Complimenting Hotel Erwin’s rooftop bar High is the full restaurant Barlo, which you may have guessed, can be found on the ground floor of the Venice hotel. Replacing breakfast-centric Hash restaurant, the new “barn to belly” concept opened last month with a small plates-heavy menu by Chef Jason Wiggin. Wiggin credits Brent Hammer, formally of the Viceroy Santa Monica and Westside Tavern, as introducing him to the wonders of French cuisine, and has been making a name for himself in Kansas City hotel restaurants and Maker’s Mark Bourbon House and Lounge.
Chef Wiggin’s fine dining background was evident early in the meal when the beautiful roasted oyster mushrooms came presented on a bed of carrot cumin puree. The Barlo kitchen takes pride in its use of local produce, so I wasn’t surprised by the bright and delicious vegetables.
The house pickled salad consisting of picked beets, eggs, mache, and Redwood Hill Farm feta. I appreciated the presentation, but it didn’t do much for me flavor wise.
On the other hand, the simple dish of beet pickled eggs, chives, and horseradish proved to be a nice way to start the meal. It helps that they’re also a lot more visually appetizing than my grandmother’s signature deviled eggs that happen to smell a bit like her moldy house.
Although the beer list consists of a couple bottled favorites including North Coast’s Brother Thelonious and Green Flash’s West Coast IPA, I decided to sample a few cocktails created by Ryan Wingo, who you may recognize from the shuttered 8 oz. Burger Bar. The La Granja consists of corralejo blanco, local berries, lemon juice, honey, and lavender tincture. A previous iteration of the drink used oregano tincture instead of lavender, and since Ryan still had some oregano tincture left, he let me do a side-by-side comparison. The oregano was far more interesting, but the lavender was also solid. I’m not much of a vodka drinker, but my coworker loved The Disappear, made with Tito’s Vodka, Clear Creek Pear Brandy, and house made sour syrup.
My favorite cocktail of the evening, and the past couple of weeks, was the Applewood made with Four Roses Small Batch bourbon, smokey apple butter, fresh apple juice, and lemon. It found the right balance of smokiness and light sweetness.
Another small plate hit was the fried Barajas Farm green tomatoes with tomato confit, frisee, and whipped merlot which served as a creamy salad dressing, lending adding acidity and salt to a comforting dish.
Pork belly buns with chai “bbq” and crisp onions were the next colorful and messy small plate. I usually find pork belly a bit heavy for my palate, but there was nothing to fault in this dish. The inclusion of chai was a nice touch and the crispy onions added a nice contrast of textures with the pork belly, but I’d skip this dish in the future to save room for a couple lighter dishes.
The shrimp with Anson Mills grits did not disappoint. The brown butter jus and bacon lardon added a depth of flavor to the creamy grits, which served as a nice base to the large, perfectly cooked shrimp.
Chef Wiggin knew he was going to need a burger on the menu at a spot like this, but he wanted to add his own twist. The result: a thick patty with a nice crust, Drake Family Farm herbed chevre, tomato marmalade, bacon caramel, and arugula. It’s a damn good burger, and the accompanying fries were top-notch as well. I can definitely see myself coming to Barlo some week night, ordering the burger, chasing it with a Brother Thelonious, and then trying to walk it off along the beach.
As an alternative to the beef burger, you can get a chicken burger with mint “chimmichurri,” Redwood Hill Farm feta, and arugula. It’s always impressive when a restaurant can make a tasty chicken or turkey burger that isn’t completely dried out, and the mint chimichurri with feta added wonderful flavor, but I’d still go with the beef burger every time.
My favorite item under “Greens and Things” on the menu has to go to the brussels sprouts with bacon (of course), dried cherries, and tarragon. Would definitely order again.
It’s not easy finding the balance between pleasing hotel guests and trying to draw in a locals crowd, but Barlo in the heart of Venice Beach is off to a solid start. It’s not the sort of place you’d drive across the city to visit, but it’s going to be my new go-to spot when I find myself wanting to meet friends in this part of Venice. Next time I’m going to round up some friends, take over the outdoor patio, and share a bunch of small plates and cocktails. I suggest you do the same.
Barlo at the Hotel Erwin
1697 Pacific Avenue
Venice Beach, CA 90291
Note: This meal was hosted