Thursday, January 26, 2012

Popping Good - Wolf in Sheeps Clothing

The pop up restaurant is one of my favorite places to eat. This could be because there is that sense of fleetingness, like this small window will be the only time that you will get to eat Ludo's Paris soup at Ludobites 4.0 (or was that 5.0), or Neal Fraser's Braised Pork with the slow cooked egg and corn velout at Test Kitchen.

Like a love affair with a stranger that you can't get enough of in a foreign locale, you know it's not going to last or even be repeated, which makes the memory so special.

Wolf in Sheep's Clothing popped up in Venice in early December and I finally got over there to try it last week and I'm so pleased to say that it did not disappoint. This dining adventure is led by Brian Dunsmoor (Axe) and Kris Tominaga (Joe's) who are putting out market driven, rustic and sensual food. I say sensual because the whole time I just wanted to eat with my hands and lick my plate.

But it was my first time there so I controlled myself so I would be able to come back again and again.

They don't take reservations except for parties over 6 which is fine with me, I just make sure I arrive before 7pm and there's almost always a table. The space is very cool - concrete floors, skim coated walls, warm, indirect lighting. We sat under a large photo of Roy Rogers, Dale Evans and Trigger. It kind of reminded me of a lovely art gallery with tables and food and good music.

And good wine - art galleries never have wine this good.

I would have ordered everything on the menu but there were only two of us so we started with some pickled vegetables - I LOVED the cucumbers, but didn't try any of the others because I'm not so much into pickled anything.

Next we had the smoked trout with toast and avocado. This was delicious. If they had those little jars of smoked trout to go I would have taken two. It was so good I had to restrain myself from wiping the jar with my finger. It was great with the toast, but the avocado made it very rich.

The kale salad was so very good. I know kale is the hip and healthy green of the moment, but I don't really like it. That said I think an 8 year old would scarf this salad down. It's got apples and sweet dates which have a lovely party with the vinaigrette and every mouthful was delicious.

We each tried a baked oyster which I loved and my friend did not, but I grew up eating oysters rockefeller and he grew up in Israel not eating them. I thought this version of cooked oyster with cream and greens was super, though very rich. Don't think I would eat more than one or two because between the avocado on the toast and this I was starting to get really full.

We waffled back and forth between the scallops and the lamb and finally decided on the latter and yes, it's a petite plate, but I could not have eaten it by myself. The lamb was sliced and perfectly cooked - or rather cooked exactly the way I like it. Very pink. It's served over a toasted barley with a lamb ragout and topped with a divine gremolata. Again, if they had the barley and lamb ragout in to go containers in a fridge up front, I would be stocking up.

Although we were full, we ordered the chocolate maple pecan dessert and it was decadent and sticky and I should have stopped at one bite, but I didn't and that's okay - if you're going to gorge it should be on something like this.

I asked if they would be sticking around for spring because they are rocking the seasonal ingredients in such a great way and one of the owners told me that he thought they might get to hang out for 6 more months.


I will be going back and trying the raclette and the pork belly as well as revisiting the smoked trout and the kale salad.

A couple of notes on the food service. Servers are delightful, every last one of them. The food came out a bit fast but that didn't seem to be about turning the table, moreso that the food is best eaten as it comes up and the kitchen was not in the weeds at all. My sense is that had we ordered as we went that would have been okay and next time that's what I will do. This would be a really fun place to go with a group so you could order everything they have and try it all.

Everyone who works here is terrific - all from Venice, all with restaurant experience - creating the kind of place they would like to eat at - and they are doing it really well.

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