Los Angeles, California / May 16, 2010 / Gjelina / brunch

Winederlust Rating (details below): 8.5 out of 10 / Winederlust Worthy: Yes

 

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We met up with our long-time friend Lisa, who lives in Marina del Rey, at Gjelina, a restaurant that specializes in local and seasonal foods on buzzy Abbot Kinney Blvd. in Venice. Gjelina was airy and open, with high ceilings, dark rough-sawn wood, and a pretty flower-laden garden out back where we ended up sitting.

Since everything on the menu looked delicious, it was tough to choose, but we settled on the maitake mushroom with roasted asparagus, poached egg, and parmesan breadcrumb and the house-smoked trout salad with arugula, shaved red onion, avocado, and grapefuit, with sides of Niman Ranch bacon, housemade spicy pork salad, and wood roasted cauliflower with garlic, parsley, and vinegar. The maitake mushrooms with egg was fresh and flavorful, and the bold taste of asparagus shone through.

 

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Maitake mushrooms, asparagus, poached eggs, and Parmesan breadcrumbs.

The smoked trout salad combined huge chunks of delicious trout with a springy and refreshing avocado and grapefruit combo, a unique and inspired combination.

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Smoked trout salad.

Everything was delicious and we polished it all off quickly. Luckily we still had room to try two desserts, the butterscotch pot de creme with salted caramel and creme fraiche and the strawberry/rhubarb/cornmeal crisp with toasted almond gelato. The pot de creme was amazing — like eating a very soft sea-salt caramel. The crisp was good, too, but could have been a little more fruity and a little less cornmealy.

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Butterscotch pot de creme with salted caramel.

 

Overall, we really enjoyed the atmosphere and food at Gjelina, and would love to come back another time to try dinner (and be able to order more things off the fabulous-looking menu!).

– – – – –

Los Angeles, California / May 16, 2010 / Animal / dinner

Winederlust Rating (details below): 7.5 out of 10 / Winederlust Worthy: Yes

We’d been hearing a lot about Animal recently, even though it opened a couple of years ago. It was supposed to be modeled on the famous St. John restaurant in London, where all parts of the animals are used in the dishes.

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The atmosphere at Animal was pretty sparse. Though there were two small framed bones at the entranceway, no other decorations or art embellished any part of the restaurant’s walls. It also wasn’t as busy as we’d expected, though perhaps it was because it was a Sunday night at the end of a cool and dreary weekend.

Our server advised that we order either three small plates and one large one to share, or five small plates. We ended up ordering four small plates, since one of them was the pork belly sandwiches that he warned were quite hefty (which they were).

We started with the baby kale with pecorino, lemon, and smashed croutons. Surprisingly, the kale was raw and chopped, and though the croutons gave the dish a nice crunch, it was oversalted and the overall lemon flavor was a little too pungent for our tastes.

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Baby kale with pecorino.

The next dish was the rabbit loin with country ham, spaetzle, morels, and asaparagus. This combination had too much going on, and yet also wasn’t spiced or flavored nearly enough. It could have been better without the ham or spaetzle, and maybe with a bit more sauce for some flavor.

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Rabbit loin with country ham, spaetzle, morels, and asparagus.

Next our server brought over the foie gras on top of a biscuit with maple sausage gravy. This dish was very tasty (who doesn’t like fat on top of fat?) but also extremely heavy. The foie gras was very well cooked, though, and melt in your mouth.

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Foie gras on a biscuit and maple sausage gravy.

Finally we had the barbeque pork belly sandwiches with slaw. Though Jay really enjoyed the tender pork belly, this dish was also very heavy. The buns they used were buttery brioche, and the slaw was heavy on the mayo. We ate about half of these and had to leave the rest because they were so filling.

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BBQ pork belly and slaw sliders.

We ended the meal with the much raved-about bacon chocolate crunch bar. Interestingly we thought the bar tasted more of peanut butter than of bacon — if we hadn’t known there was bacon in it, we never would have tasted its flavor (though we did taste its crunch), The bar was rich, dense, and very chocolatey.

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Bacon chocolate crunch bar.

How much more decadent can one meal’s ingredients be? Foie gras, maple sausage gravy, pork belly, chocolate, bacon, and cheese! Overall, we thought the food at Animal was only ok. Though most of the dishes were tasty enough, they were also on the heavy side and lacked the balance of flavors that would have made us like Animal even more. – by Liz Humphreys, Winederlust Eater in Chief

 

 

Winederlust Rating Details for Gjelina (out of 10):

Food8.5 (preparation, presentation & taste)
WineN/A (selection, recommendations, pairings & taste)
Service8.0 (helpfulness, attentiveness, knowledge & pacing)
Place: 8.0 (location, view, decor & vibe)

Price Range: $$ (Moderate)

Essential Information for Gjelina: 

Gjelina / 1429 Abbot Kinney Blvd Venice, CA [map]
Direct Line: (310) 450-1429
Website: http://www.gjelina.com/
Open Monday-Friday 11:30am-midnight; Weekends 9am-midnight; Brunch until 3pm

 

Winederlust Rating Details for Animal (out of 10):

Food7.5 (preparation, presentation & taste)
Wine7.5 (selection, recommendations, pairings & taste)
Service8.0 (helpfulness, attentiveness, knowledge & pacing)
Place: 7.0 (location, view, decor & vibe)

Price Range: $$-$$$ (Moderate-Pricey)

Essential Information for Animal: 

Animal / 435 North Fairfax Blvd [map]
Direct Line: (323) 782-9225
Website: http://www.animalrestaurant.com/
Open Sunday-Thursday 6pm-Midnight; Friday & Saturday 6pm-11pm

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