‘The Tasting Kitchen’ sounds like an interesting concept. It’s what my mom’s kitchen becomes during Thanksgiving dinner preparation. A spoonful of gravy here, a nibble of stuffing there. A tasting kitchen. Sounds pleasant, familiar and slightly unhygienic. The actual Tasting Kitchen on Abbott Kinney in Venice has the first two covered but thankfully, not the last.
This place was recommended by the manager at nearby Gjelina, which intrigued me since restaurant managers don’t tend to feed hungry patrons to their competition. In typical LA fashion, the TK sign is tiny and if you walk past the door too quickly, you’ll miss it. If you are headed south and you pass Wabi Sabi, turn around!
The front area (what my mom would call the ‘patio’) has a lot of tables very close together and surprisingly cushy seats. Great for comfort, bad for purse hanging. Since I’m madly in love with my recent handbag splurge and refuse to put my baby on the floor, I had to eat with purse in lap.
Inside the sliding doors is a communal bar, and behind that, one would surmise, is the kitchen. The menu is odd and confusing — left side tasting plates, right side entrees, lots of scribbling in the margins. Our kind and patient waiter walked us through it. I started with a Crazy Horse cocktail — TKs most popular:
It’s tequila infused with serrano chiles, a melangé of fresh juice and a splash of grenadine, so it blushes like a sunset — a slight nod to the heat that ping pongs around your palate with each sip. LOVE. Then, some salads.
A nest of butter lettuce came lightly dressed with creamy garlic goodness, crumbled bleu cheese, radish slivers, tarragon, plus cracked black pepper and sea salt, giving each bite a satisfying crunch. I’ve never thought of pepper as a textural element before, but these things happen in The Tasting Kitchen.
Then the tomatoes and burrata combo. (Burrata is crazy-creamy fresh mozzarella-like cheese.) These heirloom beauties, lightly drizzled with balsamic and olive oil, were SO DAMN GOOD. We declined the offer for $3 bread — what’s up with charging for bread these days? And headed right into chicken territory with the Cluck n Frites:
Yum! I’ve never met a well-roasted chicken I didn’t like, and this plump and juicy bird with textbook-crisp skin that could easily be sold as candy didn’t disappoint. And the fries were HOT (which is key), fresh and not too thick. I tried to let awesome pal Michael eat most of them, since I’m trying to keep the carbs at bay, but he would probably argue — rightfully — that I ate my share. Another Crazy Horse for dessert, and we were away!
While I did enjoy this Tasting Kitchen, I’m not sure how soon I’ll go back, especially given that Gjelina is far superior and right down the street. The menu was limited, spent too much time on grocery staples like salami and cheese, and wasn’t cheap. Two fairly generous salads ($22) and one entree ($24) didn’t exactly encourage ‘tasting’ in the way my mom’s cornucopia of holiday goodies most certainly does. Hooray, only three weeks away!