Tasting Kitchen: 99 Essential Restaurants 2011
Even after a couple of years, the Tasting Kitchen feels more like an art collective than it does a proper restaurant, a place where the odd discussions you have with your neighbors at the communal table seem as vital to the project as the fig bruschetta, and servers drift in and out like characters in a dream. As with a surrealist museum show or a performance of Garcia Lorca, you come to experience something unsettling. The dining room is a study in social interaction that just happens to involve food. Tasting Kitchen is a new-breed, Oregon-style restaurant transplanted to a beach town, with hundreds of candles and a loud soundtrack of post-rock and do-me R&B. The style of Casey Lane, who came here from Portland's clarklewis for what he imagined would be a short-lived pop-up, is simple, with an emphasis on toasted bread, strong cheese, braised meats, unaltered seasonal vegetables, grilled nuts and the distinct, bitter taste of char. The basic impression is of Italian cooking translated into an odd American dialect: Melted Fontina with bacon and trumpet mushrooms come on airy slabs of grilled bread rather than on thin slices of baguette, pastas are correct, and grilled anchovies are laid so beautifully on their plate that you rather suspect an art director. Unless you are an expert on obscure Italian wines, you will not be able to choose a wine without consulting your waiter, which may be the point. 1633 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice. (310) 392-6644, thetastingkitchen.com. Dinner nightly, 6-11 p.m.; brunch, Sat.-Sun., 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Full bar. Valet parking. All major CC. Italian.
99 Essential L.A. Restaurants 2011:
Church & State
Din Tai Fung
El Huarache Azteca
Euro Pane Bakery
Fab Hot Dogs
Good Girl Dinette
La Casita Mexicana
Lazy Ox Canteen
Meals by Genet
Musso & Frank Grill
Nem Nuong Khanh Hoa
Newport Tan Cang Seafood Restaurant
Night + Market
101 Noodle Express
Palate Food + Wine
Pollos a la Brasa
Sapp Coffee Shop
Son of a Gun
Tacos Baja Ensenada
Waterloo & City
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