1429 Abbot Kinney Blvd
Venice, CA 90291
Gjelina on FACEBOOK
Type: Cafe, Restaurant
Cateogry: Brunch, Lunch, Dinner
Company: Date, Friends, Visitors, Family
Cost: $8-$25 per plate
Quick-Rec: Ask me about Gjelina and I will coo and say, "ooooh.." I love Gjelina - the entertaining variety of small plates, pizzas, and sides intended to share (aka play) - all prepared, offered, and consumed by some of the most gregarious and unpretentious chefs/servers/diners in Venice.
OTC Tip: Make reservations, order plates to share, be nosy, and ask a lot of questions!
Located in the epitome of cool on Abbott Kinney, Gjelina enters with a large wood door to an expanse of tall warm walls impressed with what looks like someone took their thumb and traced lightly swooping designs throughout the surface of the plaster.
There is a rusted chandelier that droops a looming shadow over the bar, but the most distracting part is the skin of naked bulbs that strikes out in all directions like an angered porcupine's quills which, brilliantly, adds just enough rusty juxtaposition to the sea of hip and pretty to truly bring out the raw beauty of the entire situation. Bravo.
The crowd (there always is one) is composed of bright-eyed people who know great food and who won't cringe if you lean over their table and ask everything about what it is they are eating. The staff is warm and excitable, and even if you didn't order the sardines they will show you how to eat them (make sure to leave the spine and head), as well as make sure you are thoroughly taken care of from every possible perspective (more wine? another fork? salt and pepper?)
The hardest part about the Gjelina experience is the sense of morn that will settle in as you sadly admit that you can't possibly order and eat everything in one sitting. No matter - since Gjelina is open for brunch, lunch, and dinner, there is ample opportunity to go back (if you can get a reservation, that is).
Pizza with shaved asparagus, confit shallot, farm egg, sotocenere & parmasean. Good and crispy at the crust, rich and tender through to the body of the pie. The egg in the middle was an indulgent touch, and with a shake of salt and pepper this pie "to share" was a great way to start off the meal.
Charred brussels sprouts with dates, bacon, and vinegar. Simply, amazing. And don't be weird about the brussels - this is a MUST.
We also had:
Crispy Niman Ranch pork belly with corn grits, rapini, and apply cider. LOVED - but then again, I love anything porky, charred, and fatty. If I could eat this everyday, I would.
Niman Ranch hanger steak tartare with grilled bread, quail eggs, and shaved radish. When having at this plate the key is that each bite should include a bit of every item - aka - be sure to construct the Perfect Bite every single time.
Now, while there are a few options for dessert, just close your eyes and wave off the menu. The only line you need to know is: "butterscotch pot de creme with salted caramel and creme fraiche." Go on, copy and paste that in to your phone and text it to yourself. Trust me, this is it.
Speechless? It's OK, all you have to do is promise to go back, again and again, like I will - and probably a thousand times over again.