the most unexpected setting (the less glitzy parts of Hollywood, in a strip mall and next to a laundromat,) it sets the benchmark for a wine bar that's unpretentious, casual and adventurous with a smallish menu of comforting yet mildly eccentric bites. And soon approaching its fifth year anniversary, surely a good sign.
So when Conbon proposed checking Lou out for their $55/person wine-paired Monday supper w our mutual friend Mr Grumpy, I immediately agreed.
Our first official course of the Monday supper was oyster stew, inspired by the Oyster Bar @ NYC's Grand Central Station and definitely a foreigner of a soup in Los Angeles, a city still obsessed over pureéd soups w a monotonous consistency resembling warmed baby food. The stew here was a delightful coupling of contradictions . . . lusciously milky yet still dainty & delicate, with the ever-so-subtle flavors of the sweet, succulent oysters, the occasional tangy pop of the cherry tomato half and the aromatic sprinkling of chives & coarse black pepper -- co-existing in a sensual harmony. It was also a beautiful pairing with Domaine Rolet Cotes du Jura Oak-aged Chardonnay, which on its own was a bit too puckery and funky for my tastes (especially as a first wine) but was a wonderful complement against the mildly rich and slightly savory soup.
Still basking in the comfort of the soup, we were presented with the main dish - Niman Ranch hanger steak seared medium-rare with wild mushrooms, romanesco broccoli, Tepary beans and what I think is a basic pan gravy. I do believe this is my first steak since my vegetarian days, and boy do I remember what I missed--this piece of beef was simply divine. Juicy, just tender enough and bursting with meaty flavor--so impeccably seasoned and seared it hardly needs the sauce, which was practically liquid umami. The vegetables were tasty too but I wished there were more of it (my plate had only four romanesco cones and only a smattering of shrooms,) and the beans remind me of Indian lentils but were a great conduit for that tasty gravy.
With something a dish like this, the pairing of the Rhoney Domaine Viret Solstice VII wasn't a surprise. Bold with muskiness & leathery tannins, it stood up well against the beefy steak and savory gravy, which in turn opened up the berry and flowery characteristics of this wine. Talk about putting the dynamic in biodynamic (which this wine is -- and according to Lou's blogpost, the farming practices for this vineyard "makes [other] biodynamics look like a Monsanto sponsored experiment.")
After the big n bold course and wine, we were taken back to a lighter side with an undressed salad of frisee, apple, walnut and Big Woods blue cheese. The cheese itself felt like a cross between a gorgonzola and an aged cheddar, having that ripened nutty tang, a fairly firm texture and the occasional streak of assertive blue spunk, nicely complemented by the delicate, faintly bitter greens, crisp and sweet apple wedge and crunchy nuts. The wine, a Auslese Riesling from Bert Simon, was rich, full-bodied and sweet, with peachy-apple and gasoliney notes that weirdly played very well with the salad.
Finishing off our meal was a simple stacked dessert of sponge cake, whipped cream, slivered almonds and chocolate ganache. The ganache itself is definitely infused with orange, and the cream had a tinge of almond. The dessert was just 'not bad' mainly because it had "straight out of the fridge" feel -- unusually cool, bordering on stale. I can totally see why this place, with a presumably small kitchen, would pre-prep its desserts especially for a prix-fixe night, but wish they'd work with something that would be easier to make ahead, store and serve instantly (say... a pot de creme, panna cotta or a tiramisu?)
The other off part of the night came when we paid our bill (w separate cards & cash) where the server interpreted "the rest in cash" as "*keep* the rest in cash." While we really wanted only $5 in change and still leaving about $30 in tip, it was a unexpected service faux pas. But we didn't press for the money back.
Despite the two final mishaps (guess they haven't read up much on the peak-end rule,) I still found my supper at Lou a relaxing, pleasant and overall delicious experience that's a worthwhile bang for the buck. Now that I've tried the pig candy, I don't feel compelled to have to order it again next time around, but I do look forward to checking out more of their eclectic wines and maybe give them a second chance with the sweets.
Lou (on Vine)
724 Vine Street
Los Angeles, CA 90038