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February 3, 2005

All the Modernist trappings
*Beechwood takes over Menemsha's spot, and nothing is the same.
Fireside chat

(Christine Cotter / LAT)

The scene

(Christine Cotter / LAT)


Make reservations online.

By S. Irene Virbila, Times Staff Writer

Remember Menemsha at Abbot Kinney and Washington? You won't recognize the place.

Beechwood debuted there three weeks ago and the transformation is pretty amazing. The space has been reconfigured to a Modernist bent, with a large, sprawling bar and stylish outdoor patio.

As Beechwood sits on the Venice-Marina del Rey border, the crowd is basically laid-back hipsters and beachy proletarians. Guys tend to congregate on the stools lined up along the bar, sampling crafty brews and a smart list of wines by the glass. Couples and groups of friends either gravitate to the fire pit outside or nosh on small dishes at sofas sprinkled around the bar.

So where's the dining room? Tucked behind the bar, so the bar scene doesn't intrude. It's quiet and aloof enough that you sort of feel you're on a cruise somewhere pleasant and maybe Scandinavian, given the abstract wool tapestry on the wall.

Beechwood is the new restaurant from Brooke Williamson and her partner Nick Roberts (the two started Amuse Café in Venice together with David Reiss, who owns the Brig bar on Abbot Kinney).

Williamson, who cooked center-front at Zax in Brentwood, is more in the dining room here. Roberts mans the stoves full-time, but they both write the menus.

What's for dinner? American classics with a twist. To start, consider the steamed Prince Edward Island mussels in a lemon grass broth, a demure Italian parsley and escarole salad garnished with supple prosciutto di Parma and creamy burrata. A ragout of assorted mushrooms comes with black-eyed peas that were oddly al dente on the night I tried them.

Main courses include pasta with New Zealand cockles, a dish I remember from Zax, and for the vegans out there, balsamic-roasted market vegetables. In addition, there's duck leg confit, a pulled beef short rib pot pie, and steak for those who want to indulge, accompanied by a Cabrales butter for a Spanish accent.

I discovered, almost too late, that some of the most intriguing dishes are listed on the bar menu — things like crispy baby octopus with fried lemon slices and horseradish-caper aioli (I did manage to sneak in an order of that and it was delicious). That menu also included pressed pulled pork sandwich with sweet pickle chips and provolone or grilled lamb meatballs with roasted red pepper pesto.

Next time, I'm staying out front at the place where the action and the radish and fennel salad coexist: the bar.



Where: 822 Washington Blvd., Venice

When: Open 6 to 11 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. The bar menu is served those nights and 6 p.m. to midnight Sundays and Mondays. Full bar. Valet parking.

Cost: Appetizers, $7 to $10; main courses, $15 to $24; desserts, $7. Bar menu items, $6 to $14.

Info: (310) 448-8884

Copyright 2005 Los Angeles Times