1637 abbot kinney blvd (just north of venice blvd)
venice, ca 90291
“i would never eat at a restaurant called ‘wabi sabi,’ let alone a sushi place! what kind of respectable joint calls themselves wabi sabi?” such was my response when wabi sabi, a fairly under-the-radar sushi joint in venice was recommended to me. little did i know that "wabi sabi" has nothing to do with being a silly fast-food-chain play on the word, "wasabi." according to the wikipedia, wabi sabi is:
the beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete.
it is the beauty of things modest and humble.
it is the beauty of things unconventional.
i’m sure i’ve seen wabi sabi many times on my up and down drives of abbot kinney looking for parking to go somewhere else. it’s a narrow storefront that is very wabi sabi (adj.), modest and humble, except, well, for that horrible red and green neon sign that screams "wabi sabi!" the dining room stretches all the way back, one side a brick wall lined with small tables, and the other side a sushi bar. there appears to be a small sitting lounge in the front, but i didn’t get a chance to take a peek back there behind the hostess.
we sat in the atrium, a small area at the back end of the dining room with six or so tables that is open to the outside air. wabi sabi stretched even further beyond the atrium, with a back space that looks like a living room. that’s what wabi sabi feels like – someone’s townhouse or apartment filled with dining tables.
the menu is not unique. in fact, it’s very much like all the other l.a. hipster japanese places. there’s sushi and sashimi, salads and soups, and other asian-inspired entrees. we started with edamame which i normally don’t do because it hurts me to pay almost $5 for a small bowl of something i can get at the market for $2.99. however, we wanted to try these, not served in the traditional steamed and salted style, but sauteed with a garlic and black bean sauce. though they tasted good, it was a bit of a nuisance getting the sauce all over our fingers getting the seeds out of the pods. i’ll stick to plain soybeans, if at all.
i’m not quite back into my sushi swing, but wanting seafood, i ordered the seafood bouillabaise, which i had spied on someone else’s table as we walked back to our table. it’s not quite a bouillabaise, and reminds me much more of less spicy jjahm-bbong (korean chinese spicy seafood noodle soup) or saeng-sun mae-un-tahng (korean spicy fish stew). there’s a rice cake anchored at the bottom, which was, amazingly, still crispy even after sitting in the broth. i really liked this dish and drank down every last drop.
unfortunately, i can’t comment on the sushi, other than it looked good. the wabi sabi roll, wrapped in soy paper, was pretty, and the fish on the nigiri sushis were plump and shiny. it’s not cheap, for it is sushi, after all, but seemed rather expensive for venice.
so i guess i’ve learned my lesson: taste before you speak. otherwise i may miss out on more places like wabi sabi, that are good, but just have stupid names.