Location: 1305 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice, CA 90291. (424) 465-3313
Date: March 31 & June 28 & September 15, 2018
Cuisine: Japanese Izakaya
Rating: Good flavors, uncomfortable chairs
Travis Lett has a little Venice empire helmed by Gjelina.
MTN, which is a modern, upscale, kinda westernized Izakaya (Japanese for “here, sake is served” or “stay/sit at sake shop”). The build out is cool and more than a little crazy with “burnt” or blackened wood.
And more inside. There is a weird open slot between the window going all the way up to the roof. It might even rain in when wet.
It was pretty crowded though, and there are ONLY BARSTOOLS both at a counter and at high tables. The stools suck and get really uncomfortable. Don’t come here if you are old or have a bad back.
I brought this Ramen Roll remainder high end sake.
Erika’s pickle plate (9/15/18). cucumber, lotus root, daikon, shiso burdock root wrap, sprouting cauliflower, napa cabbage, which kimchi. I love pickles.
Tomato & okra (9/15/18). Tofu, wakame, ume, sesame salt, Japanese ginger.
Shisito pepper (6/28/18). garlic, ginger, three year aged miso, white sesame.
Wild Japanese sea bream sashimi (9/15/18). yuzu kosho, wajima salt, finger lime, shiso bud.
Torched sawara sashimi. grated ginger, crispy garlic, scallon, yuzu ponzu. Delicious zesty fish slices.
Japanese medai sashimi. yuzu kosho, finger lime, sisho. Salty and with a very strong signature from the yuzu kosho (salt, green chili, and yuzu).
Japanese tai sashimi (6/28/18). yuzu kosho, shiso, finger lime. Straightforward by today’s standards, but really good.
Wild monterey salmon sashimi (6/28/18). shiso kosho, myoga, scallion, shoyu.
Baja kanpachi temaki handroll. avocado, cucumber, shiso yuzu kosho.
Santa barbara uni temaki handroll. daikon, wasabi, scallion. Yum, uni!
Veggie temaki handroll (9/15/18), cucumber, burdock root, avocado, yama imo, kaiware, sesame, yuzu kosho.
On the right, pork chashu temaki handroll (9/15/18). burnt ends, pickled cucumber, fermented chili sauce.
Handmade shitake gyoza. roasted kabocha, tofu, salted daikon greens, shiso, scallion. Nicely cooked. Good. Great for vegetarian gyoza. Pork would have been even better.
And on 6/28/18 when I returned, I got the handmade peads & barnetts pork belly gyoza. red kimchi, negi, ginger, black pepper.
blue prawn simmered gyoza (9/15/18). shrimp, shitake mushroom, water spinach, market peppers, red onion, scallion, vinegar. I liked these steamed/boiled versions.
Roasted cauliflower. red miso, yuzu, tobanjan. Basically other than the sauce, a Gjelina dish!
Sauteed sweet corn (9/15/18). shoyu butter, cherry tomato, scallion, Japanese citrus, shichimi togarashi.
Ocean Trout oyakodon. Basically a grilled salmon and salmon egg rice bowl. But the vinegar on the pickles was very nice with the rice.
A baked fish (6/28/18). I can’t remember which one.
Grilled macherel kabayaki (9/15/18). ume, shoyu, pickled ginger, garlic, sansho, shiso, shichimi, brown rice.
Sake marinated jidori chicken wings (6/28/18). yuzu kosho, honey, goma, chive.
Mary’s duck breast skewer (6/28/18). Shio koji, japanese mustard, chive. Our waitress recommended this and it was great, to some extent because of the intense mustard.
Lone mtn wagyu beef tataki. ponzu, cucumber, crispy garlic. This tartly sauced thin sliced beef was spectacular.
Squid ink chahan (6/28/18). Koda farms white rice, lemon basil, ika, pork belly, amaranth, egg, fresno chili, pickled ginger, sudachi, fish sauce. Like a Japanese paella, sort of.
Grilled Japanese eggplant (6/28/18). Walnut miso dressing, lemon, scallion.
Chahan (9/15/18). koda farms brown rice, squid, pork belly, water spinach, cherry tomato, egg, fresno chili, pickled ginger, Japanese citrus, fish sauce. Sort of Japanese paella.
Wagyu beef sukiyaki. lone mtn ny strip, grilled young leek, maitake, shungiku, hakusai, yam noodle, warm gone straw egg.
With the egg. Really nice fairly traditional tasting sukiyaki, but with better than average ingredients. I don’t have sukiyaki often, but every-time I do i remember how much I like it.
We ordered this sake off the list. It was good, not as good as the one I brought, but certainly nice.
Black sesame tantanmen. ground pork, black garlic oil, green mizuna, bean sprout, nira. Hard to split and not a typical ramen with its strong roasted black sesame vibe. Good though.
Dungeness crab ramen. miso, crab broth, tosaka, confit tomato, fresno chili, chive. I didn’t actually try this as the guys next to us at the table had it and allowed me to sneak a photo. But on 6/28/18 I had it myself and it was great. Really interesting complex flavors.
Charred Japanese sweet potato. miso butter, scallion katsuobushi, shichimi. Super rich miso/buttery taste. Gorgeous soft texture. Not what I expected but delicious.
Asari ramen (9/15/18). cherry stone clam, shio broth, tosaka, fresno chili, scallion, ginger, kaiware. Like a ramen version of that salty Japanese Asari miso soup — salty, but very good.
Yuzu meringue pie. Not as tart and bracing as I would have hoped. Yuzu can be VERY tart and this would have been a good excuse for it.
Overall, I was impressed by MTN. The setting was gorgeous and nice atmosphere. Loud though. And I wish the seats were comfortable. Really not at all. And I hate high stools. But service was very good and friendly in that contemporary LA way — i.e. at the good end of that spectrum, but not traditional really knowledgeable service.
The food was surprisingly excellent. Yeah it’s not totally traditional in all ways, feels snazzed up and touch whitewashed, but the flavors were generally strong, very Japanese (with the weird-to-Americans edge polished off), and extremely enjoyable.
MTN has a low Yelp score (3) and this is total BS. Too much whining about the $20-24 ramen from the peanut gallery. First of all, this isn’t even a ramen place. Yeah, it has some fancy ramens, but it’s not Shin Sen Gumi where everything is dirt cheap on the menu AND in the kitchen. It’s not just “order your bowl of ramen and toppings.” It’s a full Izakaya menu that happens to have a couple ramens. They don’t even really belong because they are very hard to split. But come on, that crab ramen is full of Dungeness crab meat. It CAN’T be $8 like a bowl of over salted mediocre tonkotsu. Plus they pay an Abbot Kinney rent and have a crazy blackened wood hipster build out!
On my second visit the food was just as good. The service was excellent. The seats were even more a pain in the ass (literally) and they had a bit of a kitchen backup on the ramen which created an extra 45 minute delay before we got it (as pretty much our last course). They threw in some extras and apologized a lot which was nice but my ass was starting to go numb.
On my third visit the food was perhaps even better, or certainly as good. Service was excellent again and I met the manager who was very nice. We didn’t have any of those pacing issues this time so my ass didn’t get too sore. Overall, really awesome modern take on Izakaya and the whole gang (of 5 who went) loved it.