You will feel like you are walking into a familiar friend’s home, when you enter Chef Govind Armstrong’s seasonal California restaurant, Willie Jane (1031 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice; 310.392.2425). Not only is the staff friendly and accommodating, but the ambiance is welcoming and country with antique plates, wooden tables and chairs, hard wood floors, and golden lighting.
Start off with one of their cocktails. We tried the Salt (tequila, hibiscus, mezcal, averna, and lime); Garden (Citron Geranium Vodka, fennel, dill gin, and lime lilet); and Smoke (Rum, green chartreuse, chai, lime, egg whites, and nutmeg). All of them are refreshing and have the perfect balance of ingredients.
In addition to their home-cooked Southern comfort eats, this Venice spot now introduces their Meatless Sundays prix fixe ($26) supper showcasing the crop from the neighboring Cook’s Garden. Available every Sunday from 5-9 pm, you can enjoy new creations every week. The menu has vegan items with a taste of the South in dishes like: Okra Tempura with house pickles and green beans served with remoulade and spicy ketchup; Vegan “Crab Cake” with sweet corn, heart of palm, miso remoulade, and edamame hummus; Wild Rice Risotto with smoked chanterelle, puffed sorghum, and shallot confit; Cauliflower Couscous with edamame hummus & charred lettuces; Espresso Date Cake made with ground espresso and Medjool dates topped with bourbon glaze and vanilla bean “ice cream”; and Peanut butter banana “ice cream”.
The vegan “crab cake” was by far our favorite. I am a full on meat lover and I could not detect that it was vegan at all. It was absolutely spot on and the pairing with the edamame hummus and miso remoulade gave a tangy twist the complemented cakes perfectly. For dessert, we enjoyed the Spiced Pecan Cake with Fried Plantain “Ice Cream” and Orange Caramel. This dessert was perfect, in that the caramel added a sweetest to an otherwise, not overly sweet dish. Plus, the “ice cream” was made from plantains. It was inventive and did not disappoint.
Ok, meat lovers, don’t fret. Willie Jane also offers a the regular dinner menu, with new seasonal additions including Hanger Steak with rutabaga, pea tendrils, carrots, and lemon grass chimichurri butter; Sweet Tea Brined Pork Chop with wilted Cook’s Garden greens and date mostarda; and (my fav) Cast Iron Natural Chicken, Grilled Lemon & Poached Garlic. The lemon and garlic make this dish light and savory. Also, don’t skimp on having their signature Buttermilk Biscuit with Burnt Orange Honey Butter and as for starters, get the Deviled Eggs with Smoked Shrimp, Black Radish & Trout Roe. I have to say this is one of my favorite Los Angeles dishes. Get one and don’t share it. As for sides, they have all the Southern goodness you can think of like Mac n’ Cheese, Herbed Bread Crumbs and Black-Eyed Peas, Simmered Ham Hock & CG Kale. We tried the Simmered Collard Greens with Pickled CG Peppers and the Shrimp and Grits. Whichever way you go, vegan or not, you will leave satisfied and with a smile on your face.
Lil tidbit: Sundays at Willie Jane also features an extended happy hour from 2:30-9 pm, offering a selection of $5 “garden to glass” cocktails and bar bites to accompany the NFL’s afternoon and evening games.