went to joe's restaurant in venice last night to celebrate a special occasion. i had been there once before for lunch and i remembered it fondly.
walking into the teensy, way-too-crowded bar, all i could do was hope we weren't going to be seated at one of *those* tables - eager, hungry patrons sipping on their cosmos or mojitos staring down at what's on the table. thankfully, we weren't.
i did get kind of an arrogant vibe in there from the host (not a lot of eye contact/warmth) and felt like despite our reservation, they were stalling us so we'd order a drink (that old song and dance). i got really peeved when we sat down to order a drink at the bar (we're suckers) and a woman sat down after us, but the bartender asked for her order before ours. i've learned not to put up with that, so we got up and didn't order. in fact, that kind of stuff gets to me so much that i suggested with hop to an in 'n' out and call it a night.
luckily, my better half is more tolerant and suggested we stay. it turns out i'm glad we did.
the server was very friendly, even his demeanor was a tad saccharine. it was much appreciated after the bar.
i'm not a big fan of the up-sell and he tried to do it with the water (flat, sparkling or tap?), which kinda irritated me. he said "tap" like it was a four (ok, three) letter word. anyway, we got tap.
we were served an assortment of four breads, all very fresh, quite fluffy and delicious, accompanied by tapenade and butter. a great start since we were absolutely starving.
our cocktails we ordered were prepared really, really well. i had a bay breeze with ketel one citron and better half had a ketel one and soda. the bartender was now our friend.
after perusing the menu, i knew i'd have to order off the menu. i'm a vegetarian trying to go without meat *and* dairy (but i refuse to call it "vegan" - it's such a divisive term). i was immediately put at ease when the server said that their veggie plate is excellent and was always varied, created using whatever was fresh that day. music to my ears. he reaffirmed no dairy a couple of times, so i felt secure. however, my expectations were pretty low because of past experience where i'm served some kind of atrocity like steamed vegetables and rice or the much-hated "pasta primavera." blech.
we both ordered a salad of "kentucky limestone lettuce" (which is basically bibb lettuce), fennel (none for me, thanks), artichoke hearts and carrots dressed in a not-too-sharp vinaigrette. the salads were gorgeous, although the kentucky limestone looked more like romaine to me. the carrots were quite delicate - actually the whole salad was delicate. the artichokes were plentiful. my only complaint was that the leaves had to be cut which detracted from the experience of eating it. other than that, it all worked together gracefully - not one element overtook the whole. superb.
my better half couldn't be more opposite than me: a true carnivore through and through. he ordered the "crepenette of pork, roasted garlic mashed potatoes, wild mushroom, brown chicken juice." it looked like sliced pork loin to me. found out later that it was wrapped in the some kind of pork skin or lining or something. if anyone knows for sure, please post. he loved it and ate every last bite. in fact, he said next time, he'd like two orders. i'm not sure if he was kidding.
my plate was stunning. i was served a selection of asparagus spears, broccoli rabe, spinach (and maybe basil) chiffonade and endive topped with a gorgeous-looking blood orange reduction (no dairy!). i can't remember when i have enjoyed a meal so much. each vegetable was cooked carefully and thoughtfully, not one was over- or under-done. the sauce was, again, well-balanced and complemented each item without detracting from their natural flavors. bits of blood orange topped the spinach which became a sweet surprise in between each bite. i did wish for mushrooms or maybe potatoes with this dish, but i think it may have been too much for the plate. it was fabulous and i finished every last bite (a record for me). after eating this, i thought that this no dairy is a thing i can do. i didn't feel "stuffed." i felt energized and satisfied. it was a good feeling.
we decided to skip dessert and wine because nothing looked that great and we were satiated.
for two of us including cocktails, salads and entrées:
$78 before tax and tip
there will be a repeat visit for certain. i would recommend reservations, since it was packed even on a wednesday night.
1023 abbot kinney blvd.
venice, calif. 90291