DTLA: Towne Now Open
I was recently invited to check out the newly opened Towne Food & Drink. I am always excited about new options for lunch and dinner in Downtown and Towne is fairly close to me. I was even more excited to learn Towne comes from the folks at Mi Piace in Pasadena. I’ve been going to Mi Piace since college and have always enjoyed their pastas.
Towne is a quietly beautiful and spacious restaurant. The high ceilings, custom lighting, splashes of red, massive bar, small bakery and ample seating felt like an oasis on the edge of Downtown.
We started with a number of appetizers and cocktails. I opted for the classic Clover Club (Plymouth gin, lemon, egg whites, house grenadine). A friend ordered the CoCoa Punch (though it seemed more of a dessert-y drink. Still, if you are the type to order dessert first, this is a great opening cocktail. The cocktails list was put together by Jason Bran.
The chicken liver popcorn and mussels in green curry sauce made great starters. Although I like liver (ahem, foie gras), I have never been a big fan of chicken liver until now. These perfectly fried bits were cooled down by the creamy yogurt dipping sauce.
I’m of the frame of mind the more seafood, the better. Towne’s portion of mussels was particularly generous.
I was intrigued by the bone marrow matzo ball soup. What I learned from my Kosher Crawl Down Pico from Jewish friends is a lot of what we think of as “Jewish food” tends to be also be associated with “poor people’s food.” At least that’s what they said when I tried to say it’s “comfort food.” So adding bone marrow to what is usually your humble broth is kicking it up a notch or about 5 notches. The result is supremely rich and I also liked the addition of mushrooms.
But is this kosher? Well, I’ll let someone more familiar declare it that. I would like to think of it in terms of good or bad. And it’s good. The matzo ball itself is fluffy and looks good in this modern soup bowl.
We tried a couple of salads including the kale and the Greek. I loved the kale salad but I pretty much am predictable that way. Any meal involving kale or chard and I’m happy. I wanted to also like the Greek salad but found it slightly overdressed and the lettuce a bit “too wet.” I wanted less dressing to let the cheese really shine. I did find the watermelon a very interesting addition.
We also tried the kampachi tacos. The tiny tacos were filled with hijiki (Japanese seaweed), creme fraiche and topped with radish. This wasn’t my favorite. I like clean tasting seafood and all I got was creme fraiche. The texture was good though. It reminded me of really creamy mashed potatoes.
The owners of Towne have put together a special vodka list. You could get a shot of chilled vodka in a shot glass with concave ice. This keeps the vodka extremely cold. We got the Fair quinoa vodka. The slightly sweet vodka was particularly appealing with some of the richer food we got later.
Towne does a take on “Pigs in a Blanket” called Lobster Smokey. The chunks of lobster are wrapped in puff pastry and served with mustard seed relish and lobster mayo. I was pleased the lobster was still tender.
Towne also has another lobster dish meant to be shared. The Lobster Mac is their version of mac and cheese. Rather than deconstructed, it feels individualized. So you’ll get chunks of lobster with pasta and a rich sauce.
What’s interesting about the drinks list at Towne is they are grouped by decade. Starting with the 20s, the Spiced Apple Julep, South Park and Clover Club all come from the 20s-40s. The next bunch heavily borrow from the 50s-60s eras and the last few are from the 70s on. I decided to try the South Park seeing it was built in a style of a Manhattan- spirit, vermouth and bitters. With Zaya rum, Punt e Mes sweet vermouth and chuncho bitters, this would probably be my go-to on the menu.
Continuing with the seafood train, we also tried the wood-grilled octopus. The bits were all properly tender and the only regret was it went too quickly. (Darn these fast forkin’ food bloggers!).
I got more octopus though. We got the spicy octopus pizza with proscuitto. What a wonderfully weird and delightful combination. I would have never thought about putting octopus on pizza but why not? Again the octopus wasn’t chewy and it was just the right amount of spicy. This and a salad would make a good lunch.
Did we try something from every category yet? Oh no, there’s still more. I had fun with the crab and sea urchin spaghetti. I’m always on the look out for uni pastas and this one was even better with bits of crab.
For something on the lighter side, the seared dayboat scallops with pickled radish, figs and coconut broth would be interesting. The slightly Asian-y dish even has bok choy.
Towne’s menu features a crispy pork shank for 2. More like 6! The huge shank could have fed me for days. And if this shank was this big, I wondered how big this pig was. I’m coming back for this for lunch. Well, maybe dinner. Let’s stick to pizza and a salad for lunch.
Towne was out of the red velvet twinkies that day but they had mint chip! Towne hired the original pastry chef from Bottega Louie and as result have a dedicated bakery out front. The macarons may seem familiar but the flavors are very different.
The highlight of the desserts was the butterscotch pudding with raspberry gelee and meringues. As if the pudding wasn’t enough, Towne had to add airy light meringues to it. The various textures kept it interesting- smooth, creamy, silky, crunchy.
We also tried the blueberry cheesecake doughnut and lychee chocolate, pistachio and peanut butter and jelly macarons. I made a beeline for pistachio but I think my actual favorite was the lychee chocolate.
I’m really glad Towne is a short walk away from my office. I needed to burn some calories after this meal