Abbot Kinney, the founder of Venice, was one of the freakiest city fathers in history, a dude who got business advice from ghosts, and loved orgies as much as he loathed Houdini. The Venice thoroughfare named for him is a bit more conventional these days, lined with bodywork parlors and tasteful wine bars, postironic boutiques and breathtakingly expensive salons, a street that would not be out of place in Mill Valley, Aspen, or Greenwich, Connecticut. But AK, the silky, expensive new restaurant of Conny Andersson, borrows Mr. Kinney’s initials, and in some ways may be as decadent as its namesake — it is a pleasure palace of stunning blonde waitresses and low, flickering lights, sumptuous chairs, and the kind of wood-and-glass structure, familiar to readers of Dwell, that Scandinavian architects use to let the beauty of the outside in, while remaining hermetically sealed against the elements.
Andersson spent a lot of time cooking at Four Seasons hotels, including locally in Beverly Hills — and he co-wrote a Caribbean cookbook with Morgan Freeman. His menu, while inflected with the occasional Swedish accent — a bit of herring, a dab of Västerbotten cheese, a dribble of aquavit — is very much in the tradition of the hotel chain’s careful brand of luxury cooking: never surprising, never offensive, but made with the best ingredients and served on really nice plates. Would the artichoke three-ways — shaved, folded into a fritter, enhancing a velouté — be more effective if you could actually taste the artichoke even one way? (The herring appetizer is also served as a trio. Andersson has a thing for three-ways.) Are the sautéed hedgehog mushrooms on thick toast a little stodgy? The bouncy Swedish meatballs Ikea-esque? The pork schnitzel underpounded? The shell beans under the Arctic char a bit starchy? Sure. And the wine list is priced way too high — there are very few bottles under $60, so you will probably end up having a glass or two from the by-the-glass list, or more likely exploring the decent beer list instead. Still, the meat and produce are organic and impeccably sourced, Andersson’s resumé includes restaurants in Egypt, India and Nevis, and the dining room is as comfortable as a Nordic seraglio. Could AK evolve into a restaurant as wonderful and depraved as Mr. Kinney’s dreams?
1633 Abbot Kinney Blvd., (310) 392-6644 or www.akinvenice.com.