Since I’ve been back from my east coast trip, all I’ve been craving is seafood. Clams, crab, lobster…boiled, fried, baked…ANYTHING. So naturally, when I heard about this new seafood joint in WeHo, I HAD to try it. Happy Birthday weekend to me!
Connie & Ted’s baked calamari with bread crumbs is like a sneaky way to eat a healthy version of fried calamari. You get the texture of breading, but not the grease and heaviness that comes with them being fried. And considering how many fried clam bellies I put in my belly, this was all probably for the best.
With everything else being so incredible, the friend clams fell short. You can snag some pretty phenomenal Ipswich fried clams at Sonny McLean’s in Santa Monica for a little less dough, plus it comes with a side of ridiculously good slaw.
1 pound of lobster. Hot drawn butter. Color me a happy girl.
Though on the pricey side (it’s seafood, and it’s in WeHo, so…), I’m absolutely coming back. I need more oysters and lobster rolls in my life!
THE LOW DOWN A quiet and wobbly start, but a strong finish with a lasting impression.
Who doesn’t love a restaurant where you don’t need to make a reservation weeks in advance? I’m talking to you, Mozza! It looks like you’d be pretty safe making a reservation the day of, or even just walking in if you’re the live-on-the-edge kinda person (I’m not).
We walked in and the first thing we noticed was the general oddness of the place. It’s an uncomfortable layout in a smallish/mediumish space and the ambiance is noticeably stagnant. While the restaurant itself was fairly full, the noise level was hushed and our fellow diners looked bored. It’s quite possible we were surrounded by a bevy of mediocre first dates.
Our waiter, while warm and friendly, could have lightened up a bit on the name dropping. Waiter: “Are you familiar with our chef, Eric Greenspan? He was on The Next Iron Chef, etc. etc.” I’m shelling out my pennies to see what the chef can do in the kitchen, not what his Food Network status is.
Once that was out of the way, the rest of the evening was a quite enjoyable experience. Deets below, with photo accompaniment!
I started out with this one drink that carried me through the entire meal (and helped continue by lovely buzz through the rest of the night. Thanks Asian genes!) Meet my demise: A Foundry Sunset – rum, pomegranate, orange, lemon, cava. Bonus points to the bartender for using an awesomely giant solid cube of ice.
The veggies: black kale and fig salad. I’ve hopped on the kale bandwagon and I’m enjoying the ride. This was a refreshing twist on the leafy green with the generous amount of figs (yum figs!) thrown in the mix.
The fishy appetizer: Albacore tartare with sweet potato, shisito peppers, orange. Meh. My fault for ordering it. I should know better that tuna tartare is sooo 00’s.
Pork belly scallion pancakes. Oh hey pork and fat and all around amazingness.
The infamous grilled cheese with short ribs, tallegio, rasin-walnut bread, apricot caper puree. With all the random stuff that’s in there, you’d think the flavors would be competing with each other and taste kinda gross. Au contrair, mon ami. The 8 bazillion things packed into this tiny grilled cheese somehow work so harmoniously together the clouds part and the angels sing. Not recommended for the faint of heart (or anyone looking to drop some lbs).
We ended with an appetizer portion of the dish that got Greenspan kicked off The Next Iron Chef, the Krispie Crusted Tuna with sunchokes, grapes, mushrooms, bran. At first glance, it’s a little weird. You’ve got these tentacle looking mushrooms sticking out of a pile of stuff covered in…cereal? Looks aside, it’s actually a flavorful and inventive dish. It’s just no braised short ribs grilled cheese.
I’ll be back. I just won’t be ordering albacore tartare.
Before I get ahead of myself, let me give you a little background on this place. I had many an Angeleno foodie highly recommend Gjelina to me as a “YOU MUST GO NOW” restaurant. I would try to go, and could never get a reservation when I wanted one. Two weeks in advance for a weekend rez and you’re telling me you only have a 10:30pm slot open? Ugh.
A few months ago (yes, this is how behind I am in posting this), I SHOCKINGLY got an 8:30pm reservation for 2 on a Sunday night having called just a week before. As a last-cousin-date-before-she-up-and-left-me-for-the-balmy-weather-and-palm-trees-of-Hawaii, we were stoked to go.
The interior is a little bit industrial meets Anthropologie meets DARK CAVERNOUS ABYSS (seriously, I’d like even a tiny sliver of light to see wtf I’m eating).
The food was everything everyone raved about.
The crispy pork was juicy. Sorry the photo is from a sad takeout box. You can thank Gjelina for never bringing this plated to our table because they FORGOT, even after we reminded them and patiently waited forever for this. Ugh.
