Sunday, January 9, 2011

California (Day 9)

We started off our first by walking the Santa Monica Pier. This is a very happening spot, although extremely tourist. We continued to venture around and ended up walking along the promenade into Venice Beach. Venice has a very diverse culture its downtown hippie culture to Muscle Beach.

We stopped at Shutters on the Beach for brunch. The food here wasn't anything too good, but it was more of the atmosphere. It was a bright, sunny day so starting it off with a Bloody Mary and 007 only seemed right.

Shutters was a beautiful restaurant situated right on the boardwalk. Many of the employees seemed like actors, but that's normal even to us NYC folks. The service was good and the food was decent, but the atmosphere was the reason we were there. We toasted to a great vacation and continued on our way.

We spent the day exploring Venice from the beach to the downtown shopping. Wanting to watch the Yankee game, we searched for a bar. We ended up at The Brig, a popular watering hole on Abbot Kinney Blvd. The bar was pretty empty when we first got there, but it packed out soon after as the TVs disappeared and the music pumped. The Brig looked like a dive bar from the outside, but actually turned out to be a great space with a cool vibe.

The bartender hooked us up with a few drinks and gave us the low down on Venice. He told us to go put in reservations at GJelina and come back and enjoy a few more cocktails. Usually restaurants make you wait there, but they called us when our table became available. This allowed us to mingle with an eclectic group of locals trying to have a good time. I was intrigued by The Brig's selection of canned beer--have you ever seen blue moon cans? I would definitely stop by The Brig again if in Venice.

GJelina, right down the street from The Brig, was possibly the best meal we got while in California. The interior of the restaurant is much like the food--rustic and simple, yet hip and modern. The ambiance is sexy and effortlessly cool. Oddly shaped electrical fixtures hang from the wood ceiling accenting the huge bar in the middle of the space.

We were originally seated outside on the terrace, but changed to the communal table off the bar. Supposedly the terrace is hard to get seats because they have a non-reservation policy, but we liked the idea of the communal table. Communal tables are fun because you could talk to the people next to you about what they're eating. I always like suggestions and recommendations as everything on the menu looked awesome.

We decided to go with a bunch of small plates (Pork Belly, Lamb Chops, Truffle Bread, Rabbit, and Skirt Steak). GJelina didn't offer a full bar, but they had a pretty extensive list of wines and a decent selection of beers. I got a glass of Chianti as its an easy drinking wine while also pairing pretty well with the dishes ordered.

The kitchen brought the dishes out as they were ready. The staff was knowledgeable and efficient. We started off with the Pork Belly, Lamb Chops , and Truffle Toast. WOW! What an amazing start. Granted, I had a few drinks earlier; but the flavors were unreal. The truffle toast was incredible--a must have dish if at GJelina. The rabbit and steak came out next and they had big expectations to fill as the first three dishes were fantastic.

The rabbit was good, but my least favorite dish out of the bunch. I'm not even sure why I ordered it--probably because I was feeling adventurous and I never had rabbit. The skirt steak was one of the best skirts steaks I've ever eaten. It was a pinch salty, but was bursting with ridiculous flavor.

The server then brought us a complimentary dessert to share. She brought us the butterscotch pot de creme with salted caramel and creme-fraiche. She told us that this was one of their signature dessert dishes. It was definitely a great dessert to share as you can't eat that by yourself. The richness of the butterscotch and caramel was alittle overpowering, but definitely worth trying.

GJelina is one of the best dining experiences I've ever had. Not only was the food incredible, but the ambiance and service were awesome as well. I would definitely recommend GJelina even if not in the area--this is a place worth traveling to.

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