Location: 514-516 California State Rte 2, Santa Monica, CA 90401. (310) 260-2255
Date: December 30, 2016 & January 9, 2017
Cuisine: Modern Vegan
Rating: Best Vegan I’ve had
Real Food Daily has been a Santa Monica Vegan staple for twenty-ish years, but it closed recently (I was not sad, it tasted weird and gave me gas). Instead, the brilliant Saint Martha chef has taken over, rebooted it into a market restaurant, and voila: Erven.
I went twice here in short order. The first time with my wife where we had 5-6 things and the second time with 7 Foodie Club members where we ordered the entire menu X 2!
There is now a trendy market counter with vegan treats for sale.
The two floor interior looks way updated as well, and stylishly, if economically.
Corn nuts. Came for “free.” These had a strong flavor.A pre meal snack. Very strong intense flavor, not super to my taste.
The menu. Reading this was hard for me because I usually look at the protein types — but here that was all pretty irrelevant!
Krug Champagne Brut Rosé. VM 94. The NV Brut Rosé is brilliant and finely-sculpted in the glass, with floral aromatics, pulsating minerality and chiseled fruit. Less austere than it can be, the Rosé impresses for its combination of tension and textured, phenolic weight. There is so much to like. This release (ID 213027) is based on the 2006 vintage. The blend is 59% Pinot Noir, 33% Chardonnay and 8% Pinot Meunier. Disgorged Spring 2013.
Savory donut holes. of sauerkraut and smoky applesauce. Interesting. Like jelly donuts too (filling was inside).
2006 Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Champagne Brut Rosé La Grande Dame. JG 95. For both the vintage-dated and the Grande Dame Rosé bottlings, Veuve Clicquot uses their parcel of Clos Colin in the village of Bouzy for the still red wine that is used to add color to the final blend. The ’06 Grande Dame Rosé is comprised entirely of chardonnay and pinot noir, with thirty-three percent of the blend the former and sixty-seven percent of the blend the latter (with fourteen percent still pinot noir). The dosage is eight grams per liter and the wine is outstanding, offering up a pure and complex bouquet of tangerine, desiccated cherries, chalky minerality, orange peel and plenty of smokiness. On the palate the wine is pure, full-bodied and complex, with a superb core, lovely focus and grip, elegant mousse and a very long, zesty and wide open finish. This is drinking beautifully right now, but will age very gracefully as well. (Drink between 2016-2035)
Fried date pickles with Sumatran curry, pine nut and maple. Really interesting fried, tangy, sweet, combination. My wife liked them a lot too.
2002 Henri Boillot Corton-Charlemagne. VM 95+. Steely, penetrating aromas of minerals, crushed stone and vanillin oak. Wonderfully dense and broad, with a dusty, tactile texture and powerful underlying spine. Shows a superripe note of crystallized pit fruits, but the wine’s powerful acids give it great precision and penetration. A great young Corton-Charlemagne.
Hearts of romaine. with dill-tofu ranch, kohlrabi and poppyseed ‘persillade’. Salad.
Tiny beets with avocado mousse, curry-almond streusel and cilantro. Beet sorbet. Quite nice and interesting beet salad. The sorbet even added a temperature variance.
2004 Bouchard Père et Fils Corton-Charlemagne. VM 95+. Pale, bright color. A quintessence of Corton-Charlemagne dirt on the nose: stone fruits, lemon, iodine, ginger, minerals and mint, all complicated by a musky, leesy note that reminded me of a Coche-Dury wine. Then compellingly dense and penetrating in the mouth, with captivating, soil-driven flavors of raw pineapple, white peach, white flowers and crushed rock; a sulfidey complexity and a saline element add to the wine’s spectacular subtle complexity. Hardly a blockbuster but conveys an impression of great solidity. This remarkably precise wine coats the palate with dusty stone and leaves behind a suggestion of honey. My sample at Bouchard in early June was painfully young and closed though obviously outstanding, but this bottle, tasted in New York in August, was spectacular. (Incidentally, my following notes on the Chevalier-Montrachet, Chevalier-Montrachet La Cabotte and Montrachet were from bottles tasted at Bouchard-also quite backward at the time-and I would expect my scores to prove to be conservative.)
