Venice: Chef Nyesha Arrington Opens Leona Restaurant
Leona Restaurant opened this week in Venice with Chef Nyesha Arrington at the helm. The menu reads like a love letter, highlighting the dear memories she’s made cooking with her grandmother and in fine dining. There’s a clear Californian influence and it’s just perfect for the airy, beachside restaurant.
We started with the coctel mixto. Hidden under a large crispy rice paper, the delicate tomato-watermelon jus of the seafood cocktail nurtures you as you pick out a bit of shrimp or squid. I was so glad for the chunks of avocado, thinly sliced radish and a shower of cilantro. Some might want a bit of heat to this dish but I found it soothing.
Something told me to order the fish and chips. I just had this feeling. And it turned out to be my favorite dish. Chef Nyesha explained the shape comes from butterflied smelt. How delightful! I’ve had whole fried smelt before but when it’s flattened out, they made a most interesting fish and chips. Don’t forget to sprinkle some chile-infused vinegar on your chips and/or fish.
Another great starter is the farm egg. This is great for anyone who enjoys breakfast any time of the day. After you break open the egg, let the yolk mingle with the potatoes and bacon broth. Yes, I said BACON broth.
The opening menu had a couple of fish options for entrees. We chose the local black cod. The serene dish came with onion jus and Japanese mustard greens. I realized we didn’t quite get the right sides for this dish. I would pick broccolini next time.
Instead we had gotten the Dutch fries with crispy kale and fire roasted heirloom tomatoes with burrata. Both are wonderful but would have better matched the amazing sounding bulgogi short ribs with bone marrow.
I can’t help but want dumplings all the time. The lamb belly wontons are a must try with a spinach and artichokes.
My dining companion wanted to try the cauliflower aligot which she was convinced would be wonderful because of all the cheese. She was right. Look at that crazy creamy cauliflower!
We debated whether we had room for dessert. It was then comical we ordered three desserts… for two people. We couldn’t pass up the adult frosted flakes. It was a wonderful pudding of sorts with iced condensed milk broth. The flakes had a texture of cream of wheat which I loved.
It’s been so hot and humid lately we welcomed the strawberry fredo bar. I also had eyed the sweet corn tumeric ice cream but we couldn’t get all the desserts, can we? Well, maybe one day when I do a dinner in reverse (desserts then mains), then I’ll have to try it then.
There really isn’t anything better than fresh strawberry ice cream… except it was even better with the addition of yogurt, pistachio and lavender. This is summer.
But my favorite dessert was the Meyer lemon curd because it turned out to be a lemon bar, one of my favorite things, ever. I thought it was super cool with the blueberry compote and shiso. That contributed a cool, different and minty flavor.
Currently Leona is offering just beer and wine right now but they’re hoping for a full liquor license soon. Their bar is beautiful and I think it’ll be a great place to hang out. When the evenings get cooler, it’ll be nice to try the Beluga lentil soup with radish top pistou. I would love to try the meatballs, the aforementioned short ribs and yes, all the desserts.
(310) 822-5379 © The Minty 2015