May 10, 2012

The Tasting Kitchen

Abbot Kinney is home to many delicious eateries like Jin Patisserie, Intelligentsia Coffee, Lemonade, Gjelina, and a handful of others I'd still like to try including French Market Cafe and Marla's.  Most recently, I visited The Tasting Kitchen, which too, does a mighty fine job of keeping the AK in reputable culinary form.  Here's a glimpse of what they do, and what they do so well...

Love the open spaces and natural lighting

We started off the evening with alcoholic beverages because... well, do I need a because?

Lanari Rosso Conero

T and I chose the Lanari Rosso Conero, a tannic red from the Marches region of Central Italy.  It's full-bodied, but not too intense.  As a typical Cab-Sauv girl, this was perfect for me.

Weihenstephaner hefe weissbier

B, being German and all, went for the Weihenstephaner hefe weissbier.  The service of the beer was disappointing -- it came in a small pint leaving some of the beer in the bottle -- so B poured it into a wine glass.  Problem solved.

TTK's menu changes on a regular basis.  When we went (on April 18), these were our options:

Both hungry and eager to eat, we started our meal with the gnocco fritto, salumi, and burrata plate and a beet salad with blood oranges and pistachio aillade (aioli).  Of course we carbed up too with bread and butter with Maldon sea salt and olio nuovo (extra virgin olive oil).

The burrata was spectacular (but when it is not?) and the gnocco fritto pieces which were essentially hollow fried bread were a perfect addition to the salty meat and creamy cheese.

As for the beet salad, the sweet & tangy tastes of the beets and blood oranges were only enhanced by the pistachio sauce. It was a refreshing starter that reminded me summer is finally here!

Now, this is going to sound silly, but I think my fave of the three dishes was the bread and butter.  The freshly baked bread was warm and pillowly, and with the salted butter slathered on, it was a dream to eat.  I was so smitten I continued to eat the bread throughout the dinner, generously dunking it in the saffron cream sauce that the mussels came in and any other sauce I could find.  What can I say?  I'm a simple gal that hearts bread.

Gnocco fritto, salumi, burrata - $20

Beets, blood oranges, pistachio aillade - $13

Bread & butter w/ Maldon sea salt and EVOO - $3.50

The rest of the entrees were a hit, too.  We ordered the mussels in saffron cream sauce, the bucatini all'Amatriciana, and the lasagnette bolognese.

The mussels were perfectly cooked and the saffron cream sauce they were simmered in was delightful -- the hint was saffron brought some heat to the dish, but it never overpowered.  I went for this sauce straight away with that heavenly bread shown above.

The bucatini is a pasta I've never had before.  It's a spaghetti-like pasta, but much thicker and hollow at the center.  It came in a very rich sauce, which was probably due to the guanciale, a fattier and richer pancetta.  I'm not sure what spices the chef added, but behind the saltiness, there was plenty of spice too, the kind that hits the back of palate a few chews in.  The freshly shaved Parm added a nice touch.

The lasagnette was just lasagna pieces in bolognese sauce.  It was good, but not mind-blowing and even a bit too salty for my taste.  Of the three, I would order the bucatini again... with a side of the saffron cream sauce... for my bread (don't judge me).

Mussels in saffron cream - $19

Bucatini all'Amatriciana - $19

Lasagnette Bolognese - $21

After we practically licked our plates clean, we were much too stuffed for dessert.  So we left the restaurant full and happy.  What more could you ask for a lovely dinner out, right?  Thanks, TTK.  You've done good.

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The Tasting Kitchen on Urbanspoon

cuisine: Italian, New American
location: Venice, CA
hours: Dinner (6:00 PM - midnight) daily, and Brunch (10:30 AM - 2:00 PM) on only Sat & Sun
websites: { TTK | yelp | twitter }
parking: Street or valet ($6)
attire: Casual
notes: Make reservations.
other reviews: { LA Weekly | LAT | kevinEats }