Restaurants Now: The Tasting Kitchen

Abbot Kinney’s latest lightning-fast opening—the work of a talented team of young Portland transplants—is built for the long haul.

The way Venice’s A.K. Restaurant Bar + Grill has rapidly morphed into The Tasting Kitchen feels like something you’d see on a cooking reality show: Which restaurant works better within these walls? The former was a good-looking Scandinavian bistro that never seemed like a good fit for the Abbot Kinney area. The latter is the brainchild of chef Casey Lane (from clarklewis in Portland, Oregon), who was given the opportunity to take over A.K. and make it his own—in roughly six days. Just how Lane and his team of fellow twentysomethings managed to alter the vibe of the room so completely without so much as changing the light fixtures is difficult to pinpoint. It might have something to do with the bill of fare, where appetizers and entrées are written out in tight, cramped handwriting, and a back-page wine list that borders on charmingly obscure. Then there’s the focused simplicity of Lane’s food: buttery Umbrian lentils; grilled bread smeared with fromage blanc and balsamic-roasted figs; a salad of heirloom lettuce lightly dressed with lemon, olive oil, and salt; a plate of blanched green beans with a few transparent slices of prosciutto and a milky round of burrata; a perfectly medium-rare steak rough-sliced and served with balsamic fingerling potatoes. Lane recently moved his wife and children to Los Angeles, which should help squelch a persistent blogosphere rumor that The Tasting Kitchen is a guerilla-style experiment master-planned to have an eight-week life span before vanishing into the ether. But what to make of the ominous black number stenciled on the front of the menu that changes daily to reflect how long Tasting Kitchen has been in operation? “That’s to keep us on track,” says floor manager Maxwell Leer, “and to remind us every day of where we are.”

The Tasting Kitchen 1633 Abbot Kinney Boulevard, Venice, CA (310-392-6644;

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