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  • Writer's pictureThe Bone Guys

The Manufactory

A large, splashy new restaurant complex recently opened in Downtown L.A. from three famous names in food and it has the city buzzing.

Knowing how bad traffic is these days, we thought it best to explore its every nook and cranny first before suggesting you lose your sanity to gridlock for a taste.

The Manufactory is a multifaceted concept from James Beard-winning pastry chefs and bakers Chad Robertson and Elisabeth Prueitt, owners of San Francisco’s Tartine, in collaboration with Chris Bianco, chef-owner of the legendary Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix.

The project includes two restaurants, a marketplace, bakery and cocktail bar. And it is housed at the sprawling, mixed-use development known as Row DTLA, where the old American Apparel building still stands sentry over the former Alameda Square.

Row DTLA is a large, isolated expanse with multiple shops and dining concepts. At times it feels like a zombie movie, mid-shoot on a Paramount soundstage, with empty urban streets and vacant shells of former manufacturing giants rooted to the pedestrian paths below.

Once you park in the multi-tiered concrete structure on your left, you’ll find The Manufactory inside a large industrial building of brick and bay windows on your right.

That’s when you’ll see...

The Walk-up Window

This will be your first stop. A small window on the building’s left flank that opens to the outside. This is Tartine territory. A place to grab espresso (coffee is roasted in a huge, state-of-the-art production facility in the basement) with a freshly baked croissant in the morning and small batch ice cream and soft serve in flavors like blueberry geranium ripple, fior de latte and mint straciatella topped with Devil’s food cake crumbs in the afternoon.

Of course, if you care to step inside the building, you’ll find yourself in....

The Marketplace

This is a small, orderly and utterly absorbing shop curated with gourmet foods and the wares of local artisans. Browse the shelves and you’ll find some cool delicacies being sold.

Among them may be:

--Lobster-and-sea-salt-infused saison ale from Maine’s Oxbow Brewing.

--Sicilian pistachio spread.

--Japanese-inspired ceramics from local artist Jennifer Kuroki.

--Bourbon barrel-aged Worcestershire sauce.

--Fair-trade chocolate produced with female farmers in Tanzania.

--A hardcover copy of Brillat-Savarin’s The Physiology of Taste.

--Denim cooking aprons from San Francisco’s UBI-IND.

--Locally made, habanero-based “Kill Sauce.”

You’ll browse happily and maybe consider buying something to bring home or as a gift before you make your way over to...

The Bakery

Given the carbo-centric leanings of the combined Tartine and Pizzeria Bianco forces, anything dough-based here is more than likely going to be excellent, if on the pricier side.

Here you’ll find a long counter sparkling under a display of morning pastries and loaves of fresh bread. You’ll see bricks of chocolate rye teacake, tantalizing bacon chive scones, tarts, cookies, picture-perfect eclairs and large round cakes.

On a rack above sit breads such as pretzel-shaped loaves of cherry walnut bread and olive fougasse, and crusty-shelled oat porridge, Danish rye and sesame breads.

We enjoyed a scone, cheese-filled gougéres and giant loaf of oat porridge bread, which kept the memories of the bakery alive at home for the week to come.

Make your way down the line and you’ll see various casual order-and-go items including a to-go case filled with Italian sodas, parfaits and pre-packed salads followed by a counter for flatbreads, about as close as one gets to a Bianco pizza here.

Grab a slice or save your appetite as you keep walking along the counter where a counter side provides a few seats for tinned fish, charcuterie, cheese and wine by the inch, known as Market Bar.

Just beyond that, you’ll run right into...

This is the more casual of the two restaurants at Manufactory and another collaboration between its three owners.

The all-day, market-driven menu seems pretty bold for L.A., with entrees that feature chicken oysters and hearts with XO sauce and sweetbreads with crispy red rice, and there is plenty of creativity displayed in more general public-friendly dishes like grilled wild prawns with carrot sofrito, hoja santa and ember-roasted carrots.

Naturally, a number of dishes here come served on some form of bread or baked good. Our table went crazy for the smoked trout smørrebrød bearing a small mountain of fresh, lightly smoked fish mixed with pickled onions atop a thin piece of rye.

