On my recent trip to California in December, dinner at AK Restaurant + Bar in Venice was no exception to the "life is too short to eat bad food" mantra. Everything about this meal was fantastic, except for when we met the chef; he wasn't very interested in saying hi even after my friend said hello in Swedish and started speaking to him. This is, afterall, a Swedish restaurant that is generating a lot of buzz so you thought a fellow Swede would make him feign even a little interest, but I digress, the food was fantastic!
We started off with some freshly baked bread and an assortment of fresh cheeses from the bar. One of the cheeses that REALLY struck a chord with us is a small production goats milk cheese from Haystock Mountain Goat Dairy called Snowdrop, it was amazing and unfortunately not available anywhere in Massachusetts...yet.
I started my meal off with a fantastic salad of young frisee, smoked salmon loin, and a poached, breaded and fried organic egg, cooked perfectly! The frisee was tender and crisp, not overly bitter like mature frisee can be, and the smoked salmon loin was absolutely wonderful. It was melt-in-your-mouth tender and tasted just right, not fishy, not oily, not anything bad, it was definitely all good and I highly recommend starting with this small salad when you visit.
Young frisee salad, smoked salmon loin, poached/breaded/fried organic egg 13
For my main course, I decided to go with a pan seared Alaskan black cod with green tomato jam, duck prosciutto and crispy sage. I thought that I first learned about black cod in 2001 while visiting Pike's Place Market in Seattle. My dad bought a whole black cod from one of the fish markets on their recommendation and had it shipped back to Massachusetts. What I later learned after a little research is that black cod is also known as sablefish, or butterfish. I grew up eating smoked sablefish as well as lox and whitefish, but never had I had fresh black cod (sablefish) until my dad made that purchase back in 2001. Black cod is a very rich, flaky white, velvety fish that when prepared properly literally melts in your mouth; it is considered a delicacy among fish connoisseurs and takes to smoking very well, which explains why I had it smoked so often growing up. I love this fish and when I saw it on the menu I knew what I was ordering.
The black cod at AK was cooked perfectly. Probably seasoned lightly with a little salt and maybe some pepper, nothing else would be required. The fish was indeed rich, velvety and melt-in-my-mouth delicious. The accompanying duck prosciutto was excellent, and the green onion jam was sweet and tangy providing the perfect balance for the rich fish. Finally the crispy sage and a few leaves of rocket (arugula) finished the dish.
Other dishes ordered by my dining companions included the artichoke three ways appetizer, the roasted five onion soup with a baguette brie cheese melt, the spinach and goat cheese kofta with tomato coriander concasse, and the lamb sirloin with dukka spice, medjool date, tomato, and saffron cinnamon smear. All these dishes were fantastic as well as the thumbelina carrots with cardamom saffron and smoked paprika, roasted green asparagus with bernaise sauce, and the brussels sprouts with shallots and applewood smoked bacon that we ordered for sides.
Finally, what would any great Swedish restaurant be without Swedish meatballs! J was the one who ordered the lamb sirloin but our friends both ordered the Swedish meatballs, and they were in one word, amazing. My Swedish friend who made us his own Swedish meatballs later during our visit said that these meatballs at AK were the BEST he had ever had. I of course tried some, and concurred. The meatballs were seasoned perfectly and were incredibly tender. The cucumber salad was perfect with the cucumbers still retaining some crunch in their vinegary bath, and the lingonberry preserve found such a place in my stomach that I think it may replace cranberry sauce at next year's Thanksgiving feast. Finally the mashed potatoes were good, if not a little too smooth. A few small chunks of potato mixed in to let me know I was eating at least some real potato would have been nice. Still, an amazing Swedish dinner!
Swedish meatballs, cucumber salad, lingonberry preserve, mashed potatoes 22
If you live in the greater Los Angeles area or are visiting for any reason, I highly recommend AK Restaurant + Bar on Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice. Make reservations because this place is going to be busy!
AK Restaurant + Bar
1633 Abbot Kinney Blvd.
Venice, CA 90291
Ph. 310 392-6644