‘Hood Clichés Meets Hipster Food Culture at Kitchensurfing’s Preview Dinner in Venice, a Guest Post and Review by My Older Brother Rojelio Cabral

The following story was written by my older brother Rojelio Cabral. It documents his experiences while eating at a dinner hosted by Kitchensurfing–a chef dispatching catering/pop-up hybrid service of sorts–in Venice. I’ll save you guys the embarrassment of browsing through my old cheesy, grammar nightmare (yes, even more than now) “early years” archive of food writing in 2006 and let you guys know that he basically is responsible for The Glutster. He started taking me out to restaurants and showing what’s up with good food, both fine dining in the Westside and hole-in-the-wall regional Asian in the SGV, in 2005.

If interested in finding out more about him, his art, his work and his influential LA graffiti history impact, check out his fancy new website: Rocreate.com . Or his gallery, on 50mm Los Angeles.

 

Arrival.
A private home in the Venice triangle, Venice’s most desired real estate, tucked between Abbot Kinney and Grand Blvd. Chic start.
Entering, I spied the chefs preparing purple-y suction goodness –partial to octopus I am. Initial impression = promising.

Stars of the night (in order):
Lamb Chops with a pistachio, mint, basil pesto. Excellently grilled.
Polenta patty, or cake, whichever –the base looked like an orange, cut in rings– grilled, piled with baby broccoli, pine nuts, currants and splashed with balsamic vinegar.
Pavlova –a meringue, a dollop of lemon curd, cream and a sliver of fig topped with a blueberry, and other seasonal fruits.

Dark. Dining.
Credit awarded to the organizers, who decided to take advantage of the pleasant Venice night, and deck, and moved the dining outdoors.
De-credited for the poor lighting –er, no lighting.
“Ugh, I can’t see what I’m eating!” became the common refrain of the night. Although a candle was brought onto the food table toward the end, better than never, the darkness was frustrating enough to distract. I come from visual-dominant ilk and flavors enter through the eyes first. A wow moment missed indeed.

Back to the food.
Despite the murk, the eats delicious and the textures sumptuous.
[Except for the chicken, with house made BBQ sauce, which tasted bland (?!). Inexplicably. Though it was succulent.]
There was an Orzo concoction, um Summer Salad, impressive in it’s range of flavors and a Crispy Chorizo with pomegranate bursts (and chicory) that was bright and remarkable. The (Firecracker) Shrimp on a skewer was above par in its sushi-like mouth feel, though cooked. Yummy, but neither sweet nor spicy as billed. Go figure.

The folk.
Didn’t like that they had canned Modelo beers, for hipster purposes. It is possible that the organizers were thinking cost-effectiveness, in contrast to the model home. However, I heard more than one attendee –too comfortably, almost flippant– claim some for slumming hipness factor. Modelo beer may be cool, but the way these guys and gals were handling it as über cool was decidedly not cool.

Stranger still, two otherwise nice guests too casually share “Where are the gangsters? Pfft, I came to Venice because [the dangerous lowlife element] keep the riff-raff out. A murder (they might’ve said ‘killing’) or two keeps it real.” Riff-raff, she explained, referred to the affluent.
The comment may be true. A hood-bred person could get away saying as much. If you’re a seemingly well-bred, uppity bougie, in PR, meeting new people, it comes off as callous and in bad taste.

Keeping it classy, I kept my offense –and I don’t get offended– to myself. People can say what they want. I’m a fan of agreeing to disagree. It’s only civil.

Kitchensurfing.com soft launched a service. They’ll dispatch chefs, for one or many, to home or office, or wherever needed to prepare a meal. Since their service is not about handling the décor, the food being rather worthy, they can be forgiven for the lighting.

It's Ahh-ssshhhheeeyy not Axe

I wanted to try Joe’s but their Prixe-Fix Menu for the day didn’t agree with my stomach. So i decided to try Axe just a couple of paces next to it. With a name like that, i was already expecting something. The place was pretty happening for a Wednesday lunch, we had to wait like 15 minutes.

The menu was pretty weird, it offered this “standard rice bowl” that had the same things as a vietnamese rice bowl and a couple of salads along with make-it-yourself salad option. The featured salads didn’t sound too appealing, so i just ordered the DIY salad and chose Hummus, Lentils and Roasted Beats as my ingredients.

