I often find myself a champion of the westside of Los Angeles; I feel that the energy and proximity to the ocean in this part of town is what Los Angeles is all about. I like to give everything west of the 405 freeway a chance, which led me to try Barnyard in Venice. I hang out in Venice almost daily and keep a keen eye on the restaurant scene there.
Over the weekend a friend had told me that there was a Ramen night going on at Barnyard on Tuesdays. This seemed really interesting to me, but certainly out of place for a restaurant that calls itself Mediterranean. Chef Walter Manzke has the same concept in all fairness with his lunch menu at Republique featuring a Korean Fried Rice Bowl.
After a disappointing experience at Willy Jane, in which I was turned off by not only the service, but the lack of focus on the plates (I sent the chicken back for being undercooked, we were sent a vegan dish and no one was vegan at the table). I tend to roll my eyes at talk of New Southern cuisine, after all it has it’s roots in the inadequate nutrition fed to slaves in the deep south. I think when executed well it can be stellar, yet too often it suffers from the constraints of nostalgia and a lack of presentation / innovation. Yes, there are several notable exceptions here. I thought I would give another new restaurant a try – Barnyard.
Barnyard, which for me is a difficult name for a restaurant to swallow in of itself, is helmed by the Husband and wife team of Chef Jesse and GM Celia Barber. I am a fan of the Tasting Kitchen, which is where Jesse hails from so I was hoping for big things. Celia was absent from the floor on the night I attended.
On this occasion, I decided to make things easy and valet the car, then I noticed the charge is $7 – kind of high when there is usually free street parking abound but it is Venice, a neighborhood that used to be home to drug dealers and now boasts higher rents than Beverly Hills. I walked in to our reservation where my friend was already waiting at our table and we ordered some drinks and appetizers.
The menu was very simple with nothing really exciting leaping out, as well as several ‘play it safe’ dishes ( peaches and burrata for example). The radishes and butter was literally 5 radishes washed and a pat of butter. No slicing, no unique salt, no interesting plating, just radishes and butter.
After a glass of wine came to the table (red) that had obviously been in the refrigerator we were then notified that we were sat at the wrong table and asked to move. We moved to another table of almost the exact same configuration. This was fine by me but silly and inconvenient. Had I been in the same circumstance on the service side, I might have offered to buy the first round, or sent out something from the kitchen. Neither of these things occurred. We weren’t greeted very promptly at our new location.
The wine list had some really interesting and exciting bottles from regions like Alto Adige, Savoie, and Verona. Given a different inclination I might of been prompted to try one but the condensation on the glass of my companions red wine dissuaded me.
I hate to call out service professionals as I myself often masquerade as one, but ours approached the table with a measurable enthusiasm, and a demeanor that belonged more in a surf shop than a dinner table. He proceeded to tell us about one special, using his hands to demonstrate and simultaneously invade our dining space (almost like he was acting), then listing everything he was out of with the exception of the one drink that I wanted to order – which he informed me he was out of when I requested it.
We let him know we had already ordered appetizers, which he did not know; he said our plates would “find their way here”. The food was not exciting – the pea tendril salad was acidic and hard to eat. I don’t know what it is about pea tendrils that chef’s think they can just put them on a plate and do nothing with them, just because they are tendrils. There were some smallish segments of beet hidden somewhere on under the pea canopy.
My entree came out at least 8 minutes after the main courses of my dining companions; I was honestly quite amazed that all the while I waited no one said anything to me. What came out was one of the poorest and dryest chickens i’ve ever tasted, with the aforementioned pea tendrils covering some sad mashed potatoes and cauliflower. This wasn’t a 26 dollar chicken, it was something I would’ve expected to receive in a slightly upscale hospital cafeteria.
One notable exception here in the dishes were the french fries, which might have been some of the best i’ve tasted in this city, with an excellent dipping condiment. The flavor on the gnocchi, as well as the texture was also very good, but the dish was slightly boring. Is this the same restaurant that Jonathan Gold rated 101 best in Los Angeles? Why is it called mediterranean inspired with a name like Barnyard? Experiences like this are saddening to me because I want the argument I continually make about the west side of Los Angeles to be true, but sadly there are but few examples of stellar cooking.