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The $20 Ramen Bowls Are Worth It, But the Service Is Inconsistent at MTN in Venice

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A pros and cons look at Travis Lett’s newest Venice restaurant

MTN Yelp

Welcome to the Good News/Bad News on Travis Lett’s izakaya restaurant, MTN, which opened in late July after taking years to open. The standalone Abbot Kinney spot is Lett’s fourth Venice restaurant, the others being Gjelina, Gjelina Take Away, and Gjusta. MTN’s determined focus, menu, and $20 ramen keeps the room packed most nights. Here’s the overall word on the street, from critics, online reviews, and beyond.

Westside vibes all day

“At night the ocean breeze enters from a stretch of exposed rooftop that sucks in cool salty air like a flue imbuing the dining room with a beachy feel, and music is played from an actual record player, which means general manager Oscar Lusth may run to flip the record after explaining the sake list.” [LAT]

“But there are lots of rules and more than a pinch of pretension in the way those rules are enforced. That's to be expected, I suppose, but warmth and welcome are two of the ingredients I'd like to see more often in Lett's restaurants in general. [LAW]

Lett is some type of superhero/’cult leader’

“Consider the pork bone shio ramen. Instead of using noodles from Sun Noodle, L.A.’s industry standard, Lett makes them himself, with artisanal wheat from Central Milling and a small percentage of Anson Mills buckwheat, which gives the noodles a distinct, sandy color.” [LAT]

“Lett has had a hand in creating Venice's current culture, in all its laughable upscale boho glory. Blond and bearded, he gives off a bit of a '60s cult-leader vibe, and his employees tend to speak of him in hushed, reverential tones. ‘We ask that you don't do that,’ a manager said to us one evening at MTN when my dining companion went to snap a photo of the dark wood–bedecked room. ‘Travis doesn't like it.’" [LAW]

Is the $20 ramen worth it?

“It is, of course, Lett’s prerogative whether or not he wants to push a grand narrative for his restaurant. He’s earned the right to let his food speak for itself, and I doubt he has to emphasize that his $20 pork bone shio ramen is made with heritage breed pigs and organic buckwheat noodles to get butts into stools.” [LAM]

“And the $20 ramen? Again, it's almost a thing unto itself, so much a product of its time and place that it's hard to compare it to other ramen. Lett and his crew cook down the bones and head of a whole Peads & Barnetts pig, but it's not a thick, milky tonkotsu broth — it's much, much lighter yet still manages to pack an incredible amount of pork flavor into each sip.” [LAW]

There’s more than just ramen

“Take, for instance, the $10 pickle plate (listed on the menu as Erika’s Pickle Plate), a gorgeous ceramic dish mounded with miniature piles of fermented crunchy things: shoyu-soaked mustard greens, koji-fermented daikon radish, cucumber nukazuke, cabbage kimchi, eggplant cured in tangy plum vinegar. Expensive? Yes. Worth it? Absolutely yes.” [LAM]

“On a recent evening dessert offerings included a bowl of chilled Greengage plums and a house-made sweet potato and shoyu gelato that tasted of Werther’s Original candy. Unfamiliar as the flavor combination may seem, it wasn’t remarkably different from the butterscotch pot de crème served at Gjelina down the street.” [LAT]

The MTN menu is meticulous and forward

“It's one thing to make your own bread. It's another thing entirely to attempt a broad Japanese menu and start from scratch, making everything from red miso to ramen noodles to shio koji. The choice to make things rather than use tried and true Japanese products is about more than an ego-driven DIY ethos; it's about making food that is true to its place, even as it channels Japanese flavors, taking lessons from Japan and overlaying that knowledge on the here and now.” [LAW]

“I can’t say I’ve sampled every dish at MTN, but the ones I have struck me with their rustic simplicity and deep, soulful flavors: exquisitely grilled saba(mackerel) marinated in ponzu, charred sweet potato with miso butter and katsuboshi, pork cheek skewers glazed with white miso, crispy hand rolls stuffed with shiso leaf and natto, and a gently salty seaweed salad made from a tangle of kelp pulled from the Big Sur coast. [LAM]

The service varies between good and downright slow

“Don’t expect them to open on time either even with a line forming out the door. Service was friendly but painfully slow, I waited 50 minutes for my last dish before I cancelled it and asked for the check.” [FTC]

"Been twice since they opened; opening night and a week later. Both times, food was impeccable.” [Yelp]

“But despite how over-the-top trendy the restaurant seemed—the all-black interior, the uncomfortable stool and counter seating, the lack of reservations, the chilly service—it was no Portlandia skit.” [LAM]

“The the service was sub par which is expected from the owner of Gjelina. The concept of automatic gratuity does not work at a new location because all you're doing is training your staff to not give a shit.” [Yelp]

MTN

1305 Abbot Kinney Boulevard, , CA 90291 (424) 465-3313 Visit Website

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