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Gjelina

I was in no rush to dine at Gjelina (pronounced “jelina”) when it opened last summer, adding it to my lengthy list of “places to eat”.

To be honest, I just didn’t care about ANOTHER pizzeria opening, so I pretty much just forgot about it. Then I read Patrick Kuh’s review in Los Angeles Magazine (Feb 2009 issue).

Gruyere Arugula Pizza, MyLastBite.comKuh wrote:
The cooking of Travis Lett is the main draw… only 30 years old, he has developed a remarkably sustained culinary style…

That sparked my interest a little because I love supporting our local up-and-coming chefs.

Then I read: 
Back when he was starting out, Lett had an epiphany while eating a meal at Mario Batali’s breakout restaurant, Babbo, shortly after it opened in Greenwich Village. “It wasn’t one thing they did. It was how they did everything,” he recalls of the food’s exacting forthrightness.

With Mario Batali, MyLastBite.comOne of my best dining experiences ever was at BABBO restaurant in New York. Peter and I had dinner there in October 2005, and we still talk about the amazing Bucatini all’Amatriciana. To this day, we’ve never tasted a better pasta dish and Mario Batali is a culinary king in our home. I’ve learned so much about Italian cooking AND culture from his old series, “Molto Mario” and it’s a shame he doesn’t “teach” on television anymore. If Gjelina’s chef was pulling inspiration from BABBO and Batali, then it could only mean good things for the restaurant.

Patrick Kuh ended his review with the following:
Certain restaurant openings are cautious, some careless, and some overproduced. Then there are those that sing. Gjelina is one of them. It has the snap of originality, a little strut. It knows it’s good. It captures a neighborhood.

At this point I opened my “places to eat” list and moved Gjelina up near the top. When our friends Kevin and Tamara (both oenophiles) wanted to meet for brunch in Venice recently, of course it had to be at Gjelina. They brought along a gorgeous bottle of Williams Selyem 2005 Chardonnay, which was a refreshing and crisp companion to our delicious brunch of pizzas, salads and sides.

Niman Ranch Bacon, MyLastBite.com
Niman Ranch Bacon $5. Is there any better way to start off a brunch?

Spinach Salad, MyLastBite.com
Heirloom Spinach Salad with Tomato, Olive, Feta, Pinenuts and Croutons $9. This was devoured within minutes of hitting our table. The large crouton pieces were a terrific crunch mixed with the super fresh vegetables. 

Guanciale Pizza, MyLastBite.com
Guanciale Pizza with Crushed Olive, Fresno Chili, Buffalo Mozzarella & Rosemary, $15
I LOVE guanciale, it’s my favorite type of bacon (the pig’s jowel) which is extra fatty. Notice how THIN the pizza crust is in the upper left of the photo. All the flavors were baked into (and almost through) the crust. I love thin-crust pizza so this wafer-thin heater was my kind of pie (or maybe I should say “cracker bread”!).

Chickpeas & Truffle Potatoes, MyLastBite.com
Two more sides we enjoyed:
Chickpea Stew with Greens, Cous Cous, Spiced Yogurt and Harissa, $12. It was more like a belly-warming soup than a stew and I found myself craving it when I had a cold last week.
Crispy Fingerling Potatoes with Truffle Oil, Herbs and Parmesan, $5. Perfectly crispy on the outside with just a hint of truffle oil.

Gruyere Arugula Pizza, MyLastBite.com
Gruyere, Arugula Pizza topped with Caramelized Onion, Fromage Blanc Pizza and Sunny Eggs, $18. This pizza came after the Guanicale, and we all decided that this one was our favorite. Again, the toppings were almost baked through the thin crust and the runny eggs on top added a creamy-like richness.

View from our table, MyLastBite.com
In the relaxing, sunny back patio area, the view from my seat.

Butterscotch Pot de Creme, MyLastBite.com
Butterscotch pot de creme. Very similar to Mozza’s Butterscotch Budino, (except you don’t get the rosemary cookie here). Gjelina’s version was rich enough that we were happy sharing one together.

Blackberry Crisp, MyLastBite.com
Blackberry and Cornmeal Crisp. I only had one bite (too full!) but my husband said he loved the tartness and crunch.

Beautiful Fixture & Wall, MyLastBite.com
I loved the decor, especially the chocolate brown wall, with what looked like “tooled leather” engravings. The light fixtures were also fun and funky throughout.

Gjelina, MyLastBite.com
From top left: Lighting above bar, Back patio, Vintage glass, Wine bottle chandelier.

I can’t wait to go back!

The L.A. Times writes: Though they’re only a small part of the menu, the pizzas at Gjelina in Venice keep getting better. Six months in, chef-owner Travis Lett has his pizza mojo down. His pies have a graceful aesthetic, beautiful to look at, even better to eat, and farmers market all the way. Like the seductive vegetable dishes here from the wood-burning oven, the eight pizzas on offer shift with the seasons. A pie blanketed in Fontina cheese and bitter greens accented with bacon lardons or one that melds Taleggio cheese with dusky wild mushrooms and pea shoots may give way to a pizza topped with sweet porky guanciale, crushed olives and bufala mozzarella. The crust is very thin, very crisp. Pizza is such a popular item, though, you may have to wait for yours: The oven is only big enough to cook four pies at a time.  Full Article Here

Gjelina
1429 Abbot Kinney Blvd
Venice, CA 90291
(310) 450-1429
(no website as of this writing) 
Dining Date: 3/7/09 

Mentioned Above:

LA Magazine Gjelina Review by Patrick Kuh

BABBO

Mario Batali

Molto Mario

Williams Selyem Chardonnay

Niman Ranch

Gjelina on Urbanspoon

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Filed under Eating Out

The Bazaar by José Andrés [1]

The opening night of the Bazaar by José Andrés was supposed to be last Monday (11/10), but was delayed until last night (11/17). The restaurant is described as “a modern-day indoor piazza where guests and locals alike can enjoy pioneering culinary creations and intricately-concocted libations throughout several spaces: Bar Centro, Blanco, Rojo and the Pâtisserie.” It sounds a little intimidating I know, but when you walk in the front door the friendly staff are ready to lead you through the evening… and what a fun evening it was!

