I am a vegetarian foodie. Yes I know what you must be thinking… that the two do NOT go hand in hand. Usually when foodies come to mind, you think of people who love pancetta or bacon on EVERYTHING, and love trying odd cuts of meat.
Fortunately for me and my vegetarian kin there has been a surgence in small plate vegetable dishes that focus on packing as much flavor and charm into a side dish as possible.
The Avocado and Nut Salad to the left can be found at one of LA’s hottest STEAK houses, Craft, in Century City, along with many other delicious side dishes, such as potato gratin, a variety of mushrooms and a wonderful beat salad!
Kale is almost always featured on fine dining and farm fresh menus either as a delicious salad with nuts and berries or stir fried with sesame or ginger. However, there are the occasional heartbreaking moments when a dark leafy green such as kale or swiss chard is served with pork belly or minced pancetta… seriously pancetta always comes back to haunt me. The Pop-Up Restaurant Wolf In Sheep’s Clothingon Abbott Kinney features a tragically delicious looking pork belly with Kale, but they compensate by serving an amazing Kale salad with salty hard cheese, nuts and sometimes fruit.
I love going out to eat, I love finding a new delicious hotspot. I HATE it when my friends or family ask “Well, are you going to be able to eat anything here??” Usually the question comes when I’m a third of the way through reading the delicious small plates full of amazing vegetable options and am already daydreaming of recreating them at home. I retort with an exasperated “Yes!” (It’s about the trillionth time I’ve been asked the question.) Like I said being a vegetarian foodie is a bit of an oxymoron.
Today, my recommendation is Gjelina, located on Venice’s Hippest Street, Abbott Kinney. Gjelina’s menu is set, there are no substitutions or changes allowed. Usually I would be put off by this, because so many dishes have little bits of meat or fish flakes(bottarga), but the vegetarian options that are available are absolutely exquisite. The Squash Blossom Pizza is to die for, featuring melted burrata, fresh baby tomatoes, zucchini, garlic, thyme and a melt-in-your-mouth wood fired crust! There is a whole section on the menu dedicated to Vegetables, each one oozing with flavor and charm. Don’t miss the grilled Broccolini, Cauliflower or the Fava beans(to add a little protein in the mix)! Also the Kale salad is one of my favorites in town, featuring a light citrusy vinaigrette, fennel and bread crumbs. Go check out the menu, and make sure to make reservations well in advance, and request to sit on the patio, it’s magical.
*Not every vegetarian-looking item on the menu is fully vegetarian, make sure to ask your server! Hopefully they’re not pretentious and will be kind about it! Also, if you are on a budget, directly next door to Gjelina is GTA(Gjelina Take Away) where you can order many of the same salads and pizzas as well as sandwiches without the cost of the fine dining.
By the way….. Gjelina serves the most amazing brunch! Oatmeal pancakes w/ Creme Fraiche and Raspberries and Poached eggs with asparagus, mushroom and breadcrumbs are my two favorites. They serve many of their savory lunch dishes as well as amazing coffee.