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The Tasting Kitchen, the restaurant formerly known as AK


The Tasting Kitchen is open in the space that housed the very-recently-defunct AK. Instead of closing to retool, the restaurant is embracing the transition. The restaurateurs are calling it "a transparent culinary case study" (what others might call quick-change artistry). 

Over the next eight weeks, as new chef Casey Lane (a veteran of Clarklewis restaurant in Portland, Ore.) trains staff and tweaks the menu and the restaurant undergoes design "modifications," the kitchen and dining room will remain open. An interim menu of eight to 10 choices will change daily. The restaurant will emerge with a new menu, new look and new name in the fall. 1633 Abbott Kinney Blvd., Venice, (310) 392-6644, www.thetastingkitchen.com 

-- Betty Hallock

Photo of AK by Ken Hively / Los Angeles Times

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Walked into the Tasting Kitchen last night and sat at the bar; food was excellent, however:

- The bathroom was on the verge of being filthy; obviously completely unattended.

- My dish (merguez sausage and spotted prawn with a side of fingerlings and some greenery in a rich, medium-thick tomato-based sauce) came in a too-small cereal bowl! No kidding - a cereal bowl!

- Sure enough, when I was done, the rough-around-the-edges female bartender poured half the sauce on my shirt while taking the bowl away from me. An apology was barely heard; she proceeded to pour soda amd white wine in a (useless) attempt to clean the linen shirt. The "sorry" was rushed and superficial; from other similar experiences, when the wait staff pours food on you they are profusely and sincerely apologetic; the young bartender made it almost seem that it was my fault that I got doused and seemed almost bothered by her own mistake.

- To top it all off, I asked the same bartender to recommend a dry, full-bodied cabernet-like wine, regardless of price. I was served a horrible malbec that was all alcohol and zero structure; then I was charged $10 or more for a glass out of a $6 bottle. This is unacceptable for a restaurant that has aspirations to be a serious wine bar. If this was the best red available last night, I am appalled.

In a nutsell, this place needs LOTS of tuning in terms of service, cleanliness, staff manners and wine knowledge. I live a few blocks away and can guarantee that, right now, this is by far the worst restaurant on Abbot Kinney. Lots of work to do. Huge, stark, dark contrast with the immaculate AK they replaced.


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