Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Vampires / Colds Beware: Garlic Fair at Chaya Venice

Venice is a neighborhood that prides itself on creativity.  So to keep things fresh, longstanding neighborhood staple Chaya features rotating menus focused on a key ingredient, for an entire month. There was the Venison fair. And now, this August: garlic, which surprisingly is their most popular theme ingredient.

To kick off the evening, there were the garlic cocktails: Bacon Clove Jim Beam, bacon renderings, maple simpler syrup, muddled maple-marinated garlic clove, which was a bit too strong for me, and the Devilish Mary, a fun, light and surprisingly refreshing take on the bloody mary with Casamigos Blanco tequila, orange and lime marinated garlic, Chaya Bloody Mary mix, blood orange juice, and lime juice.  Love the pickled clove and veggies for garnish as well.

Then came the Bagna Cauda, a 'hot bath' of whole garlic cloves in olive oil, cooked to such a lovely tenderness that it spreads easily on the grilled bread.
A creature made to pair with garlic, escargot had to be our next course.  The double-down earthy dish was deliciously bold flavored and the snail was perfectly cooked for a robust, chewy consistency that is still juicy and soft.
The Spicy Garlic Seafood "Tan Tan" Soup with garlic and miso-based broth, black noodle, calamari, shrimp, mussel and manila clam brought to mind a cioppino, but fused with asian flavors for an umami that made me want more as soon as I was done chugging the broth like it came in a shot glass.

In another Asian-inspired dish, the Australia Wagyu Beef with Garlic Rice arrived in a bento box, with garlic and Korean BBQ marinade, over garlic kimchi rice.

The Crispy Branzino was not the first choice at our table of more adventurous foodies, but as we wanted to have enough variety so that we can sample more of the entrees - I went for that safe, reliable branzino.  Was so happy we did, as the fish was beautifully cooked, the meat so tender, flaky, juicy and flavorful it tasted like Cantonese style steamed fish - except with skillfully crisped skin on top that serves as nice contrast and highlights the texture of the fish below all the more.

For the grand finale, we also had the 40-Clove Grilled Rib-eye with garlic au jus, roasted garlic, garlic mashed potatoes and broccoli.

If you love garlic, and steak - this one's for you.

All in all, everything on the menu we tried was tasty, and though you might not want to book a first date here unless you have some killer breath spray in your bag (and in fact the manager did joke at the start of the meal that they did prep some mouthwash in the restrooms!) - it's a great spot for friends or that 50th date with the person who is willing to demonstrate that they are really in it for the long haul, by sharing 40+ cloves of garlic with you.

Love that this meal is good for you too (in foodie terms anyway!):  garlic is supposed to have antioxidant, antifiungal, antimicrobial etc. properties that are good for your immune system as well.

After dinner, a bit of mint tea is definitely in order.  Chaya also offers dessert in the form of a frozen cocktail popsicle (Spiked Frutas Popsicle) made with garlic and jalapeno infused Casamigos Reposado tequila, cucumber, watermelon, cantaloupe, fresh squeezed lime juice with Tajin seasoning. As a fan of a bit of heat in my drink, this kicked it up a notch in popsicle form so you get the 'fire and ice' on multiple levels.  Creative way to cap a fun night out.

The Garlic Fair just runs til the end of this month - catch it if you can.

*Disclaimer: This meal was hosted.


Chaya Venice
110 Navy St Venice, CA 90291
Ph: 310.396.1179

Garlic Fair drinks and exclusive dishes offered through August 31st, dinner only.

Parking: validated parking in attached structure


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