I don't know why it took me so long to dine at Gjelina when I live on the westside and have heard great things about this place... But, better late than never! I should say the same for this post since this review is a few weeks old... just bear with me...
My friends and I had a 6 p.m. reservation on a Tuesday night before the dinner rush. The place was less than half empty, which was great since we got seated at our own table instead of the long, communal tables. The decor was strong and dark - I loved the brick flooring. The unique light fixtures caught my eye as well. Gjelina has been the talk of the town ever since they opened and still continues to book up every reservation resulting in a long wait time if you don't RSVP. I've heard such positive reviews regarding the food, but not so much on the service. So, while I was excited to dine here, I was a bit worried about my dining experience as a whole. I can gladly say that my experience here from the food to the service was excellent. Our server, August, was not only very knowledgeable about the menu, but was friendly and funny.
Before I move onto the food, I have to say that I was excited to have dinner during this time because of the natural lighting. This excitement was only short-lived when I found out that all the pictures I took had an ISO setting of HI, when it should always be at AUTO. After I uploaded my pics and saw it enlarged on my computer screen, my heart sank. I guess I've been having really bad luck with pictures... I think it's time I upgrade to an SLR and really take up photography like I've always wanted to since high school. If any readers want to make a donation, I have paypal! hahaha I'm sorry, I'm just joking. ;)
2007 Antico Borgo di Sugame, Sangiovese, Chianti Classico
We ordered a bottle of chianti to go with our meal. It was easy to drink, not overly dry or fruity. I honestly didn't drink too much of this as I was so focused on finishing the food.
half dozen kumamoto oysters
We started off with a half dozen order of kumamoto oysters, my favorite. I really don't need any sauces with my oysters, just a little bit of lemon and I can eat them raw for days. This batch was a bit inconsistent, some being somewhat sweeter and tastier than others.
My friend apparently loves chickpeas so this was a must-get item. This "stew" was full of flavor which weren't overpowering and allowed the chickpeas to take center stage. The chickpeas were perfectly cooked and had great texture.
ricotta gnocchi, crispy sage, brown butter, parmesan
WOW. This gnocchi was absolutely heavenly. It had a nice firm texture on the outside while the inside was so soft and creamy. The brown butter sauce was full of "umami" flavor, like my friend said. I would definitely order this again and again and again.
Niman Ranch pork belly, soft polenta, bitter greens, apple cider
I love crispy skin! The pork belly skin was crispy while the belly meat was tender and moist. The polenta was creamier and softer than what I've had before, thus was reminiscent of mashed potatoes. The bitter greens were great in balancing out the tarty sweetness of the apple cider.
mushroom pizza, goat cheese, truffle oil
I've had my fair share of mushroom pizzas and this one did not disappoint, especially since you can't really go wrong with truffle oil. I personally love goat cheese and its tangy flavor, which in this case, was great with the earthiness of the mushrooms.
Gruyere pizza, caramelized onions, fromage blanc, arugula
Since we couldn't decide between the mushroom or the Gruyere pizzas, we decided to order both. The peppery arugula and the sweet caramelized onions gave so much flavor to this thin pizza. Although I personally liked the mushroom pizza better, this pizza was a very successful dish.
strawberry rhubarb, cornmeal crisp, toasted almond gelato
After the pizzas, we were ready for dessert! Again, we couldn't decide on which dessert to pick so we got two. The strawberry rhubarb was the first to come out and the crust on this dessert was amazing! The sweetness of the strawberries were prominent but not overpowering due to the almond gelato.
butterscotch pot de creme, salted caramel, creme fraiche
When I saw this on the dessert menu, I knew I had to get it. I love Pizzeria Mozza's butterscotch budino and when I mentioned this to our server, August, he promised me Gjelina's was better. He was right! Oh, come on.. Take that shocked look off your faces. Mozza's budino is delicious, but I find it too sweet and difficult to finish. Gjelina's butterscotch pot de creme was creamy but not overly sweet. The salted caramel and creme fraiche on top was lovely. Basically, one of my favorite dishes of the night!
olive oil gelato
Along with our two desserts, August gave us a complimentary scoop of olive oil gelato. This proved to be not only a nice gesture, but became an essential part of our dessert experience. The gelato acted as a palate cleanser between the two desserts. On its own, the olive oil came through quite nicely.
By the end of our meal, the place was packed with every single seat taken. The meal was fantastic. The food at Gjelina was all the hype and my experience here was one that I will definitely relive and retell to anyone who will listen. Amazing, soul-satisfying food coupled with friendly and memorable service only equals to a fabulous dining experience at Gjelina. I will definitely be back, each time with someone new, just so I can take credit for introducing them to such a place. But, I believe the cat's BEEN out of the bag, hasn't' it?
1429 Abbot Kinney BlvdVenice, CA 90291