Saturday, June 30, 2012

Venice Beach Whine

I am always on the lookout for good neighborhood wine bars; the kind you can walk to on any given night where the wait staff comes to know your name and which remain relatively obscure enough so that out-of-towners stay away. I really wanted Venice Beach Wines to be this place for me because it’s so close to my home and it’s tiny and cute, spilling out of the entry room of a renovated beach bungalow.  About a year ago I had lunch there and was delighted by the wall upon wall of wines and the open kitchen where chefs made pressed sandwiches and small appetizer type foods to accompany the grapes.

I convinced the Cute Gardener to try it out with me on a recent Saturday night after we had a strenuous day so we walked over hoping for some cheap eats and a nice glass of vino. Clearly, it’s a neighborhood place but unfortunately the entire neighborhood’s population seemed to be there. (Of course, I later found out it’s always this packed.) There are only about twenty real places to sit on the cramped patio butt to butt and elbow and elbow. While we were standing waiting for a seat, we watched two glasses crash down because of the overpopulation. The waitresses were very accommodating, and I could sense their niceties were constantly apologetic barters due to the lack of space. For those who like to feel part of a scene and don’t mind it very loud, this is the place to be. But for people like me who like to hear what my companion is saying while simultaneously savoring the experience, not so much. It was very hard to relax. 

I tried a 2009 Barbera that was light bodied and spicy with hints of maraschino followed by a lavish 2000 Tempranillo from Spain. Both very good and structured but, as the CG remarked, it was nothing we couldn’t find from Whole Foods down the street.

Which was exactly where it seemed they were getting their goods, as throughout the evening, chefs and others staff members were running in and out of the patron area to the street to procure and bring in more supplies like bread, oil and wines. With very little room to the place, it makes sense that they would store things off site or run to a store down the street to replenish their wine list as the night goes on but it seemed to happen so much and looked like a lot of effort for such an itsy bitsy place. I mean, I wondered how they were turning a profit.

I opted for a lambwich for dinner which was a super scrumptious pressed panini-like thing with real, good lamb meat spiced up by a dusting of exotic herbs and curry powder but they skimped, unfortunately, on their yummy, version of smoky, chipotle-esque tzatziki.

The CG said his buffalo (yes they have buffalo burgers) was indiscernible of taste between the buns as the patty was studded with other stuff he couldn’t ascertain.

A final cochon, aka fondue-ish pot of caramelized onions, fontina, arugula, parmesan and shallots (hey, we kept trying to like the place by trying more things) was absent of the menu’s touted charcuterie and instead brought out with a half loaf of dry baguette. The cheese had already hardened and it was almost impossible to spread.

I am not apt to try this place again, especially since it will probably grow ever more crowded as the new mixed use buildings along Rose Avenue across the street become more and more populated over the next year.

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