Now that the gastropub bubble has finally burst, we can finally focus on something the Los Angeles food world actually needs: No, not the cronut, but reliable seafood options. The latest in this trend of upscale, seafood-centric menus of oysters, lobster rolls and the like is Salt Air. The Venice restaurant is set in an airy, stark white space that’s at once refined and beach-y enough to feel right at home on Abbot Kinney. Like other new seafood spots (Connie and Ted's, Littlefork, Fishing with Dynamite), the geographic muse here is New England—try, for the example, the acceptable, if requisite, Connecticut-style lobster roll ($20). But the dishes here have pointed, thoughtful Southern Californian inflections: The flaky salmon ($21) is perfectly poached in olive oil and served with summery shelling beans and charred shishito peppers for bite. Surely the conceit of the refined seafood shack will get tiresome (if it hasn’t already), but we wouldn’t be surprised if trendy locals with the wherewithal and the appetite keep Salt Air afloat well after the current trend gives way to the food of the next moment.
Eat this: Most tables have at least one order of the light, crispy fish skin chips ($6)—the pescatarian’s equivalent of chicharrones—served with smoked onion dip and harissa, which, though good on their own, can overwhelm the delicate flavor of the chips. And while this is a seafood restaurant, even vegetarians will be happy here: The hearty veggie burger ($12), with mushrooms, lentils and avocado, would satisfy a carnivore. Finally, don't leave without ordering the warm, sticky-sweet Monkey Bread ($8) for dessert.
Drink this: Salt Air does not have a full liquor license, but it does well with what it does have: In addition to a variety of wines (reds, whites, rosés, sparkling) and a short list of bottled and beers on tap from Strand Brewing Company and other craft brewers, you also can have a creative beer-based cocktails like the Shandy ($11), with a sour beer, passion fruit, honey and lemon.
Sit here: Most seats in the dining area will give you a nice view of the pretty restaurant and its pretty clientele. Note that the bar is set back from the dining room, so grab seats there if you'd like to get away from the crowd.
Conversation piece: Before coming to Salt Air, chef Greg Daniels was the executive sous chef as Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Perry St restaurant in New York City.