Last month I tried out Erven, the vegan New American restaurant in downtown Santa Monica.
The greeting by the host was rather awkward. But the complimentary shooter of Australian dolcetto helped to smooth things over.
The amuse bouche of spiced cancha (toasted corn) was my favorite bite of the night.
Black garlic-chickpea fritter with yuzu and Aleppo pepper, $5. These not only looked like cake-style chocolate brownies, the texture was much the same as a stale one. I guess I was expecting something called "fritter" to be crispy. Intriguing flavors, contrasting floral/tart yuzu with deeper, savory notes of the black garlic. I was told this is the most popular item on the snacks menu.
Pickled dates with Sumatran curry, pine nut and maple, $6. Nice offset of crisp breading against the soft and smooth texture of the dates, but no sign of pickling flavors unless you squeeze the lime for needed acidity.
Rice cake ‘gnocchi’ with shelling beans, okra, sea beans and tomato-kimchi soup, $14. Obviously stale Korean rice cakes were much too firm, going beyond pleasantly chewy to cross over into the danger zone of losing a dental filling. Good intensity and complex flavors in the tomatoey broth spiked with kimchi, and I'm always happy to munch on sea beans and fresh shelling beans. Use of okra and purslane in the same dish was a questionable move, doubling down on slime and bitter notes. This was the least successful of the dishes. To his credit, my server offered to replace it, but I declined.
This was an intellectually stimulating meal, honing in on some flavors not often seen together on a plate and decidedly satisfying in that sense. Far more interesting and higher concept food than I expected at this price point. Not everything worked taste-wise but the effort to bring some creativity and finesse to vegan cooking was appreciated.
514-516 Santa Monica Blvd.
Santa Monica, CA 90401