With Besha Rodell on book leave, Garrett Snyder has taken over LA Weekly's review duties and kicks off his tenure with a look at Charcoal Venice. While the new restaurant helmed by the chef and owner of Mélisse, Josiah Citrin, is meant to be the casual counterpart to the white tablecloth establishment, "it would be a stretch to label it a casual restaurant (imagine owning a Ferrari and then buying a Mercedes-Benz as the 'family sedan')."
G-Sny finds many of the dishes to be rather rocky, including dry chicken wings, acrid potatoes, and vegetables that don't measure up to their Westside counterparts:
Many of the vegetable dishes — coal-roasted carrots drizzled with honey and peppery ricotta or grilled endive with slivers of roasted beets and duck egg gribiche — can leave you dreaming of the ones at nearby Gjelina, where each plate seems like a miniature world of contrasts. Here they just feel safe. [LAW]
Not surprisingly, where the restaurant does shine is "damn good meat:"
A thin cut of lamb shoulder, gamy and crusted with char yet succulent underneath, was a surprise hit despite the waitress warning our table of its possible toughness ("Do you usually like lamb?"). We picked up the steaks, lacquered with caramelized honey, mint and coriander, by hand and tore off hunks like hungry wolves. Even better was the smoked short rib: decadent, fatty strips of meat as soft and smoky as Franklin brisket, though unfortunately basted with a bit too much sweet barbecue sauce. [LAW]
The review wraps up by stating:
It's clear that there is a great deal of skill in this kitchen, yet a meal at Charcoal can seem hard to decipher. It aims for progressiveness, but its strongest dishes lean toward tradition. It aims to be a neighborhood restaurant, but once the bill arrives it's hard not to crunch the numbers and realize that you'll hardly spend less than you would on the tasting menu at Mélisse. [LAW]
Charcoal Venice receives two stars out of five.