The Tasting Kitchen: Showcasing the Seasons on Abbot Kinney

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Restaurant Sign Los Angeles

A mailbox is jut one of the stylish touches at The Tasting Kitchen.

I started hearing rumblings about The Tasting Kitchen last fall. A young, hungry crew of Pacific Northwesterners invaded Abbot Kinney Boulevard, taking over the short-lived home of AK restaurant + bar. Chef Casey Lane, Maitre ‘d/Wine Director Maxwell Leer and bar manager Justin Pike changed the space minimally, but the menu was radically different, with a focus on farm-fresh cuisine instead of contemporary Swedish food. The concept intrigued me, but due to sickness and a jam-packed reservations log, my two efforts at dinner were thwarted. On my third attempt, my cousins backed out of dinner plans at the last minute, but F it, no more waiting.

The Tasting Kitchen resides on impossibly trendy Abbot Kinney Boulevard, on the south end of a strip of boutiques, cafes and residences that runs between Main Street and Venice Boulevard. The street puts most in Los Angeles to shame when it comes to contemporary design, and yet, there hasn’t been a true destination restaurant. Joe’s and Gjelina certainly have their adherents, but neither restaurant bowled me over on my most recent visits. With The Tasting Kitchen, a strike was a possibility, and we were counting on at least a spare.

The Tasting Kitchen crew already charmed plenty of palates, but it was only recently that they started to forge their own aesthetic identity. They completed the bulk of this process prior to my initial dinner, stripping the barriers that afflicted AK. The idea that up until recently, customers couldn’t see stylish passersby, and that potential customers couldn’t see inside the restaurant, strikes me as absurd. Now that design flaw is a thing of the past, and The Tasting Kitchen can move forward.


Restaurant Los Angeles

The double-decker space is now much more open, with windows that face the street and 90-year-old olive trees that replaced a green tiled wall near the entrance.

The menu features an unusual layout, with main courses in the upper right corner, cheese, bread and preserves up top, and categories like meat, salads, seafood, vegetable, pasta and dessert down below. We sifted through seasonal options and certainly would have ordered more if our cousins managed to make it to dinner. Sadly, there were only two of us, so we had to limit the damage.

Justin Pike was on vacation, but they have a deep talent pool behind the bar at The Tasting Kitchen. Devon Espinosa was working during our visit and John Coltharp recently transitioned from Caña Rum Bar. During our visit, chalkboards were bare, but they normally tout special drinks, cocktail arcana and fun facts courtesy of Pike, the artist in residence.

Cocktail Los Angeles

Dukes of Hazzard ($11) was a sweet, slightly spicy cocktail with a hint of vanilla featuring bourbon, date puree and allspice that worked well on the rocks.

Mussels Los Angeles

We started with plump Mussels ($16) partially submerged in saffron cream flavored with fennel and dill. The crusty toast soaked up the broth to great effect, and it was our mission to wipe the bowl clean. However, when we requested more bread, instead of toast, we received a plank of La Brea Bakery sourdough, flanked by rich Plugra butter sprinkled with Maldon sea salt flakes. It was a great bread course, but didn’t pair particularly well with the broth. No big deal, but it did lead to an unfinished bowl.

Chicken Wings Los Angeles

Chicken wings ($12) prepared by serious chefs? Score. The kitchen delivered a pile of sticky wings flavored with tangy apple cider that was sprinkled with flax seeds and shaved scallions. Grilled wings were blistered black, but still plenty juicy.

Pasta Los Angeles

Most people who recommended The Tasting Kitchen singled out pastas as must-order. Tagliatelle ($18) touted terrific al dente strips pasta strips, but the topping was a little too sweet, with braised pork flavored with apples and cinnamon. Calabrian chilies provided a subtly spicy finish, maybe too subtle.

Quail Los Angeles

Chef Lane makes especially good Quail ($14), which were nearly as sticky (and messy) as the wings. Three-onion agrodolce added good sweetness and tang, with pickled cippollini and red onions helping to balance the tiny bird’s richness. The quail was easy to devour and included a La Brea Bakery sourdough stuffing that soaked up the bird’s juices and agrodolce to great effect.

Salad Los Angeles

Before dessert, they brought out a simple radicchio salad, crisp and bitter, judiciously dressed, garnished with croutons and sharp shaved cheese.

We finished with their signature dessert, a multi-milk-soaked slab of Tres Leches Cake, which the kitchen paired with highly complementary scoops of olive oil and raw milk gelato.

Expectations were sky-high heading into the meal, and the food was all good to very good, the setting was relaxing, and for the most part, our service was friendly and accommodating, though we did experience some initial frustration with the lack of pacing. It’s clear that The Tasting Kitchen crew is onto something, and they’re operating with none of the pretension that afflicts nearby restaurants. It will be interesting to track the progress of the restaurants and key players in the near and far future.

The Tasting Kitchen: Showcasing the Seasons on Abbot Kinney

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Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

Blog Comments

Glad that you got to have a full meal at TTK. Hopefully the first of many. This is one of my top 3 spots in the city right now. Bummed the pasta you got didn’t do it for you. The lamb ragu I had there was one of the best pasta dishes I’ve had in a while. Even the vegetarian pasta (usually there is only 1) has been consistently good.

As you missed Justin mixing, that alone is reason enough for a repeat visit!

Savory Hunter,

It’s not that pasta dish was bad, the pasta itself was great, the pork was just too sweet for me. Not “savory” enough?

There are certainly plenty of reasons to return to The Tasting Kitchen, including the ever-changing menu and of course the opportunity to try more cocktails.

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Food looks delish! I’m totally craving that Tagliatelle right now. Yummers!

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