Soft tofu with brussels sprouts, pickled garlic ponzu, lime cured onion and popcorn. I love this kind of soft tofu and this was like a combo of a traditional Japanese/Korean soft tofu and a Gjelina brussels sprouts dish.
Korean ‘gnocchi’. with chickpeas, okra, purslane and tomato-kimchi soup. The gnocchi was a little dense.
From my cellar: 2006 Domaine Leflaive Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Pucelles. JG 94. The 2006 Pucelles is by a good margin the most sophisticated and pure of these premier crus, and seems to have avoided the ripe excesses of the vintage better than most of the wines in the cellar this year. The nose is deep and fresh, as it offers up a beautiful mélange of lemon, pear, white peach, spring flowers, a touch of both bee pollen and incipient notes of beeswax and a nice framing of vanillin oak. On the palate the wine is full-bodied, silky on the attack and utterly refined, with a lovely core of fruit and no signs of heat on the long, crisp and very long finish. This is a beautiful bottle in the making.
Falafel. with apricot-ginger mostarda, dried olive and smoked paprika. A hair dry.
Onion bread pudding with mushroom chili, broccoli and spicy squash spread. Another interesting textural dish, nice flavors too, although I didn’t anticipate the beans.
Roasted carrots. with coconut, crispy lentils, Thai herbs, and tamarind sriracha. I really liked the frozen coconut on top and the vaguely Thai flavor profile that fell out of that.
1996 Joseph Drouhin Romanée St. Vivant. JK 94. Airy, pure, elegant and extremely expressive as the aromas just float from the glass with rose petal and assorted floral notes. The mineral-infused, racy and finely delineated flavors are nuanced and textured though the backend has a somewhat dry and edgy quality to it that is highlighted by the racy finishing acidity. This is still entirely primary and should age well for a number of years.
Farro and black eyed pea ‘hot pot’. with braised greens, shishito, preserved tomato and onion jus. Tasty enough, but needed a braised meat!
Spaghetti. with baby shiitake mushrooms, brassicas and yeast broth. More like a vegan ramen or Asian noodle soup. The broth was good and the noodles nice.
2005 Louis Jadot Charmes-Chambertin. BH 94. An interesting nose of menthol, underbrush, warm earth and relatively high-toned red pinot fruit leads to fresh, rich, full and almost tender big-bodied flavors that are supple on the mid-palate before tightening up on the delicious, powerful and mouth coating finish. A quality effort that is more impressive than it usually is and worth a look.
Shredded cabbage pancake. with braised eggplant, chili hoisin. The waitress said it had the best hoisin ever — well no, not even close — but it did vaguely induce a feeling of Peking duck. Made me want some Peking duck!
Kale cavatelli with squash, oyster mushrooms, pear and tom yum gravy. Loved the yom yum flavor. Texture was great too with the bitey cavatelli. Really a pretty great dish.
Beer battered tofu sandwich with slaw, thick pickle and manchamantal. Kinda like a tempura fish sandwich without the fish. But nice and tangy and great texture. Really quite excellent.
Chocolate ‘liquid’ donut. with frozen peanut butter brittle ganache, huckleberries, and potato chips. Pretty good. I liked the peanut butter tone.
Chocolate cookie and frozen cinnamon custard ‘sandwich’. with toasted meringue and graham crumble. That “cream” was pretty good without dairy too.
The wine lineup, not bad for 7 at a vegan restaurant!
Overall, Erven was pretty cool. It felt light, and fundamentally the introduction of modern textural play and Asian flavors with the vegan concept really brought the flavor level up. There is so much mouth fireworks going on that it distracts from the lack of protein or fat — wow!
Be warned though, there is a lot of fiber. I’m writing this at 4am because the bloating is keeping me up! Erven will not only tickle your palette, but keep you regular too!