Venga! Debuts Lunch & Sweets on Canon

Quiche

Correction (10/10/11): Venga! is now closed and will re-open at a future date as a Mediterranean Restaurant with an Israeli focus.

There is a new cafe, patisserie and gelateria all rolled up into one on Canon Drive in Beverly Hills. No, it’s not Bouchon, but from one lunch experience, I ended up very surprisingly pleased with the results.

Canelé

You will appreciate the small, concentrated menu once you step inside the nondescript shop. Although it’s hard to tell exactly what they do since the dessert cases face sideways, it seemed like the neighborhood had at least mildly become acquainted with Venga! just two weeks into their opening on a sunny Saturday afternoon.

Owner Shahriar Besharat and Pastry Chef Kriss Harvey (who has studied under the tutelage of Pastry Chefs all over the world as well as with Master in Gelato Giuseppe Scaringnella and in the Carpigiani Gelato University in Bologna; Joel Robuchon Las Vegas is on his resume) have cultivated a brightly-lit cafe with a minimalist look and menu – but the strength rests in these few items.

Macarons

For instance, the slow cooked chicken sandwich is prepared in a vacuum and packs punch with slices of jalapeno and carrot. It’s tender thanks to its preparation, but it’s also got great flavor. The Croque Monsieur (or Madame, should you choose to add a sunny-side up egg for $1, as we did) is delicious. Too often have I had a Madame with bread that was too thick and overwhelming. At Venga! the layers were harmonious in thickness as well as taste – not too rich, and just enough. The quiche with spinach, shiitake mushrooms was also tasty. The crust was golden and delicious. I almost wanted another slice. The tomato salad with whipped cheese and basil is also a beautiful rendition (perfect for before the end of summer) – especially with the heirloom varieties that are used.

Pastries at Venga!

But you mustn’t leave before you have dessert. This would be a grave omission. There are plenty of gelato varieties to choose from, but my favorite was the Almond with Caramelized Almond flavor. The Passion Fruit Sorbet was also super potent and a perfect flavor for a hot day.

The macarons are also delicious, and a tad denser than others that I’ve had. I can’t argue with more flavor in my macarons, however, and there are plenty of flavors to go around. I love the dustings on the outside of some of them, which add quite delicious details. Salted Caramel and Coconut are now my go-to.

A must-try is the Canelé, which is done quite expertly with the outside coated with a crispy beeswax. The inside was a soft, tender, almost-custard texture – just how a perfect Canelé should be. As you peruse the brightly-lit pastry cases, you’ll definitely have a hard time resisting all of the beautifully presented pastries in all their colorful glory. I’m due for a return visit to try some more.

Alas, I’ve learned that they have free wifi! This could be a dangerously indulgent destination (yet productive?) for me in the near future. Blog or eat? Lunch, dinner or dessert? Now, I won’t have to choose.

All food and drink were hosted.

 

Sun – Mon

10 AM – 6 PM

Tue – Sat

10 AM – 10 PM

Menu
Beverages & Desserts Menu

Free wifi

Venga!
452 N. Canon Drive
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
310.205.9400

@vengabh

Destination: Happy Hour at Wolfgang’s Steakhouse

All photography graciously provided by Andrew Herrold

It’s a restaurant in Beverly Hills with Wolfgang’s name on it. And you would be sorely mistaken to think it were that Wolfgang – because it’s not. Zwiener, who is the former famed head waiter at New York’s Peter Luger Steakhouse, had built an identity and following of his own on that coast – and due to that demand extended his Wolfgang’s Steakhouse outpost to Canon Drive last year (much to Puck’s chagrin).

Having never eaten there, I was lucky enough to be invited to a media happy hour as a warm-up. I’ll have to revisit to give their steak a fair shot since the “warm-up” was done quite well.

Their cocktails have range, if a bit novel. But for the most part they are good. I started off with their oyster shooter – or what they call Absolute Oyster Shooter, with fresh blue point oyster, Absolut Vodka, horseradish and cocktail sauce. The only problem is that it’s done in a martini glass and there is no “shooting” about it. To get to the oyster I had to skim what heavy-hitting vodka lay on top and was tired of the drink by the time I got to the oyster and cocktail sauce that was on the bottom.

A thoughtful champagne spritzer cocktail called Birthday Cake was refreshing, light and a touch sweet – and deceptive because despite its name could easily be enjoyed as a non-dessert. Made with Grey Goose Citron, Frangelico and limoncello – it was probably the first time I had thoroughly enjoyed limoncello in a specialty cocktail if because only a touch was used (yes – even in romantic settings like the Amalfi Coast).

My favorite cocktail of the night, called Sunset, had a bit of a personal trump card – a jalapeno slice for its garnish. It was perfectly spicy and drinkable yet interesting. It’s made with Don Julio Blanco, orange juice and a touch of grenadine (they should probably mention the jalapeno in the menu).

As for the appetizers – they saved the ground-breaking to others but what they stuck to, they did well. Thankfully, the steak skewers were done perfectly (well – they are a steakhouse) and just the right amount of pink in the center despite their less-than-bite size. The cheeseburger sliders were juicy, tasty and also the required pink in the center but a variation on that were the lobster sliders (pictured above). If a bit reminiscent of crab salad – just done with lobster instead – they were even crunchier, delicious and perfect for small bites.

The tuna tartar, served on spoons, was seasoned just a touch and not overdone. It was good to taste the finely diced fish for what it was and not what magical mixture it could be made into.

Wolfgang’s Steakhouse, nor Beverly Hills, isn’t in an area where I’d normally “cruise” for post-work relief – but it’s definitely a worthy destination. It’s high end and conservative (don’t come here for the atmosphere, hipsters), yet pleasant. There’s a nearby public parking lot that’s free for two hours and combined with their reasonable happy hour, you can brush shoulders with high-rollers and tourists alike without breaking the bank. The cocktails will keep you interested, lubricated and the bites happy and whet for dinner.

Happy Hour:
$7 menu all night, $7 cocktails 4-7 PM

Wolfgang’s Steakhouse
445 N Canon Drive
Beverly Hills, CA‎
310.385.0640‎