Monday, January 18, 2016


Venice, California, January 18, 2016—
THE FIRST THING to say about it is, it is dark. The next thing: it is NOISY. It's a big restaurant, with a number of smaller dining rooms off the main room; its design is, I suppose, Industrial Chic; it's casual, goes without saying.

The menu, on a single sheet of paper, brasserie-style, is interesting: but I confess I'll have to examine it more closely tomorrow. (I photographed it, as I generally do, for later study — but, tonight, also, in order to read it in the dark.)

It's Monday night, but it's also the last day of a three-day weekend. And we're eating late, at nine o'clock. We were shown to a promising little side room, only four tables, a young romantic couple the only other diners, and we thought for a while we'd be able to converse. But then three men sat down at the next table, soon joined by another couple; they conversed at full volume, so loud I couldn't tell whether in Russian, Bulgarian, or maybe even Hungarian.

Oh well: let's make the best of it, and turn back to the menu. Everything's à la carte, and this is what we ordered:

Salad: Arugula, radicchio, crispy shallot, Parmesan & Sherry vinaigrette
Vegetable: Roasted romanesco, anchovy, Fresno chili, white wine & garlic
Small Plates: Grilled wild boar sausage, sauerkraut, red onion, thyme & Dijon mustard
Pasta & fagioli soup, mint pesto, black pepper & olive oil
Salad The salad was truly delicious, the greens in just the right balance, the shallot adding a bit of texture and sweetness. There was a bit of sand in the greens, I thought, but otherwise a very nice salad indeed.

The romanesco was truly roasted, probably in a wood-burning oven, and it arrived on a plate on top of a generous spread of what I would call bagna cauda: anchovy dissolved in garlic-flavored olive oil. This was a delicious dish.

The Contessa's wild boar sausage — just how "wild" is the animal, I wonder — the sausage, though, was very nicely made, plenty of spice to offset what might otherwise be a heavy meat, bound with just a bit of other material of some kind, cased, then grilled, and served with a sweet, rather delicate sauerkraut, probably made in house.

SoupI liked my soup, but I'd have called it minestrone, not pasta e fagioli. True, beans and pasta were involved: but so were a number of vegetables, including carrots and potatoes. I liked the minty pesto, a good garnish.

Dessert: my Contessa ordered a gelato, as she often does. There were two on offer: stracciatella and "amaretti". She took the latter: but there was no hint of amaretto in the flavor, which was far too salty. My butterscotch pot de crème, though, was a real pleasure. It too involved salt — salt caramel — but it was controlled, and further moderated by crème fraîche, and I enjoyed every bit of it.

Sauvignon blanc, Comelli, Colli orientale de Friuli, 2013: soft, supple, direct, a little intense;
Barbera d'Alba, Camerano, 2012: very true to varietal and place, sound, good flavor and finish
•Gjelina, 1429 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, California; 310-450-1429
Restaurants visited in the last year are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants

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