Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Mini Foodventure #18: Violet Restaurant (Santa Monica)

(caution: restaurant may not be definitely not as violet in real life)

I've only discovered Violet about half a year ago, and while our relationship hasn't been smooth sailing all the way -- I keep finding myself returning to this place, particularly if I'm looking for good contemporary food on the cheap. And this time is no different . . .

Launched in late 2004, Violet's exec. chef & owner Jared Simons (who you'll find often as host, showing off his well-toned, intricately tattooed biceps from his punky T-shirts,) aims to make dishes approachable for everyone and does it in an affordable manner and small plate fashion, definitely unusual for an industry that's been dishing out
larger dish, bigger portions and more calories over the last half a century.

Dining on an early Wednesday evening (and still adjusting to the fact that sunlight goes *poof* by 6pm), my dining companion and I went to Violet to enjoy their 7. before 7 menu - where from Tuesdays to Thursdays they offer 7 dishes (and 2 wines) for $7 each, a discount from their normal prices of about $8-$14. Of course, true to theme & title, this offer only lasts until 7pm. So my DC and I splitted 2 of their discounted dishes, and two courses from their regular menu.

Starting things off is their Za'tar spiced fries with honey curry aioli (around $5.50) which is just as good as I remembered it from my previous trips here. Crispy shoestring fries tossed with a good dose of freshly-fried herbs (rosemary & sage are the only ones I IDed) and served with a curious tasting dip - we finished this dish off with relative ease, the guilt and exercise after is very much worth it.

Moving on to the next small plate: serrano ham slices, ramekin of chicken liver paté and garlic toasts - which was quite yummy, given how I don't care much for liver. DC enjoyed it wrapped up in the paper-thin slices of the cured serrano ham, whereas I prefer to spread it on thick on the toast slices -- followed by us eating it straight out of the ramekin (too bad for us for sending the bread back when the fries arrived.) Not a pretty sight, given how crumbly the dish was.

Somewhere in the middle of our serrano ham-garlic toast-chicken liver dish we got served our "big entree": Lake Superior whitefish in brown butter, leek fondue with baked melon - a mixed dish that evoked mixed feelings - DC thought the fish was a bit off-tasting, I thought the fish itself was fine but too much brown butter & too salty - and both of us love the leek fondue and wished there was more of it and to do away with the melon. Generally, this dish wasn't bad, but certainly not as good as we hoped - filets of well-cooked, flaky fish in a pool of warm grease.

Finishing off our dinner of small plates is a small dessert, key lime custard tart, sandwiched between orange slices - something we both enjoy for not being overly tart or sweet. Simple, creamy goodness.

And of course, in the Violet tradition, our bill (about $31 total for all the dishes & 2 cups of coffee) was served up with cute little shot glasses of milk and chewy, warm chocolate chip mini cookies - which could've came from the Trader Joe's across the street for all I know, but an appreciated lil' something extra, nonetheless.

So concludes my Violet experience, which went pretty much as I expected, overall good with a mixture of perfect hits and near-misses. Can't wait to return with my camera for some great pics. (for those looking for a deal, Violet's also offer a 3-course Sunday dinner for $25 - have yet to try myself, however.)

Violet Restaurant
3221 Pico Blvd.
Santa Monica


henrychan888 said...

Wow! quite inexpensive for what you described. i'm not a big fan of liver pate (though i do enjoy liver in chinese porridge). The fries sound amazing and i'm curious as to what the dip is?


Anonymous said...

This is regarding your question on the Chowhound "not about food" blogs - I'm the sous-chef of a fine-dining restaurant in san francisco, and I don't want to publish the name of the restaurant that I work at. But i would love if, the next time you were in SF, you visited! So - I work at Woodward's Garden restaurant, which is located on Mission and Duboce. It's an open kitchen, so you'll see me when you come in =)

Chubbypanda said...

Sounds like a really pleasant experience, and the price is just right for a night out. I love places like that.

- Chubbypanda


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