Venice: Spotlight on Sunny Spot
Chef Roy Choi decided revamping Beechwood‘s menu wasn’t enough and opted to change the concept with his partners last August. Soon came word the food would be a West Indian/ Caribbean concept. Those in the food scene saw Chef Roy around town at special dinners and food festivals presenting Jamaican “What a jerk” wings and other casual Island fare for the newly re-named Sunny Spot. The Venice restaurant opened in November after renovation. The result was a bright and cheerful Island roadside cafe complete with colorful oil cloth covered seating. The general format of the restaurant is the same with an airy patio, comfortable lounge but the interior seating saw the most changes. Although it was opened up (you can see into the kitchen), it was dubbed the Rum Den and felt as snug as a smuggler’s cove. The corner booth is the “birdcage” and I vowed to sit in it next time.
We started dinner with a round of drinks. I chose the Imperial Fizz (rye, jamaican rum, angostura, egg-white, lemon), a pleasing light cocktail. I also tasted the Chilcano Bay (pisco, lime, ginger, lemongrass, Fernet Branca). My cocktail sweet spot was tickled, I liked the Chilcano Bay! But there were so many other good options. I’ll have to come back for this drink.
I spotted the pirate-style fisherman’s stew and knew I had to have it. One of my favorite things is a bowl of seafood soup. We shared this but I suggest ordering a bowl for yourself!
I ran into another food writer and we invited her to join us. She was there to check out the Two-Fisted Burger which I would not have ordered the first time at Sunny Spot– I was here for the Island food. But once I tasted it, I knew it was legit. It was a good burger. Seasoned meat, juicy, great cheese, peppery arugla, tomato ginger jam and a beautiful bun. The burger was the tallest burger I’ve seen. This burger made me wonder why doesn’t everyone make good burgers? I have never been obsessed with finding the best burger because I realized I never had the perfect burger. Sure, I like a number of spots around town but it’s not my go-to. At Sunny Spot, this burger is a go-to item.
We tore into the pig trotters with ease. Nothing like fried pork! And the yucca fries were great.
I love eating with people who have been to the restaurant before and have already discovered their favorites. I was told to save a bit of the spicy sauce from the prawns to eat with the cole slaw. The result was a spicy, tart slaw that I immediately liked. We also had some “yellow salty rice” (as so named on the menu) with this dish. Rice not pictured.
After my light cocktail, I wanted something along the lines of my “usual”- I got the Dictator (Trinidad rum, Dolin blanc, Galliano, Cio Ciaro) and also tasted the Field and Stream (Haitian rum, orgeat, lemon, Angostura). I liked both but the Dictator is a boozy and comforting drink. One I wanted considering the heavy fog outside.
Next up was the Cuban torta. We also got the Black Velvet soup (not shown) to go with this. Dipping the crusty bread into the warm black bean soup was a fantastic combo. The pork was luscious and comingled beautifully.
I was rapidly slowing down but we had the goat and fish to go. And dessert! And maybe one more cocktail. Let’s savor this goat though. Paired with pickled mango and lettuce, you ate it like a wrap. I loved the pickled mango and the tangy fruit went really well with the goat.
Chef Roy Choi told us when we sat down we had to get the whole roasted fish so we did. After I told everyone about how my little cousin fought us all for the fish eyeballs during Thanksgiving, we had a laugh about how kids always know about the good stuff. This fish was succulent and served in a great traditional copper pan. I would have been happy with just this and that yellow salty rice.
For my last drink, I had the San Juan Sling (white rum, cherry brandy, Angostura, Benedictine, lime). I was debating the Fleur de Lis (Gin, hibiscus, honey, Chartreuse, lemon) but was told it was sweeter than the Sling so that’s why I went with it. I do want to try the Fleur de Lis though since I love Chartreuse and am curious about the hibiscus. The Sling was very easy drinkin’.
We couldn’t leave without dessert. There are three to choose from and we opted for the “We be yammin” which is like a year-round Thanksgiving treat. The sweet potato tart with walnut crust was topped with marshmallow ice cream. And it’s petite enough that you don’t feel like a total glutton (but really, that’s like saying diet coke).
My fave Roy Choi restaurant is A-Frame but I may have a new sweet (Sunny) spot for this restaurant. Everything was fun. Eating was fun. Food should be fun and not serious sometimes. It’s more about who you’re with and getting some great food and drinks almost seems like a bonus. It’s where foodies can hang out without the oppressive need to try to one-up another. Let’s just have a burger or goat or pig trotters and grub. Ya dig?