Thursday, February 05, 2009

Gjelina & Ottolenghi

My lunch companion was making unbound ecstatic sounds about the garbanzo & israeli couscous soup with harissa at Gjelina (or at least I think it was about the soup as the chef hadn't appeared at that point). If you haven't been to Gjelina, go. Immediately. Venice is a long way from Laurel Canyon and the rain was torrential (one of my Twitter friends suggested a canoe) but lunch was awesome: thin-crusted pizza with caramelized onions & rocket, garbanzo/harrisa soup, farro & butternut squash soup, escarole salad with shaved sunchokes (Jerusalem artichokes), roasted almonds & sweet preserved lemon. And an amazing butterscotch pot de creme for pud. I cannot offer you the garbanzo soup (even though I've emailed the genius chef, Travis Lett, asking for it) but I can share an Ottolenghi recipe for swiss chard, garbanzo & tamarind stew which was recently featured in the Guardian. This recipe is veggie-friendly.

It seems a bit smug of me to compare Ottolenghi and Gjelina in the same post, but I sometimes wish for more restaurants who do fresh, new Mediterrannean-style food, using fresh vegetables in season, grains, pulses, green and roots, and make it interesting. Gjelina uses only locally-grown food. This LA Times review doesn't do it justice but I intend to visit a couple times more before I write about it in detail.

My friends, by the way, are already planning a cook book based around the restaurant, with a shirtless Travis Lett on each and every page. It's so Samantha, isn't it?