you walk into the modern space off Abbot Kinney that used to house the
Scandinavian AK Restaurant + Bar, it's hard not to notice the poignant
juxtaposition between the retro furniture, warm wood, and soft lighting.
The Tasting Kitchen allows influences to come in many shapes and forms with a
strong taste of Italy. The wine list is mostly Italian and thus
features many varietals, which even experts might not recognize.
The cocktail list is market fresh with house made tonics and juices that all fall on the rather strong side. My suggestion: choose a unique cocktail, and settle into the rather foreign menu.
Pictured above-the Fruit Cup
The menu is written in what seems like some sort of code-it's meant to make you interact with your waiter and ask lots of questions like "what does p.p.b.b.h.o.t.w. refer to in preparation with the bass?" Or you could play it a bit more risqué and find out when the dish arrives at your table.
Another option entirely is the “Regular Dinner.” Highlighted with asterisks at the top of the menu, I would assume many don’t even notice it. For $65 per person the table can do a tasting – Chef’s choice. It is five to six courses and usually includes an appetizer, salad, entrée, pasta, and dessert and is served family style. For an extra $50 per person they will do a wine pairing.
Don't get too attached to any of Casey Lane's dishes, as the menu is constantly changing. There is a focus on imported meats and cheeses and the meat and cheese board is a great way to start the night with a group of friends. Your cheese could be a gubbeen cow’s milk cheese from Ireland or a brie fermiere cow’s milk cheese from France. The meat could be jamon iberico or various salamis. The kitchen will choose several cheeses and meats for you to try along with some fruit slices, walnuts, and crackers.
the meat and cheese, the menu becomes exceedingly seasonally based. Salads are
described (briefly) by three or so main ingredients. Just enough to
let you know if you’d be interested i.e. butter lettuce: blue cheese: tarragon.
The burrata salad with prosciutto and green beans and hazelnut aillade is
heavenly - creating a nice texture contrast with the crunchy beans and creamy
Vegetables are farmer's market fresh with a twist- Parisian carrots come with a poached egg, morel mushrooms and farro. Asparagus come topped with pistachio aillade.
Entrees are usually slow cooked tender meats - pork with spring onions and polenta. Again, not too much information is given about the meat. Unless you ask what cut, and how it's cooked, all you'll know is the type of protein. Clucks'n'frites is often on the menu-half a perfectly roasted chicken with a side of sage fries and aioli. Halibut has also been on the menu a lot recently - although preparations vary. It may come with beans and crème fraiche or morel mushrooms and prosecco. A recent lamb was a roasted leg with squash gratin, salsa verde and fresh feta.
Pastas are standout and all made in house. The bucatini alla amatriciana is authentically spicy and full of speck and red chili flakes. It’s so good in fact, that after I had it I came back to the restaurant just to have this pasta again. Then I went home and tried to make it myself. I think I’ll leave this one to Lane. What makes this version so great is the bucatini-a very thick stranded spaghetti that’s hollow in the center.
Pastry chef Nathan Mataulay is well known for his bread pudding but desserts change as often as the rest of the menu. They always have seasonal gelatos and sorbets in flavors like ginger, strawberry and campari.
Because of the way the menu is designed, The Tasting Kitchen is for those willing to be explorative at dinner. But you’ll find that when you try something a little out of the ordinary, it still manages to feel homey.
The Tasting Kitchen 1633 Abbot Kinney (310) 392-6644 www.TheTastingKitchen.com