Though each dish ranged from above average to incredible and mouth-watering, the service (or lack thereof) left us with a sour aftertaste. I was a much less perturbed person happily eating my boxed crispy pork on my couch not having to wait for passive and snobbish wait staff to bring me a damn glass of water.
Our waiter was pleasant enough in the beginning. He came by, poured our tiny glasses of water and took our order. Buuuut that was pretty much the last we ever saw of him. Ugh.
We got two of our plates in a fairly reasonable amount of time (picky sidebar: the pacing was all off) but we awkwardly waited much longer for the main dish (the rabbit) and then waited even more (surprise!) for the crispy pork, which we had to ask three different waiters for. Ugh.
Finally, after patiently twiddling our thumbs for well over 30 minutes for the final dish, we finally see our waiter emerge from the aforementioned dark cavernous abyss. We reminded him that we were still waiting on our pork dish, to which he replied “you never got it?” No sh*t, Sherlock. So after this reminder (mind you, this is the third member of the Gjelina staff we asked), we had to wait yet again for the kitchen to actually prepare the dish, as the order was never passed along. At this point, we’d been there for about 2 hours now, so we just asked for the pork to be boxed up. Sad face (and another ugh).
Overall, the staff seemed completely apathetic to their complete dismissal of “service” and lack of simple common courtesy. We begrudgingly left a tip, albeit small but proportional to the service we received (because as much of an a-hole our waiter was, I still believe in karma).
The next morning, I attempted to follow up with any semblance of a superior at the establishment. A woman answered and took my name and number down for a manager to call me back. The conversation continued as follows:
Apathetic Gjelina Woman: May I ask what this is regarding?
Me: (I SHOULD have replied “nunya biznass”) My meal I had there last night.
AGW: Was it bad?
AGW: OK, I’ll pass along your information to our manager.
I wish this story ended with someone from Gjelina calling me and profusely apologizing and offering to personally invite me and 50 of my closest friends back for a dinner to make good for their failures (or at the very least comp my all too pricey meal…or even a friggin apology?!) but sadly, none was the case. My story ends all too anti-climatically with NO RESPONSE from the passive, pretentious buttheads at the Venice restaurant. Ugh.
They get a half cupcake ONLY because the food was really good.
PS-I’m not alone in my horrific experiences with Gjelina. Hell’s Kitchen star (and chef-lebrity crush of mine) Gordon Ramsay also had a little run-in with some heartless service.
PPS-total Ugh count for this restaurant? 6. Guys, that’s 6 too many for ANYONE. Unacceptable.
It’s like those splashy spreads in women’s magazines that show you how to get SJP’s look on a budget…but BETTER and TASTIER. (Have I succumbed to LA food snobbery? Because of the 5 splurges on this list, I’ve either been there, or really really really want to.)
I’m ever so slowly making my way through LA Weekly’s top sandwiches in the city (emphasis on the slowly). In my defense, the list is lengthy (including runners-up), the city is massive and I have the rest of the places on my bucket list to get through 🙂
THE QUICK AND DIRTY: Tucked away in a quaint alley between two gorgeously aged brick buildings in the industrial part of DTLA (not sketch, I swear), The Daily Dose is an easy-to-miss gem of a sandwich shop. Through the good graces of LA Weekly, we were able to find and partake in what could arguably be one of the best and freshest sandwiches the city has to offer (I’ll ignore the fact that this was on the list of runners up. While Baco Mercat was tasty, these sandwiches blow the toron out of the water). Everything is as local as they can possibly acquire – I mean, the bread is from a bakery one. street. over. The burrata is insanely creamy, melt-in-your-mouth delicious. The heirloom tomatoes taste like they were JUST picked after being meticulously vine-ripened (BLECH to mealy tomatoes, btw). I love a place that understands seasonality of produce, local is better when you want things fresh and that the food isn’t always about being showy when you use quality ingredients.
Maybe it’s true. Maybe the sunshine does make us less cynical than our eastern counterparts (I still love you more, NY!). But how cynical can you really be on a sunshiney Sunday morning enjoying eggs benedict with your slightly woozy friends from the previous night’s debaucherous adventures? (life lesson learned: Jameson is stronger than beer.)
Enter the wonderful meal mashup that is brunch. I was particularly hyped when I found out that Little Dom’s in lovely Los Feliz served brunch, so duh, I dragged some (slightly hungover) friends to recuperate over some coffee and breakfast potatoes.
The wait wasn’t too bad during prime brunch time (maybe 20 minutes or so?). The coffee? Strong enough to kick that headache. The eggs benedict need to become a regular menu item, because they were perfection. For an Italian restaurant, the pizza is just ok (props for the homemade sausage though). No brunch is complete without pancakes, and it’s really hard to f those up, especially when they have blueberries and ricotta cheese in them. Yum.