A Taste of Venice: The Tasting Kitchen

The bread was hot and fresh. A simple plate of it, along with butter sprinkled with Maldon salt, and a little dish of olive oil. Biting into the crust, it was crisp, light. We could have just come to The Tasting Kitchen for the bread and wine alone. But we ordered olives, and then some cheese. Three cheeses were selected by the kitchen as I couldn't choose and wanted to try some different cheeses.

Darling had a Manhattan served up in an elegant glass. I had a glass of a pinot noir, something tasty, the label name not coming to mind. Then I realized I needed something green, so I asked for salad. It arrived soon after the olives and cheese, dressed perfectly, frilly romaine lettuce on a plate. It was wonderful that way, just lightly tossed in good olive oil. You could taste the freshness of the lettuce. It tasted hand picked that day.

The menu was appealing and there were plenty of dishes that I wanted, like the lentils and rapini, the burrata and broccolini, and the polenta with truffled egg. But we decided on two dishes for our main, and kept it at that. The ravioli with goat cheese and leeks seemed a creamy and comforting dish to me, and buttery sauce is tempting for sopping up with that luscious fresh bread (we ordered more). The green olives were juicy and oily in their brine.

Darling chose the branzino with trumpet & black mushrooms in a brown butter sauce, topped with pine nuts. We were surprised that the entire fish was served. It was exquisite plated as it was; a fine looking sea bass with its body dressed up in mushrooms and pine nuts. Branzino is what they call "European seabass" in Northern Italy, and in other parts of Italy, it is called spigola or ragno. Its flesh was delicate, honestly made with little pretense. The plate honored the fish by keeping quiet in its white china. Nothing ornate to detract from the rustic beauty.

Elegant food. We liked the simplicity and the ambiance. My ravioli tasted just as I had imagined, with the pasta itself done with finesse--- neither too heavy or under cooked (al dente) but not mushy or weighty. No, it was as Goldilocks once said: "just right." Slivers of leeks and the fresh taste of goat cheese. I did soak up the bit of sauce with a crust of bread. Perhaps a repeat try for brunch might be the next visit. The bread was marvelous and inspired me to bake again, just for the joy of hot and crusty fresh bread in my hands, with crunches of sea salt in butter and a soak here and there of olive oil.

1633 Abbot Kinney Boulevard, Venice, CA 90291 tel. 310.392.6644