California chic along Abbot Kinney in Venice.
I could have sworn the Restaurant was right over–
–wait. We walked too far. I know we walked too far. Let’s turn around and head back.
Is this it?
Seriously, is this it? It doesn’t look like the place.
Truth be told, Gjelina doesn’t look like a restaurant from the outside. It looks like a high-end boutique. Someplace where the T-shirts cost $75 bucks a pop. One could be excused for missing it, on your first trip along Abbot Kinney.
Okay, first time, we totally missed it. Just being real here.
Gjelina doesn’t exactly go out of it’s way to advertise itself. Maybe it’s because those who already know where it is are those who need to know.
You walk in, and even on a Monday Night early in the day, the place is jumping. For those first couple of seconds, I was back on my heels a bit, as Gjelina’s looked a bit more high end than I was expecting. I was in the mood for something a bit more low key, something a little funkier. I mean, have you seen their website?
Yeah, I should have looked up the address. Abbott Kinney? Child please. Should’ve known better.
My dining companion and I were escorted to the apparently legendary back patio (at least according to L.A. Weekly), and seated right next to the fire. After about an hour there, my right side felt medium well. I would have loved this seat back in January. Of course, it was March and the Temperature gauge hit 93 at one point during the week.
The other patrons in the room seemed every bit as California chic as stereotype would suggest. This was a well-moneyed room. My fellow customers sat, gabbing about nothing in particular at all, and seemed very used to what was going on around them.
Me? Not so much. I was happy to be here. Enjoying the space. Thirty minutes into my visit, and my first Cocktail, I knew I had been mistaken in my first impression of Gjelina’s. It wasn’t a high end place. It’s a neighborhood joint…but for rich people. You can think of it as Osteria Mamma but with higher prices.
That being said, there was a level of comfort here. The Waitstaff was very friendly, very nice, ready to point me in the right direction. The Kitchen serves up was is basically Nouvelle Italian, but with a California twist to it. What we had was tasty, and well prepared. The greatest thing ever? No. Something that’s going to replace Osteria Mamma in this reviewers Notebook? No. But a place I’d come back to if I were in this part of town again? Oh yeah? Someplace I’d go out of my way to bring a date to? Oh, hell yes.
But I’d probably check to see if I could get a table at Osteria Mamma first.
WHAT SHOULD I GET?: This was a menu you could bounce around a bit, in any number of combinations and you probably would have left happy.
The first thing that arrived as our order of Roasted Baby Carrot Burrata with Carrot Top Pesto and Pepitas. This was my first time having any kind of Burrata. Lovely pickled carrots, smothered in a creamy, silkily smooth Cow’s cheese. It was the first thing to arrive, and started off things nicely.
For the main course, we decided to play it a bit safe and nab one of their Pizzas. How could you go wrong with Pizza? We settled on the Gruyere, Caramelized Onion, Formage Blanc and Argula Pizza. Nothing to complain about here. Just a nice pie, cooked to perfection, with a crust you wanted to finish off as much as the parts of the pizza with caramelized onion and cheese. The Argula was put on after baking, so you got a slightly cool, very fresh crunch with your melted chess and almost sweet as apple onions. Then again, it was a Pizza. You don’t make L.A. Weekly’s essential 99 Restaurants if you screw something up as basic as Pizza.
And alongside the Pizza, we had the Crispy Chilean Red Potatoes served with fresh dill, picked red onion and Horseradish. As was noted ably by my dining companion, this was a deconstructed Potato salad, but was possibly our favorite thing of the night.
I personally couldn’t resist any dessert that has Salted Caramel in it, so I was all in the for the Butterscotch Pot de Creme with (yeah, it was a safe guess at this point) salted caramel and creme fraiche. That first hit of sugar and salt sent me to the moon, and I’m just getting back now.
IMPORTANT SAFETY TIP, PEOPLE: Yeah…like I said. It pays to advertise…and either the folks at Gjelina don’t think they need to do it, or…I don’t know. Either way, if you’re walking on the street, odds are you will walk right past the restaurant your first go around. There is no obvious signage, not address marker on the door, only teeny tiny little sign on the window that marks this place as Gjelina. So count this place as hard to see from the street.
PARKING: So…you want to park…along Abbot Kinney?
Oh, you’re funny.
Yeah, you’re not finding parking along Abbot Kinney, unless you are supernaturally lucky. If so, you shouldn’t be trying to get a table at Gjelina’s. You should be buying mass amounts of lottery tickets.
Realistically, the best and easiest way to find yourself a public Valet, pay him the ten bucks and let him or her park your car for you.
1429 Abbot Kinney Blvd
Venice, CA 90291
Tel: (310) 450-1429
Monday-Friday: 11:30 am – 12:00 am
Saturday-Sunday: 9:00 am – 12:00 am