So I first met Chef Jason Neroni at Cochon 555 this past spring at The House of Blues. I was blown away by his amazing pasta dishes where he included to honored guest of swine. I chatted with him for a while, listening to his plans for a “snack bar” in Venice. I was very intrigued by the concept, and his cooking. I sat waiting all summer till I heard that he had finally opened. Last week, I found myself in Venice at dinner time, and secured a seat at the bar that overlooks the kitchen.
Upon first entering, I was greeted by, not one, not, two, but three friendly people who made me feel right at home. One of the qualities I look for in a restaurant that separates the good from the great. The wine stewart, as I see it gave me a menu and a wine list. He’s not quite a bartender, as they only have beer and wine, but still slings the drinks. I ordered a Riesling from Oregon I believe, and it was very tasty. Acid and green fruit in a perfect delicate balance. Upon sipping it I got the opportunity to chat with Chef Neroni, and ask him about his menu. It was broken up into sections like, cold cuts, from our backyards, snacks and from our backyards. I had many choices in front of me, and not enough stomach. Luckily I had a friend meeting, so we could share more dishes.
I loved the decor and overall layout of the place. As the sun was setting, the large glass windows in front folded back into the wall to really open the place up. The look and vibe reminded me of hip, fast paced New York restaurant. From the subway tiles that lined the wall in half the kitchen, to the wall of wall bottles, it just feels “right” inside. I love to sit and overlook the kitchen. Especially with a staff that enjoy their jobs, and interact with the customers. Watching the graceful ballet that unfolds in front of you during service, is a sight to behold.
We started with an item from the “cold cuts” portion of the menu. The Pheasant Rillette with chives and pickled mushrooms. With some little toast points, holy moley. Tasty, tasty, tasty. The flavors that were packed into that Rillette made my mouth sing. Wow. Usually I can get my ‘fill’ of Rillette’s, Mousse’s and Terrine’s. But I could of ate a whole plate of this. Just enough gamey flavor mixed with the rich deep flavors. And Pheasant. That is not something you see on a menu a lot.
Next, from the backyard, we tried the Cauliflower T-Bone. Yes, we wondered as well. Is it a meat dish? Is it just Cauliflower?? Well, rest assured, it is all Cauliflower, and the T-Bone name is apropos. A large head of Cauliflower grilled like a steak, with a basil purée and orange/olive pistou.
Again, the flavors exploded my senses into overdrive, and we polished off that plate in no time. The grill marks really added another level to this dish. I’m actually having a hard time explained the complexity of this. But just know, it was truly delicious.
Then, after much cajoling from Jason and the bartender, we tried the Fried Chicken, from the “snacks” section. This was no ordinary Fried Chicken, it was layered and complex. There was a red wine glaze on top, and pickled chilies and parm. Well done again, Chef. Well done again. The glaze was epic. A rich, sweet coating that stuck in all the crispy fried skin, turning every bite into a little slice of heaven. One of THE best Fried Chickens I have ever done tasted. Skin? Perfect. Meat? Perfect. Glaze? Perfect. Add in the chilies, which added just the most sublime hint if flavor, and I’m in love. Just remembering that plate of food, my mouth is watering.
Think you could top that??? Well Jason did. With his Smoked Bucatini Carbonara with pancetta, black pepper and topped with an egg. A sous vide egg to boot. So you get All that eggy goodness!! A dish like I’ve never before tasted. Ever. The Bucatini was cold smoked separately, and that layer of flavor melded well with the saltiness of the pancetta. Again, another fantastic dish by Chef Neroni. I am a hard critic of not only pasta, but carbonara. And both meet my high standards. The egg blended in with the sauce in a delightful manner. I loved this dish. Go here. Order this. Eat it all. You will be pleased.
We even got a special treat from Jason, a thick slice of sous vide bacon/pork belly that was then grilled and covered in a thick maple sauce. Boom. Delicious. Our bartender was a bit jealous because he hadn’t even got a chance to try. I’m not sure how it will be incorporated in the menu, so be on the lookout.
A true breath of fresh air in the LA restaurant scene. A one of a kind, and it’s my kind. I hope to be back soon and try even more if the dishes.