The first time chef Steve Howells stepped into the rustic, red-bricked space that formerly housed Marly’s in Phoenixville, he was dazzled by (among other things) the wide windows, the enclosed front porch and the hidden 30-seat garden patio out back. “I instantly knew this was the place,” he says.
Louette’s is the first solo venture for the 37-year-old journeyman, who’s career had him caroming from Philly to California before returning to the region, where he sharpened his skills at Chip Roman’s Blackfish in Conshohocken. As a nice personal touch, he’s combined the names of his son, Louis, and his oldest daughter, Charlotte, for the moniker. His exacting international menu of creative small plates is on par with nearby Majolica and Sips Bistro, giving Phoenixville another fine-dining gem amid an increasingly vast sea of microbreweries.
Housemade ramen noodles with green onions, shiitake mushrooms and a soft poached egg.
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Don’t expect dainty tapas-style portions at Louette’s. Two to three small plates are plenty filling—or try four courses for $45. While the farm-to-table menu changes almost daily, a few things remain constant—like the charred broccolini with marcona almonds and goat cheese, and the house-fermented pickles. Second courses—or “Noodles”—might include a house-made tangle of authentically flavored ramen noodles with a Madras curry-dashed poached egg in white soy sauce, or an artful ricotta cheese ravioli laden with parmesan and sherry brown butter.
Whey-brined pork tenderloin.
Third-course “Conversation Starters” include a 15-hour slow-cooked pork belly, served cold with toothsome jicama in a peppery gochujang sauce. Hungrier diners will appreciate the fourth-course “More Like Mains.” I savored a fork-tender veal, each lightly brined bite seasonally infused, thanks to a hearty potpourri of butternut squash, chestnuts and apples.
Slow-cooked hanger steak with cremini mushrooms, smoked potatoes and onion rings.
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On our visit, we chose the four-course menu, which includes dessert. My flourless chocolate cake seemed to be missing the homemade pretzels our server had touted. But my companion’s big, gooey bowl of (eggless) cookie dough—with a side of bay-leaf-and-agave-infused milk—brought out the satisfied kid in both of us.
Chef/owner Steve Howells (left) in the kitchen with staffers Isaac Edgett and Lauryn Brown.
My guess is that the pleasant staff will continue to fine-tune some minor inconsistencies in service. It’s Howells’ job to convince prospective patrons that small plates don’t always mean diminutive portions—and his big flavors should help with that.
106 Bridge St., Phoenixville, (484) 924-9906, louettesbyo.com.