For years, Venice denizens have likely seen or visited Wabi Sabi along Abbot Kinney, a kind of hip neighborhood sushi joint everyone could get behind. Except in years past, things had gotten a bit stale. Enter Sam Marshall and Tricia Small. Marshal spearheaded the redesign (he’s also done Laurel Hardware, Gjelina, and Ollo, among others) while Trisha Small took over ownership of the restaurant about seven months ago, performing a lengthy interior remodel.
And then about four months ago, they brought on Conner Mitchell (Dudley Market), Ray Wicks, general manager Brent Moon, and new chef Rain Pantana to completely revamp the food and beverage situation.
So far, it’s been word of mouth only for the restaurant, but the most immediate changes are the sushi bar, which has been moved to the back of the restaurant to make way for a heavier cocktail situation up front. Secondly, the wine and drink menus are vastly improved, with more in the way of natural, biodynamic, and small production pours that should get oenophiles buzzing.
In terms of the food, Rain Pantana brings a creative approach to sushi and Japanese fare (he was obviously at Manhattan Beach’s Sashi) that follows much of the Nobu formula: small plates like crispy rice with sushi, rock shrimp with crispy wontons, miso black cod, and chicken skewers. Along with the hot dishes come a slew of sushi rolls and a la carte nigiri.
It’s often difficult to retain loyal regulars while trying to stay up with the times, but it feels like Wabi Venice (which sports a cleaner, more direct name), is riding that fine line with ease.
Wabi Venice. 1635 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice, CA 90291