Barnyard. The Monster supports his Venice. He watched from his office virtually across the street as the lame Benice (Venice local hangout place since 1985…so the sign proclaimed) was transformed into a hip, hopefully destination dining venue.
His luck proves on as he scores an invite to opening night friends and family. The front room bar and back “patio” are Venice chic, the crowd Venice beachy/arty, the buzz immense. So, how does the evening unfold…?
…as with any opening night hit or miss. The service is trying really hard and for that they deserve kudos. A free glass of champagne starts the festivities off.
The menu is accessible with enough unique twists to make it both relatable and intriguing. There are quite a few dishes The Monster decides he must sample on the menu demarcated by small plates and tapas and mains and salads. Obviously the LA requisite “share” philosophy is in full effect at Barnyard. And while others may bitch, that suites this eater just fine.
Some Marcona almonds start the night off. Nothing much to see here, if you like almonds like The Monster it’s a nice way to graze as you peruse the menu.
Next up, French fries with harissa and crème fraiche. The fries are good, though The Monster wishes Barnyard weren’t so stingy with the accompaniments. They are teeny, tiny little scoops of each and are gone before the fries are half finished. Since it’s opening night flagging down wait-staff to get more becomes an impossibility.
Got to try the braised baby octo, olive-oil poached and served with fresh chix peas. The octopus is nice enough, and a large portion for the price. But the revelation here is the chix peas (their spelling for you grammar Nazis). Not sure why but they are delightful.
No menu today would be complete without a kale salad (yawn). This version sports shaved sunchokes, Marcona almonds, parmesan and lemon vinaigrette. It’s hard to mess up this salad and Barnyard does not, though Superba Snackbar’s version down the way on Rose is superior by leagues.
Prawns, salt-roasted with herbs and olives, romesco and wilted leeks comes around. This is the first dish where The Monster just has no idea what’s going on. The prawns need to be de-shelled, eh. And individually the ingredients taste fine but there is no rhyme or reason for them being together. When you peek into the fridge and see what’s left after a weekend you might throw something like this together so you don’t waste. That admirable but it doesn’t make it great.
As for the main course, a half chicken, oven roasted with winter stuffing and arugula makes the grade. No, this is not adventurous dining but the menu at Barnyard takes everyday ingredients and spices them up. Favorite dish of the night. The chicken skin is delicious, the inside moist, the stuffing and arugula perfect accompaniments.
What might you sample? Braised sausage and cabbage with pickled carrots and soft poached egg might tickle your fancy. Or perhaps lamb with seared escarole and sugo with sasa verde that has received much acclaim. For you veggies, chanterelles and peas with grilled herbs and chimichurri.
All in all, Barnyard seems poised for success. No, it won’t dazzle you with ingredients or overwhelm you with technique. What it will do is feed you in a snappy environment that exudes Venice’s rough around the edges charm.
One does wonder what this spot would look like had the original chef, Ubuntu’s Jeremy Fox been at the helm, but Jesse Barber brings his own rustic style to the tiny kitchen.
The only real quibble on this night (save the usual opening night hiccups) is when the bill arrives. Perhaps The Monster is dense but he assumed that opening night wouldn’t require more than leaving the server a wonderful tip. Surprised was he (and the table as a whole) when the entirety of the bill needs be squared away. Given they didn’t have any desserts available and wait time between courses ranged from minutes to too many (minutes), everyone would have appreciated the bill at least being reduced since it being fully comped proves not in the cards.
Why go? Comfort food.
Monster rating: 3½/5 Monsters
1715 Pacific Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90291