Salmon smørrebrød

When one is ordering toasts, as one sometimes does, it seems all too common to have too much bread and not enough topping, but this version was a cleverly engineered contrast, the thin bread only present enough to provide crisp backup for a mouthful of smoked fish. We could eat it every day.

Ham and honey flatbread

The table was split on a chicken liver tartine with rhubarb that half our guests found unappealing in its flavor combinations. The group’s lukewarm response to a flatbread with ham, honey, mustard seed and comté cheese was more unanimous, the stiff mouthfuls of bread vastly overshadowing scant toppings.

Our enthusiasm roared back over a dish of lightly fried sweetbreads; the essence of meat and offal mingling with crunchy puffed rice and vegetables like a deconstructed plate of steak and peas.

Service was sharp and considerate in a medium-full room, the menu inspired enough to warrant repeat visits to try different dishes, even if a few fell flat for us.

Chicken liver tartine

Cocktails, wine and beer are offered, encouraged even. Drinks tend to be as creative as they are punny, including a “Oaxacan the Clouds” with Moletto tomato gin, mezcal, blistered heirloom tomatoes, crispy sage, lemon and piment d’espelette.

But you may want to save your drinking for...

Alameda Cocktail Club

On the building’s other side you’ll find this al fresco cocktail bar built into a wide patio with a 20-seat pergola. The first-come, first-serve bar has cocktails by a trio of excellent, established L.A. bartenders.

But it’s the setting that really has us feeling like we’re kicking back with all the leisure of a Roman banker on a three-hour lunch break.

It’s the perfect place to pair a grappa-and-prosecco laced “Giuseppe” cocktail with some Mantequilla olives, paprika-dusted pork cracklings and a warm afternoon breeze.

Enjoy them until it’s time for...

Alameda Dinner Club

This is Chris Bianco’s own restaurant neighboring the outdoor bar.

The menu is refreshingly tight, with a small selection of four small plates, four pastas, four meat-and-fish entrees and a few vegetable-centric dishes, making it easy to order and to execute.

We went for a plate of strozzepretti (the pasta shape with the morbidly colorful name “priest-strangler”) which had all the richness and spice of a proper cacio e pepe sauce, the creaminess provided by a sheep’s milk cheese, all cut through with the pleasant acidity of preserved Meyer lemon.

A sweet corn tortelloni was perfect for the summer and the bright, comforting flavor of spaghetti with Sungold tomatoes lived up to our high expectations.

We struggled to decide on just one entrée, with enticing options like a sea bream with fennel and samphire, and a bone-in ribeye of Washington-raised Black Baldy beef.

But eventually we chose the lamb belly, which was rich, fatty and tender, offset ideally with a sharp salsa verde. As far as our dinner went, there was not a single misstep in service or cooking. It was a delightful dining experience that we’d make the trip for almost any night.

The Conclusion

In a city crowded with great dining options, the Manufactory should definitely be on your radar.

If you live on the westside of L.A., you can find just as good (and much less pricey) a loaf of bread at Gjelina or Copenhagen Bakery, but the curated combination of so many delicious morsels and carefully calibrated goods is a joy to explore and revel in.

Overall, the food was enjoyable and interesting at Tartine Bianco, and solidly fulfilling at Alameda Supper Club. And while it does require a bit of a trip to a no man’s stretch of Downtown, Row DTLA makes for good shopping and an interesting stroll, even if one wonders what the future of such a large and isolated plot actually holds.

In our case, we can definitely imagine going back to the Manufactory while in the neighborhood, especially to check in with menus that change quite often. But it probably won’t be our first destination in the thick of rush hour on a busy Friday night given we live some distance from it.

Nonetheless, the project not only holds something for everyone, it seems to delight in pushing both the artistry and accessibility of handcrafted wares and consciously-made food, making it a heartfelt and vital destination for gourmands, restaurant fanatics and the somewhat curious alike.

The Manufactory at ROW DTLA, 757 Alameda St., Suite 160, Los Angeles, CA, 90021, (213) 375-3315

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