My Salad was O.K, the Hummus was nothing special. The Lentils were just cooked with no special flavor. The Beets were pretty good though. When i was done, the messy tint of the Roasted Beets made my plate look like somethng the weird girl next to us could of drawn. My dad’s Spicy Chicken Rice Soup was alright if you were craving chicken. And my brothers Chicken Apple Salad was o.k also.

I guess i went in with the wrong expectations. It seems like they are just concerned with delivering the best, possible beautiful, organic produce available, without thinking too much about how they deliver it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nothing bad. It does give you the oppurtunity to taste the real flavor of the produce. Axe Restaurant is a good restaurant once you know what their goal is, but don’t expect anything amazing.

Axe
1009 Abbot Kinney
Venice, Ca
90291

What was i thinking?…Chaya?

Chaya,,,the name mystified me every time we passed by it. The view of the dim lighting and the ongoing of hungry “westdiner’s” never failed to interest me. And with my mellowing obsession with health still inside me and the new rave that M Cafe has been getting lately, i could not take my meddlesome any longer.

I remember along time ago when i would try to “walk off” my late night gluttony not to mention easing my stomach and guilt, i came across the displayed menu on the window and reading something like “seitan with coconut lentils” and knew, because of my recent infatuation with coconut, i had to sample it. The only problem was, because of my ignorance, i had not seen the price of anything. So there i go, suggesting it without analyzing it. I mean, i knew it was gourmet, and like all great things, is not cheap but $25-35?!! For our situation that we are facing right now?!! C’mon!(and plus, i was really craving a lunchy kinda thing, since it was technically my lunch)

When we walked in i knew it was not going be cheap. There was a 45 minute wait for the dining area and the 20 minute wait for the bar so we decided to opt for 3 seats in the sushi bar. With my dad’s recent convincing lectures in making me really think about what i was doing every time we ate dinner did to my brother and the cheapest entrees being $18(which luckily happened to be what had caught my attention). I was feeling pretty bad. I could also tell that my brother did not want to be here. But what was i going to do now, leave? Well no matter how naive that was, my thickheaded ass still attempted it. Of course, we stayed and i was forced to try to enjoy my dinner.

What made it even worse that we were not served any complimentary bread, something that i highly look forward to. So i had to ask for it myself. The bread was actually pretty good, and i even amazingly enjoyed the olive tapenade that was served with it.

I eventually got my much-anticipated Crispy Seitan with Coconut-Curry Lentils, Kale and Sweet Potato Puree but was not able to fully enjoy it. Not because of my brothers forced consuming of Shrimp Penne Arrabiata that he probably could of made better himself or the weirdness of the lack of communication between the three of us that we all looked forward to because we were all seated looking away from each other but it was surprisingly not… very good.

We were served unusually fast…i’m talking about within minutes we had ordered. Which was good, since i am always starving and they were also extremely generous with my entree. but that did not make up for the lack of flavor that followed. It was displayed very beautifully and if it was not for my uncomfortableness of taking a picture of food, i would of said it was the most beautiful-lest displayed dinner i had ever ate. The 3 huge thick triangular cuts of deep fried seitan, laying on a mountain of potato puree atop a heap of Kale on a bed of lentils. It was easily enough for two.

The seitan was extremely dry, you couldn’t even tell it was fried, not a speck or taste of grease anywhere, maybe if it was cut in smaller piece it would of been better. The “sweet potato puree” tasted just a little bit different of your usual mashed potatoes, it looked a lot like them too, not any shade of orange but white. The Kale was very thick and the a very similar consistency to steamed spinach, It would of been a nice compliment to the meal if there was not so much of it! Too much is not good. The awaited coconut lentils sadly turned out to be a disappointment also, undercooked and with a very tiny noticeable amount of coconut flavor. All this still didn’t stop me from finishing everything, except the kale. But i’m just saying.

There were several appealing dessert options that i would of loved but could not think because of my stupid thoughts inside of my head. My brother suggested the Mango and Rasberry Sorbet with mixed fruit, and even though it was cold outside and there were many other things in the menu that i would of enjoyed…just settled for that. Which turned out to be perfect, with the oblong shaped bowl and surprising diversity of fruits. And plus, i was stuffed and did not feel like consuming 3 days worth of my calories tonight.

Bottom line, not worth the money.

Chaya Venice in Los Angeles