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The Review: The Tasting Kitchen in Venice scores two stars for imagination and spunk

October 7, 2009 | 11:00 am

If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. That's why Hidden became Caché, Charcoal switched to BoHo, and Max morphed into Marché.

Now the former AK in Venice has become the Tasting Kitchen. This summer,  AK founding chef Conny Anderson and partners agreed to disagree and the investors promptly sought a new chef for their Abbot Kinney restaurant. After closing briefly, the restaurant reopened with a temporary concept: a one-page "bill of fare" that changes every day.

That was supposed to be only a provisional measure, but it's been such a hit that it's here to stay.

The name isn't. Once the restaurant closes toward the end of the year for a couple of weeks for a minimal remodel to reflect the philosophy of the food -- handcrafted and personal -- it will reopen with a new name. Confusing? Yes. But here's the main thing: The food is lusty and delicious. And the place is fun. And the menu is definitely not the same generic California menu seen all over town. Not in general. And not specifically, either.

The rabbit that the hard-pressed restaurateurs pulled out of the hat is Casey Lane, a 26-year-old chef who's worked at Oliveto in Oakland under Paul Bertolli (now owner of the salumeria Fra' Mani) earlier in his career and in Portland, Ore., most recently at Clarklewis. The Texas native moved down to L.A. a year ago to head up the kitchen at a Silver Lake project that never happened. When he got this job, he imported some other Clarklewis alums to help him, which makes the Tasting Kitchen a Portland-slash-California restaurant.

To read the rest of S. Irene Virbila's review and see a tasty photo gallery, click here.

Photo: Crostone with chicken pate, frisee salad, warm vinaigrette and poached farm egg at the Tasting Kitchen in Venice.Credit: Ann Johansson / For The Times