On our increasingly frequent weekend trips to Los Angeles (we have to confess that over the last few years we have started to discover LA’s great food scene and are hooked by now…) we usually arrive late on Friday night, and are always looking for restaurants which are open after 10pm and serve good food. In the past, Pizzeria Mozza and Animal have been our favorites on those nights, but since we are always interested to find new places we decided this time to check out a new one: over the last year Gjelina on Abbott Kinney Blvd in Venice Beach got many good reviews and is currently one of the up and coming restaurants in LA. The kitchen under the helm of Travis Lett (opening chef of NineThirty in the W hotel) has a strong focus on local and seasonal food with a Mediterranean influence.
The interior of the restaurant is similar to the food: very rustic and simple, but at the same time inviting and somewhat hip and modern. The main dining room has brick walls and floors and wood plank ceiling. Upon entering the restaurant you immediately feel the energy in this room, and two communal tables close to the bar give the opportunity to meet new people for dinner. The restaurant is relatively dark and has its signature, several electrical lamps in all sorts of shapes and sizes, mounted over the bar.
In addition to the main dining room the restaurant also has a quieter patio surrounded by high walls which especially during warmer weather might be a very nice place to dine.
The menu consists of different small plates including salads and vegetables, entree plates and pizzas from a wood-burning oven. For this visit we decided to choose a few small plates and pizza.
Selection of Charcuterie with toasts, mustard, preserves & pickles
Salami, Sopressata, Prosciutto with red beets, pickled cucumber and onions, two types of mustard and toasted bread. Overall it was a good start of the night but compared to all the other dishes it was nothing special. Unfortunately we didn’t have the chance to ask if they make their charcuterie in-house.
Grilled local squid with a warm lentil salad and Salsa Verde
Great combination of very tender squid and an excellent lentil salad. The Salsa Verde gave the dish a nice kick.
PEI mussels with homemade chorizo, confit tomato, white wine and grilled bread
Large and extremely tender mussels, but the real star of the dish was the sauce which got its taste from the mussels, white wine and tomato confit and had large chunks of chorizo in it. The bread was great for dipping the sauce. We didn’t leave a drop of it on the plate and it would have been a great soup even without the mussels.
Crispy Niman Ranch pork belly with soft polenta, bitter greens and apple cider
It’s hard for us to see pork belly on any menu and not order it. This version was good but not outstanding. It was a little bit dry, but the bitter greens were a nice contrast and helped to balance the richness of the pork belly.
Charred Brussel sprouts with dates, bacon and vinegar
Such a simple dish but so good. The Brussel sprouts were tender but still had a nice bite. The sauce had a slight sweetness from the dates which balanced the bitterness of the sprouts and vinegar. And which dish isn’t brought to perfection by bacon ?
Pizza with shaved asparagus, confit shallot, farm egg, Sottocenere and parmesan
One of our favorite pizza places in LA is Pizzeria Mozza. We love their high quality toppings and even their dough is becoming thinner over the years, but especially the crust still resembles bread more than pizza. We are always on the lookout for real thin pizza (but not too cross) and we might have found it at Gjelina - Very thin pizza with a great thin crust made in a wood-fired oven – our new favorite in LA. And the quality of the toppings at Gjelina didn’t disappoint either.
Banana chocolate bread pudding with fresh cream & caramel and outstanding espresso
The bread pudding was unusually soft and nearly liquid, and had a great banana taste. Also, it’s quite an advantage to have one of the best coffee shops of LA almost next to the restaurant – Intelligentsia. So it didn’t come as a surprise that the espresso was one of the best we had in any restaurant. Similar to Intelligentsia, the espresso was served with a glass of sparkling water.
Service throughout the night was very professional and efficient. We never felt rushed even though we were at the end some of the last guests in the restaurant. We also liked that our waitress mentioned that she will ask the kitchen to pace our dishes slowly. She also made sure that dishes did arrive in the best possible order to combine the best flavors – both seafood dishes at the same time as well as the pork belly together with the sprouts. Overall we went to Gjelina without any high expectations besides reading some good reviews beforehand, but were very impressed by the quality of both food and service. Gjelina will definitely become a part of our regular LA rotation list.
1429 Abbott Kinney Blvd
Venice, CA 90291