ZINQUE. An Abbott Kinney Stop … vino and bites.
by Dawn Garcia
Having started my day on Abbott Kinney, it seemed after working tirelessly on a bio, getting interviews done, writing for this wonderful magazine, I just lingered. Venice is where I spent my youth. It’s the city that reminds me of youth, rollerskating on the boardwalk, looking for Harry Parry of the Kama Cosmic Crusader on his rollerblades, head adorned with his infamous white turban, and red and white electric guitar. Yes, you’ve seen him if you’ve been here in the last 20 years. I am reminded of times when I would ditch school with my friend Katie to buy incense or being newly licensed running around with my best friend Linnea to see what was happening in the realm of tie-dye and tribal drums. Yes, my entire childhood was spent with days on the Venice Boardwalk and Abbott Kinny was NOTHING like it is today. There was a Bohemian vibe, but the culinary landscape didn’t even come close to what it is now. With restaurants galore and the undertone of subtle cool, “Le Zinque” is a stop that I hadn’t heard of. Until today. Up until today it was just a really cool sustainable looking building roaring with the hum of crowds. In fact it wasn’t until I was left with hours to spare and a need to partake of this perfect Southern California weather that I ventured in. Thankfully I did.
A fairly delectable selection of wines, small plates, fresh ingredients, and this rural rustic chic kind of atmosphere, I stumbled upon a rather perfect place. I wait. Patio is insanely busy but the restaurant, not so much. And I wait. And I wait. But eventually, sunshine (what I am calling my happy server) comes over and asks me what I want. To begin, you have to give a credit card. Much like a bar, you open a tab or pay and close. A bit different but hey, better than someone drinking too much and not being able to pay I guess. And so, I relent. I begin my curiosities by ordering a glass of Grenacha, Evodia from Spain, vintage ’11. A gorgeous tannin it soothes the palate with that true Spanish ease. Hungry for something but not entirely sure what, I scour the menu and continually find my eyes wading up and down the pâté. Yes. Pâté. I need a little iron. “French Country Pâté” it is (with peppercorns) and a small order of olives. For some reason I am feeling un-ordinarily eager to be back in Barcelona. Tapas just seem right. Pâté arrives nestled carefully atop the French Country Bread. Yes, this does actually remind me of being in Paris and Lyon. The bread is cooked so that the bulk is soft and the edge is perfectly crisp. The pâté tastes as if it was transported from Geneva with that familiarity of Europe but not quite the heartiness one associates with true French pâté.
As the night goes on, the crowd thickens, the servers begin to sway. They become less happy, less attentive, quickly dissipating into the onslaught of people. I can forgive it. Mostly. MOSTLY. Here’s the thing: I’ve worked in restaurants. I know it gets busy. I do understand there is a relative sense of distance that occurs but the tragedy of this perfectly wonderful spot is, my server actually walked to my table when I had been there 45 minutes and dared to put a “RESERVED” sign on the table to let me know someone else would be coming in. Really? I’m a paying customer. Granted she didn’t know I was writing about the place but in a way, it makes me a bit less “cheerleader-like”. So I eat and I sip and I patiently wait for my server to come back around. Sure, she is pleasant and nice but she is rather MIA as the meal ensues. That is the only thing I do not forgive of any restaurant. Service is the most crucial part. All in all, the wine selection was impressive, the food was healthy, fresh, and surprising. I will go back but I hope in the interim there is a bit more emphasis on attentiveness. People leave the comfort of home and take their hard earned money to eat at restaurants. It is one of the few remaining luxuries. It’s appreciated when that “luxury” isn’t given an attitude of “kindly move soon”. Or a rather invasive “RESERVED” sign that isn’t yours. (Note to server: next time, just politely ask rather than making a paying patron feel as if there’s an urgency to spend money, tip well, hurry up and leave for someone more “RESERVED” to take over the table. It’s kind of lousy. Especially when several tables opened up.)
Zinque is a wonderful addition to Abbott Kinney. Crowded to the walls on a Sunday night, the happy lull of the patrons, tasty food, plentiful options – this is a beautiful and generous space in Venice.
I was since invited back by the Owners and had a truly divine experience. Sampled several menu items (the sausage bites are little bits of flavorful heaven), and the wines, well this time I went pure French thanks to Christophe and Emmanuel Dosetti (charming and wonderful!).