Z: Upon entering, we noted it was a small, cozy niche--bright, cheery and very tastefully furnished with wood floors, white marble-top tables and black chairs. The room was simply outfitted, yet wore an understated elegance.
R: The smiling greeter asked if we would like to be seated inside or outside. On this gorgeous and sunny 80-degree day, dining outdoors appealed. We were led through a larger dining room, similarly outfitted, and then through a corridor leading to the charming patio.
Z: Someone coming from out-of-state might glance around the patio and remark, "This is so California!" With its plantings of cactus, fountain grass, drought-tolerant plants, and mature olive trees showing off their meandering branches, the restaurant is indeed very "California." The tables, chairs, and banquettes sit atop a deck of reclaimed wood. The black and white theme prevails, along with a few wooden tables.
R: There were plenty of outdoor heaters, so diners would be very comfortable feasting outdoors year-round under the olive trees that sway in the gentle breeze. Small ceramic pots filled with robust little cactus dotted the top of every table.
Z: Our friendly server, Yvette, brought the typical weekend brunch menu, and we began to peruse. Because the menu offers minimal descriptions, we had many questions for Yvette, who gladly helped and offered suggestions. Reuben ordered Polenta Scramble featuring mushrooms--he's such a mushroom lover. Our friend, Chuck, chose Grilled Millet and an Almond Milk Latte, and I ordered the Market Greens.
Z: What a tasty beginning! We were in love with the place already! I also ordered one of their special juice blends called Melrose, a zesty green beverage made from pineapple, fennel, apple, lemon, lime, kale, and cilantro spiced with fresh ginger. I might not have considered blending all those different flavors together, but we all tasted and gave it thumbs up.
R: My Polenta Scramble, which ordinarily is topped with king oyster mushrooms, featured Portobellos instead, a delicious substitution. Forming a bed on the large, white platter was the white corn polenta pleasantly flavored with nutritional yeast. Then came some delicious surprises. Sweet potato hash, consisting of very crisp coarsely shredded sweet potato clusters, was strewn over the polenta. Perched on top were thick, ultra smoky chunks of perfectly grilled Portobello mushrooms splashed with a crazy delicious harissa sauce. Two picture-perfect nasturtium leaves, picked fresh from the garden, garnished the plate.
Z: Chuck and I managed to sneak a tasty bite before Reuben devoured everything with gusto. My Market Greens was a delightful choice that looked as if someone rummaged through the garden that morning and assembled the dish from whatever was plump and perfectly ripe. Hidden under a grilled head of baby romaine lettuce sliced in half lengthwise, were roasted fingerling potato halves, cherry tomato halves, marinated green olives, and green and yellow pole beans. It was the daring mustard seed dressing that brought these sweet little gems to life.
R: The Grilled Millet was a beautiful spray of colors featuring two golden millet cakes peeking out from a coverlet of sautéed vegetables called heirloom bean hash. While the millet was delicately seasoned, the veggies took seasoning to the top. It was a flavorful array of black beans, red bell peppers, baby potato slices, roasted carrots, zucchini, and a tasty root vegetable we couldn't identify--perhaps turnip.
Z: While we were taking our last sips of water, latte, and Melrose juice, we noticed there was an edible garden on the other side of the nasturtium planter and decided to meander over for a peek. And what a delightful peek! There were dazzling purple artichoke flowers on their way to seed, heirloom cherry tomatoes, bright red chile peppers, clusters of tiny purple grapes, dwarf citrus trees, and raised planters of herbs and too many veggies to name.
R: At the end of the garden stood a small building with an open door. Naturally, our inquisitive natures tugged at us, and we stepped inside to discover a large table, wooden chairs, and shelves of wine bottles of every size and variety. This special little room is just made for private parties who reserve the space for wine tasting and dining.
Z: Turning in the opposite direction, back at the main building, we noticed another feature. Stairs led to a sizable second story where students attend the Matthew Kenney Culinary Academy to learn food preparation techniques developed by the master chef.
R: Our delicious brunch experience left us wanting more, so we'll return another day, perhaps for dinner on that charming, very "California" patio. This attractive restaurant features an innovative, evolving menu of fresh, organic, locally sourced foods along with an extensive list of organic and biodynamic wines. Chef Scott Winegard, Director of Culinary Operations, clearly displayed his specialties when he assembled this tantalizing plant-based menu of vegetables, seeds, grains, legumes, and house-made cheeses.
Z: On the Brunch menu, prices range from $10 to $16, Vegetables $12 to $16, Dessert $10 to $12, Beverages $3 to $9. The Dinner menu offers a wider variety with slightly higher prices. Those seeking unpretentious quality dining will appreciate that along with using produce from their garden, the restaurant also supports the Santa Monica Farmers Market.
1009 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, CA 90291
Reviewed August 2015