The Tasting Kitchen

Here’s the thing: I’m the kind of nutcase that will travel many miles to visit a restaurant.  There’s a place in the middle of nowhere off the 154 highway in Santa Barbara county I’ll go to just for their tri-tip sandwich (I love you, Cold Spring Tavern).  So heading west to Venice isn’t that bad, especially when we’re venturing to one of LA’s “top ten best new restaurants” according to more than one respected publication.

You know how much I love sharesies and small plates, so I was excited to hear that was the concept of The Tasting Kitchen, a hot little number for the in-crowd and artsy types on Abbot Kinney Blvd.  Since I’m impatient, I looked up the menu online before we hopped in the car for our little adventure… And I was confused.  Their website looks like something that crazy guy from “Fringe” designed, scrawlings on rumpled note paper of incomprehensible sentences like “Radiohead-reckoner” followed by “food theater” and, my personal favorite, “come sit down, let me cure you by getting you buzzed”.  Well, okay.  To make matters even more, er, confusing, there was a steak listed at $85 (which translates to about 28 In-n-Out burgers), a meat and cheese plate at $45, and what appeared to be a single lonely glass of wine at $21.  But I can be optimistic, and people can be terrible proofreaders, so I figured maybe it was just a friendly mistake!

Nope!

The Mensa member test I mean menu

We (Stargate: Atlantis’s Paul McGillion, Dameon Clarke from “24”/”Castle” and us two winos) arrived to a beautifully lit and very busy patio section, cordoned off from the commoners on the street by a dense wall.  We headed back to the bar to have a libation while we waited for our table, and the bartender suggested a chenin blanc to get the party started ($12 a glass, which translates to only 3 In-n-Out burgers).  Granted, it was a hefty pour, which endeared the place to me some.

Paul McGillion and Dameon Clarke get ready to sip liquid gold
us

We were seated a couple of minutes later at a lovely table on the patio, surrounded by twinkly lights and twinkly girls with their rich boyfriends and were almost immediately greeted by our server.  She very patiently explained the menu to us, suggesting a few of her favorites and assuring us we weren’t over-ordering, and on we went with the meal.  First up was a wee plate of salami and burrata cheese, high-quality and delicious.  But did I mention it was wee?

meat and cheese

Next course was the chicken wings, grilled and caramelized to all get-out with apple cider, sticky, crispy-skinned and tender.  Although to be fair, I haven’t met a chicken wing I didn’t like.  Hi, little birds!

chicken wings

The third course was a duo of pasta: bucatini alla amatriciana, fat and hollowed-out spaghetti noodles in a spicy, zesty tomato sauce with bacon and onion, and a pasta special of the day, pappardelle with fresh peas and crispy prosciutto.  These were great, especially the pappardelle, but I think I had three bites before the wolves/men scarfed everything down. I was beginning to wonder if this place was for sharesies after all….

pasta special

The last course was my favorite: a beautifully roasted chicken with salty crispy fries and mustard and aioli on the side.  What’s not to love?  Perfectly executed, smartly underdressed, relatively well priced ($22) and simple.  The only thing that would have made it any better was more of it.

clucks and frites

 

We also ordered a side of peas for the table, which never quite made it to us, but we weren’t charged for them at least.  The good news is, I was known as “the princess with no peas” for the rest of the night.

All in all, was it a place I would return to?  While the service was great, the food was well-executed, and the room and its people were beautiful, I just can’t wrap my head around those prices for what you get.  LA is teeming with restaurants like that, and competition on where to spend your money is fierce.  Judging by the continuing hype of The Tasting Kitchen, I doubt they’re going to have any problems filling it to capacity every night.  But it’s not the hype that brings this princess back to a place.  It’s the whole experience.

Anybody else craving In-n-Out?

www.thetastingkitchen.com

30 Comments Add yours

  1. Mike Favila says:

    I used to count everything’s prices by how many meal punches they’d be equivalent to, so I appreciate the In and Out metric.

  2. Crystal Kepple says:

    I’m pretty sure I gain weight everytime I read your posts. Seriously, I have both a mad desire to visit every place you list and an overwhelming urge to spend a full week at the gym.

  3. Awww come in France, we have the best wines, the best delicatessen, the best dishes, and more and more… =D
    Thanks for your blog!! =D
    Xoxo
    Carlyne [France, yes haha]

  4. Daniel says:

    🙂 You sure enjoyed all visits in Europe,
    with regard to such (actually too common)
    over-pricing in most restaurants of the USA.

    Then again, I was surprised by the huge portions of some
    dishes that appear as “Nouvelle Cuisine” style which is too
    commonly in Europe used as an excuse for underdosing. 😀

    Very nice, well illustrated review. ✈ Greetings to the crew.

  5. Dangerboy says:

    Nice concept indeed, but I have a special place in my heart for affordable plates. I’m somewhat thrifty that way.

    Now pardon me for my hubris, Jewel, but I must brag. Tonight I am preparing a duck stir fry with a Vidalia Onion and Fig sauce at home. It is the yum.

  6. Karl Kovacs says:

    So what kind of steak do you get for $85 dollars? I’ve heard of steak in Japan costing even more than that but I don’t get it….
    And…I have a serious craving for an In-n-Out burger!!

  7. John says:

    Thanks for the heads up that the prices weren’t a mis-print. I’ll take the In-n-Out too, or your lasagna recipe any day… Any good tapas places for the commoner 😉 you’d recommend?

