1429 Abbot Kinney Blvd
Venice, CA 90291
Dining date: 7/20/11
I’ve wanted to visit Gjelina for some time now…though, not enough to drive all the way across town. Until now. Opened in 2008, Gjelina has been consistently popular during its lifetime. So popular, in fact, that when making a reservation two weeks in advance, only 6pm and 9pm were available on a random Wednesday night. Consider my interest piqued.
Grilled King Oyster Mushroom with Tarragon Butter, Lemon & Sea Salt
We started with these large mushrooms, grilled to a nice char. Smoky and earthy, they were really heightened by a touch of lemon.
Hamachi Crudo with Santa Rosa Plum, Serrano Chili, Cilantro & Lemon
I thought this dish was very ordinary. The fish was fine, but the accenting chili, cilantro and lemon were too subtle.
Grilled Nantucket Squid with Cavaillon Melon, Celery, Chili & Salsa Verde
I liked this dish – tender squid was paired with a little sweetness from the melon, while the chili and salsa verde brightened the dish up.
Braised Pork Meatballs with Tomato & Grilled Bread
These were solid meatballs in a hearty and rich tomato sauce.
Crispy Niman Ranch Pork Belly with Soft Polenta, Bitter Greens & Apple Cider
An excellent dish. The pork was crispy on the outside and meltingly tender on the inside. I liked the addition of the polenta and greens, adding some earthy undertones while the cider helped to cut through the richness of the belly.
Grilled Asparagus, Frisee, Pancetta Vinaigrette & Crispy Fried Egg
This tasted pretty much as advertised, though I was missing some of the pancetta flavor in the vinaigrette.
Wood Roasted ‘Peel n Eat’ Prawns with Garlic, Chili, Parsley & Lemon
Possibly my favorite dish of the night, large prawns came out perfectly roasted. Slightly smoky and slightly spicy, the accompaniments accentuated the shrimp without overpowering.
Miatake Mushroom Toast with Creme Fraiche & Truffle Oil
Another hit, this mushroom toast was pretty delicious. The tender mushrooms went well with the tart crème fraiche and crusty bread.
Slow Roasted Leg of Lamb with Cous Cous, Red Pepper, Spiced Yogurt & Herb Salad
This was our only large plate (the kitchen closed this section of the menu without prior warning) and it was a disappointing one. The lamb was surprisingly dry and overcooked. Not sure what happened here.
This was a good pizza with a sweet tomato sauce and a soft, chewy crust. I might’ve preferred it to be a little more crispy on the bottom, though, as it seemed somewhat soggy in the middle. Good, but not particularly memorable.
Guanciale, Green Olive, Fresno Chili, Buffalo Mozzarella
This pizza definitely had a more dynamic flavor profile than the Margherita, with a tasty, meaty pork flavor complemented by heat from the chili and saltiness from the olives. Pretty nice.
Butterscotch Pot de Creme with Salted Caramel & Creme Fraiche
Seriously delicious. I thought it was rich (but not overly so) with a really nice depth of flavor. A little bit of salt and whipped creme fraiche were simple and integral accompaniments.
Black Bottom Banana Cream Pie
While I preferred the other dessert, this one held its own. Small chunks of banana filled the pie, which benefitted by being not overwhelmingly banana-y. The cream was pretty light with just the right amount of sweetness.
Gjelina met my expectations (which were pretty high). Most of the plates managed to be interesting and different while staying within familiar Italian flavor profiles. The place is definitely trendy but with proven staying power. I can’t say I’d make a special trip to Venice just to eat here, but it’d definitely be a strong option if I were in the area.