You won't find comfort in this izakaya's atmosphere—you'll find it in the unique bowls of ramen and outstanding small plates.
The counter seating and unforgiving stools scream that MTN Venice is noplace to linger. At the same time, the bullet-train rapidity at which the pricey small plates appear from the kitchen makes you realize that this is not a place that they want you to linger. Despite this, there are good reasons in addition to its Abbot Kinney location—and the success of owner Travis Lett’s previous ventures, Gjusta and Gjelina—why MTN has proved an immediate hit. Lett and his chef de cuisine, Pedro Aquino, have done their izakaya due diligence and present a menu that nimbly balances Japanese techniques with “Cali” sensibilities.
A seasonal Oregon albacore tataki was accompanied by the warmth of young ginger and the crunch of crisp garlic ($20), while a skewer of ton toro—pork cheek—came with a slight char and rang of its marinade of white miso and shichimi spice mix ($10). However it was a simple dish of mushrooms cooked in yuzu butter ($18) that was the most fought over.
It didn’t all work. A salad of tomatoes had little chance to shine under a dousing of the sesame-based gomashio ($12), while the famously slimy mountain yam, yama imo, delivered little more than a Littlefinger-esque slitheriness and hit of salt from grated katsuobushi—the elder sibling of bonito flakes ($8). It remained untouched after one bite. But, despite these low points, the kitchen never failed to deliver food that was always interesting, and on occasion, outstanding.
This can particularly be seen in the range of ramens on offer, which, with the addition of local ingredients such as pickled Fresno chili, may bemuse some traditionalists, but proved a welcome respite from the current trend of ramen as fat delivery system. Ours offered house-made noodles, along with light but savory broth made from the bones of a local Peads and Barnetts pig ($20). Desserts comprise a small list of sorbet and gelato, which only serve to remind you that Salt & Straw is just a block away.
The beverage menu offered only white wines; by the bottle, these rise curiously from $65 to $115, pushing you toward wines by the glass, the sake, shochu or, the best option, a small selection of beers that match the menu perfectly.
The servers at MTN are informed, agreeable and definitely worthy of the 20 percent that’s added to the final bill. In the time the kitchen and my sore buttocks allowed—a scrape over an hour—a meal for two nudged $150. That’s a high dollar-to-minute ratio, and scales the restaurant out of the “drop in for a quick bite” roster. But MTN is definitely worth trying, as it’s one of the more interesting restaurant openings in 2017.
WHAT TO EAT
It was the vegetarian dishes at MTN that lingered in memory after we left: an orange kabocha curry with brown rice ($16) delivered just the right level of sweetness, while the mushrooms baked in yuzu butter will soon, I am sure, become a signature dish.
WHERE TO SIT
Given that MTN provides only counter seating, positioning is not at a premium. But, if you plan on an extended stay, sit at the bar, and bring a cushion.
WHAT TO DRINK
On future visits, I’ll accompany my meal with the excellent Orion lager ($7) from Okinawa. Non-beer fans should definitely work their way through the sake list.
1305 Abbot Kinney Blvd
|Opening hours:||Mon-Sat 5:30pm-midnight; Sun 5:30-11pm|
|Do you own this business?|