"New Way" Dirty Martini, MyLastBite.comThere were four of us for dinner, my husband Peter, my sister Janet and her husband Paul (whose birthday we were celebrating). We started off with drinks at Bar Centro, which offers a traditional bar menu and modern “new way” drinks. I ordered the “New Way” Dirty martini with spherified olives and brine “air”. I was really excited to try Ferran Adria’s “liquid olive” and it did not disappoint. If you haven’t seen the video clip of Ferran Adria making the liquid olive at el Bulli, then you may not appreciate it as much as I did. The segment was on Mark Bittman’s “The Best Recipes In The World” show on PBS. Episode 9 titled “The Cutting Edge”. It’s worth searching for online if you missed it.

Between the four of us we shared twenty dishes (including two desserts) from both the Rojo (traditional tapas) and Blanco (modern tapas) menu. In addition to cocktails we also tried the White Sangria (which was fantastic), Spanish Marge wine and then finished the evening with Pedro Ximénez Sherry.

Our server Skyler was fantastic. He was enthusiastic, paid great attention to us and really knew the menu inside and out. Simply said, Skyler was a wonderful guide on our trip through the Bazaar!

My favorite dishes (that I would definitely order again and again):

Philly Cheesesteak, MyLastBite.com
Philly Cheesesteak Air Bread filled with cheese and topped with Kobe beef $7.00
Mozzarella Tomato Pipettes MyLastBite.com
Mozzarella Tomato Pipettes with Micro Basil. These were so fun to eat! At the same time you bite the tomato, you squeeze the pipette into your mouth, a really tasty combination of olive oil and a creamy liquid mozzarella. $8.00

Organized Caesar MyLastBite.com
Organized Caesar with Quail Eggs and Parmesan Cheese. This plate was so beautiful we sort of just stared at it for a minute. There was only one quail egg and I was lucky to grab it! Delicious. $9.00

Japanese Peaches, MyLastBite.com
Japanese Baby Peaches with Yogurt and Olive Oil. Sweet and Tart. $12.00

Olives Ferran Adrià, MyLastBite.com
Olives Ferran Adrià. Our server Skyler scooped out the liquid olives from a jar tableside (below). The plate came with 4 olives, each on it’s own spoon. $10.00 for four “olives”.  If you don’t want to spend the $10 for four liquid olives, just order the “New Way” Dirty Martini… it comes with the olive!

Olives Ferran Adrià, MyLastBite.com
We also really enjoyed:

Croquetas de pollo, MyLastBite.com
Croquetas de pollo – Chicken and Béchamel Fritters. They tasted like chicken and dumplings mixed inside, crispy on the outside. $7.00

Watermelon & Jicama Guacamole, MyLastBite.com
Watermelon Skewers with Pedro Ximénez reduction and Tomato Seeds. A GREAT palate cleanser $15.00. Jicama Wrapped Guacamole with Micro Cilantro and Corn nuts (above right) $10.00

Braised Pork Cheeks, MyLastBite.com
Carrilleras de Cerdo con Naranja. Braised Pork Cheeks with California Oranges. $8.00

Gambas al Ajillo, MyLastBite.com
Gambas al Ajillo. Sautéed Shrimp with Garlic and Guindilla Pepper. $12.00

Patatas Bravas, MyLastBite.com
Patatas Bravas “New Way Jose”. José’s fried potatoes with aioli and spicy tomato sauce. $7.00

Chef Marcel Vigneron, MyLastBite.com
Tortilla de Patatas ‘New Way’ – Warm potato foam with a slow cooked egg 63 and caramelized onions. $9.00 (I watched former Top Chef contestant chef Marcel Vigneron make this. It was fun to see him working the foam!)

Bogavante a la Gallega, Galician-style Lobster Medallions with Olive Oil Crushed Potatoes and Smoked Paprika. $15.00

Selection of five cheeses, served with “picos”, Spanish crispy bread, quince jam and almonds and ‘Pa amb’ tomaquet – Toasted sliced rustic bread brushed with fresh tomatoes. The Idiazábal cheese was my favorite. $25.00

Tempura Avocado with Ponzu Air. $8.00

‘Rossejat’ de Fideos, Traditional fried pasta, paella-style with monkfish and shrimp, cooked in a seafood broth. $10.00

Butifarra con ceps y montgetes del gantxet ‘Daniel Patrick Moynihan’. Homemade pork sausage with white beans $9.00

Lomo de corder con patatas y trufas, Lamb Loin with Mushrooms and Potato. $14.00

Desserts: Apples Carlota, bread pudding and Traditional Spanish Flan with Fresh Cheese and Fruit.

Bazaar Desserts, MyLastBite.com

The Bazaar by José Andrés, SLS Hotel
465 South La Cienega Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90048
(310) 246-5555
Dining Date: Nov 17, 2008

Bazaar Visit #3

Bazaar visit #4

Positively Delicious Bazaar Reviews Posted on:

Gayot

CitySearch

LA Times

Yelp

José Andrés and Jo Stougaard MyLastBite.com
With Chef José Andrés at the
American Wine & Food Festival, Universal Backlot.

The Bazaar by Jose Andres on Urbanspoon

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Filed under Eating Out, Molecular Cooking