Josiah Citrin, chef/owner of Mélisse, one of the priciest special occasion dining spots in the Los Angeles area, is making a move into more casual dining.
Citrin just opened Charcoal Venice in Venice, the beachside town where he has lived for 23 years. The new 110-seat concept is not far from Mélisse in neighboring Santa Monica, and the two restaurants share the chef’s dedication to excellence.
But at Charcoal Venice, Citrin is producing a menu more like what he would cook at home in his backyard Big Green Egg ceramic grill, he says.
“It’s really based on craveability, community, just hanging out and going to dinner and having delicious food,” he says. “This is how I cook at home.”
As the name suggests, the menu at Charcoal Venice is centered around foods cooked over—or roasted in—lump charcoal made with various woods.
Entrees are priced and generously portioned to be shared family-style, including an 18-ounce aged New York strip loin for $75; half a 21-day aged Sonoma duck for $55; or a half chicken with salsa verde for $34.
At the high end is a 48-ounce dry-aged porterhouse for $185, and at the low end: prime pavé of chuck for $25.
Vegetables also get the grill treatment, including a whole cabbage, roasted in the embers until it’s black on the outside and moist and smoky inside. The cabbage is served in a wedge with yogurt, sumac and lemon zest.
Yukon potatoes are nestled in the coals and served with salted butter, crème fraîche, aged gouda and chives. And grilled endive is served with wood-roasted beets and cauliflower with a duck egg gribiche sauce.
On each table are four complimentary house-made sauces designed to work across the roasted meats, fish and vegetable selections, including smoked paprika chimichurri; red wine-chipotle barbecue sauce; an herb-spiced vinegar and what Citrin has dubbed “J-1” sauce, which he describes as his take on A.1. Steak Sauce.
Not everything is touched by fire. Starters include a unique selection of tartares, such as aged duck with radish, pickled fennel, watercress, mustard and crème fraîche; or beef heart with pickled mustard seed, charred celeriac and chives.
The smoky theme does carry into the cocktail program, however.
In addition to local craft beers and wine, the bar features options like the Midnight Margarita, made with charcoal-infused tequila, or the Smokehouse Martini shaken with smoked ice and garnished with either a smoked olive or a smoked onion.
It’s not the first time Citrin has gone casual. The chef was a partner in the quick-service concept Lemon Moon in Santa Monica for 11 years, but that restaurant closed last month as the contract with the landlord expired, Citrin explains.
Melisse, moving into its 17th year, is going strong, however. And Charcoal Venice is a concept Citrin hopes to multiply.
“We’ll see how it goes,” he says. “But I would like to do more.”