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The Beach Gourmet: Abode: A Splendid Sojourn

Just off Ocean Boulevard at Colorado Avenue, tucked away at the back of a sea breeze caressed courtyard, lurks a new kid on the culinary block in the form of Abode, the creation of husband-and-wife team Anastasia Israel and Kelly Gleason, and their executive chef and partner Dominique Crenn.

Many a local will be familiar with Anastasia and Kelly from their renowned Santa Monica café, Anastasia’s Asylum, and now they have turned their talents to the arena of fine dining with the recent opening of Abode.

With its secluded location, Abode boasts a tidy patio for al fresco lovers, and it is thankfully sheltered from the hubbub of modern life and “vehicular music.” As I entered through the doors, I was decidedly disarmed by the 60s retro-suggestive décor utilizing earth tones, that, as well as being marvelously calming, alluded to the practical philosophy of eco-consciousness that Abode avows as a valuable axiom to its raison d’etre.

Yes, sustainability is abundant here, with many of the furnishing materials farmed from sustainable forests, produce acquired from local farmers, ranchers and fisheries who use sustainable practices, and even the cooking oils recycled as bio-fuels. (I don’t think that anyone can actually pull up at the back of the kitchen and fill up, though!)

Don’t think for a minute that this culinary morality compromises the epicurean quality of the dishes, because on my visit, it was an unequivocal case of “au contraire.”

Chef Dominique is creative, adept and certainly a maven of fusion, juxtaposing ingredients and flavors that typically would be kept in different rooms, but come together here to create a tantalizing, and originally comforting abode, with evident beauty and comestible affection.

Take, for example, the delightfully splendid Pacific Halibut with Vadouvan, White Asparagus, Hazelnut Emulsion and Baby Fennel Salad. The halibut was supremely tender and juicy, with the vadouvan adding a smokiness that perfectly served as an undercoat of flavor for the fish and asparagus — truly delicious.

The Niman Ranch Pork Filet Mignon was a gathering of flavors, with tender pork roll encasing smoked gouda, cinnamon mashed potatoes, haricots verts, and marcona almond salad, with caramelized apple, and lobster raisins essence, originally crafted, lovingly prepared and delicately presented. It was almost an object d’art.

One of my favorite dishes was the Sonoma Valley Organic Baby Chicken wrapped with Applewood Smoked Bacon and served with Morel Mushrooms and Truffle and Vanilla Jus.

This was an extraordinarily delicious plate, with the chicken moist and succulent, and the Morels (sometimes called the miracle mushroom) flavorful as only one of the most prized members of the mushroom family can be.

World traveler and executive chef Dominique Crenn exhibited her creationist slant superbly on this occasion, as well as her French origin and international experience shined through with a level of passion that only champions of their craft possess.

With an average lunch bill of $20-30 and dinner around $75 per head, it is not cheap, nor should it be, with dishes of the finest ingredients, prepared by an artisan and enjoyed in a beautiful place.

I must not sign off without mentioning the finale to my dinner, in the form of a Chocolate Ginger Cake, served with Chickpea Cream, Cream au Chocolate, Pecan Brittle and Fennel Ice Cream. It was light, perfectly rich and, for me at least, guilt-free. When I overheard a fellow diner describing the very same dessert as “luscious,” I thought to myself, hmmm, I concur.

Abode, 1541 Ocean Avenue, 310.394.3463 (reservations recommended).

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