  8. Lynn says:

    Yummy thing to share, if you go to Las Vegas: hummus (served with warm pita strips) at Bradley Ogden in Caesar’s Palace. Ambrosia!

  9. Abby B says:

    I did a little happy dance that you mentioned both “Fringe” and Radiohead. Sorry the experience wasn’t amazing.

  10. Luke says:

    Should I have the red wine or the white wine with the chicken or fish? Seriously though, it all looks and sounds good, but like the previous commenter, affordable plates are my choice, or as I like to call them “well valued.” Also since Dangerboy felt the need to discuss his cooking for this evening, you should know that I am only making Hamburger Helper for my wife and son tonight because I don’t to make it too hot. (A.C. is broken in house until MON and it’s hot in Houston)

    Final statement – I have no idea why I decided to tell you all that, you just seem like the type of girl to care.

  11. David T says:

    Just a shout out for appreciating Cold Spring Tavern (and In-N-Out, too)

  12. AJ says:

    Wow. That menu. I get doing something fresh and different, but my first reaction was that it’s a bit of an obstacle between the “hungry people” and “restaurant making money” concepts. I’d still go there at least once if I had the budget space. The food looks good, and the dessert menu looks like something I want everything off of.
    ——–
    Now that you mention it, I’m craving In-N-Out too. Easiest menu in food.

  13. Brandi stagg says:

    Thank you for such wonderful descriptive posts! Living in north Georgia, I am always interested in your trips and culinary delights! I love the name Jewel by the way, my favorite person in the world was my grandmother Ruby Jewel! <3

  14. Madeline says:

    I enjoyed the Fringe reference. And, sadly, have never had In-N-Out. I don’t think they exist in my neck of the woods…

  15. fojoy says:

    I completely agree with you about travelling anywhere for food…it is always a big factor on where my Hubs and I go on holidays.
    When we were visiting Washington DC, we actually took a train to Baltimore for breakfast.
    And it was so worth it!

  16. Old_Warhorse says:

    Next time you head to the Cold Spring Tavern, continue on down into the Lake Cachuma recreation area and check out Red Rock Canyon. It’s gorgeous and an easy hike; make sure to bring your camera!

    http://www.santabarbarahikes.com/hikes/backcountry/directions/index.shtml?red_rock

  17. Old_Warhorse says:

    Oh, and take your swim suit, because there are several fabulous swimming holes with huge rocks to jump/dive into the water.

  18. Old_Warhorse says:

    Drat the lack of an edit function! Sorry for spamming your post, but here’s another link to directions to get to Red Rock: http://www.santabarbarahikes.com/hikes/backcountry/redrock.shtml

    Yep, they need to consolidate both of those pages into one. :-/

  19. river says:

    It all looks really delicious, but $85 for a steak?
    That’s more than half my grocery allowance.
    Hi from Australia.

  20. Inger says:

    Those dishes look wonderful, but unfortunately so very expensive. My husband wouldnt go there either. He likes the food to actually fill the majority of the plate LOL

  21. Unclearwords says:

    Well fuck a duck. Now I want In-n-Out Burger.

  22. Tom says:

    Oh man, I’m British and so have never had In-N-Out Burger. It is number one on my list of Things To Do When I Eventually Get To Go To America. (It’s a clumsily titled list).

  23. Sunny says:

    Another shout out of appreciation for Cold Springs Tavern and In-n-Out. I grew up just down the road off Highway 154 so that bridge, and the delicious restaurant hiding below it are fond memories. Sadly, the last time I had an In-n-Out burger was in 2005 🙁

  24. Love the In-N-Out references!

  25. Linn says:

    I’ve been following you on Twitter- and your friends from Firefly, and I just have to tell you that it makes me so happy and at peace that you all hang out and stay in touch. It kind of makes it okay that there is no more Firefly.

    I went to my boyfriends house for new years and he told me about this serie I should watch (Firefly) I thought it sounded lame until I saw one episode..
    Then we watched all episodes, like 4-5 a day and then the movie, I got obsessed with it.

    I’ve never loved a serie as much as I love Firefly and I think you all are amazing!
    My boyfriend which already is a nerd, found a model of Serenity in disguise on ebay, its supposed to be a christimas ornament to hang in the tree.
    So nerdy- but great. So as long as we live we will always have a tiny Serenity hanging on our christmas tree and we can someday tell our children about it and someday they can watch it too.

    Love from Norway!
    -Linn-

  26. Eq4bits says:

    *wipes off glasses and looks again* An $85 steak (which, btw down here in the South, would equal approx. 4 steamer packs (a steamer pack being 2 dozen) of Krystal Burgers) *removes glasses and shakes head* For $85 I can put on a hell of a crawfish boil and feed 10 or more people!

  27. Mrs. L says:

    I’m going to blame you because now every time we have an expensive meal, I’m going to compare it to how many In-n-Out Burgers I could have ordered!

  28. Tallulah says:

    Buh. My dad had a $50 steak once. I thought he was crazy…So this just takes it to a whole new level…
    Also, I dunno if it’s just me, but those dishes look a bit dodgy on the presentation side of things.

    And I have no idea what in n out is.

    Love from Australia.
    (which you should visit, btw 😉

  29. Allegra says:

    The food looks soooooo yummy.

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