Like a Phoenix rising, Axe is back from whence it came. Week one post fire opening and for all intents and purposes little has changed. And that proves both fantastically awesome…and awesomely annoying…
Still filled with beautiful people. Still a slightly crunchy, granola menu. Still in need of air conditioning and ice in the water. Still maddening table/bench combos that are a Sisyphean task to get into and out of. Still an excellent back patio. Still dreadful parking and worse valet. Still deafening noise and shadowy lighting with a hip vibe and open kitchen. Still delicious. Still disappointing.
For now the menu itself has some of the old favorites and a few new additions but seems to be missing a number of larger plates to round it out. The wine list is paired down (only one red and one white by the glass) though the bottle selection is obviously more comprehensive.
Only two desserts on offer (strawberry shortcake and chunks of warm brownie in cream) leads one to believe the kitchen is trying to find its footing before going all in on a menu.
Rolled flatbread with accoutrement (carmelized onion, shallot yogurt, hummous, olive relish, red cabbage tahini and roasted caraway carrots), pickled vegetables, summer succotash, shaved radicchio and arugula salad with crispy onion and parmesan and the fish of the day round out the order on this evening.
As with the old iteration of Axe, the menu features farmers market and organic, seasonal produce. There is a filtration system in place to remove the fluoride from the water. Take out containers are earth friendly. So when you go to Axe you can know that this restaurant cares.
All that being said, it’s a restaurant and just like someone who flies around on a private jet to trumpet saving the environment (hi Al Gore, inventor of the intrawebs!) if we all really cared most about that we’d be hunter gatherers or sustain ourselves from our own gardens and livestock.
What we do care about is food and service. And while the meal does not have one miss, there also is not a stand-out dish that makes one need to come back the way Gjelina down the street may offer.
Flatbread and pickled vegetables are near impossible to flub. Axe doesn’t.
The salad is most notable for the crispy onion which add a texture contrast to the softer vegetables. The dressing is unobtrusive and yet also not distinctive enough.
The fish (so splendiferous The Monster must admit to forgetting what it is) and the succotash tasty but not memorable enough.
Service is very gracious and kudos to Axe for straight away having their act together.
The decision is made to sample both desserts. Neither disappoint, neither blow one away. They are well crafted versions of desserts The Monster (and you) have tried on numerous occasions.
Perhaps the thing Axe does best is provide a wonderful venue for conversation, an atmosphere for a convivial night with friends. Looking around, The Monster is struck by how much fun everyone appears to be having. And that may be the best argument one needs for making a visit to Axe.
Why go? Gardens and livestock maintenance aren’t your thing. Also, you too invented the intrawebs.
Monster rating: 3½/5 Monsters
1009 Abbot Kinney Boulevard
Venice, CA 90291