Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Hunting Season Has Arrived at Chaya Venice: Venison Food Fair

Venison in Venice?  It is not just alliterative, it is delicious, and alas for a limited time as the Venison Food Fair decamps from the hunting grounds to make a stop at Chaya Venice for two weeks from now until Sunday December 11th.  Chaya Venice is known for its Euro-Asian cuisine, its sushi bar and the lively scene at the cocktail bar.  The 20+ year old restaurant originally did a series of food festivals and the chefs decided to revive the tradition with a series of food fairs.  Like Japanese traditional seasonal holidays celebrating harvests, each festival takes place for a short duration.

Pappardelle Pasta with Venison Meatballs
There are four venison specials available:

Venison Chili Con Carne 'Spicy' - $26
Pappardelle Pasta with Italian Style Venison Meatballs - $21
Texas Spiced Venison Burger - $22
Roasted Venison Tenderloin - $42

My favorite of the venison specials is the Pappardelle Pasta with Italian Style Venison Meatballs, served with marinara sauce, shaved parmesan and herbs.  The meatballs were light and packed with flavor.  They tasted distinct from traditional beef meatballs, which was a plus. The marinara sauce complemented the meatballs well and the pasta was done nicely.  The venison brought a juicy and almost spicy note to the meatballs.

Chili Con Carne
My second favorite of the options is the Venison Chili Con Carne 'Spicy' with chunks of venison steak, lean ground venison, kidney, garbanzo and white beans, pepper jack cheese, tomatoes and grilled country bread.  The assertive flavor of the venison shone through and the whole dish was full of bold flavors.  With both chunks and ground venison plus the beans, there was a pleasing variety of textures in the dish.  It was well spiced to give it a pleasant kick.

Roasted Venison Tenderloin
The Roasted Vension Tenderloin with Blueberry Peppercorn Sauce was served with sauteed organic mushrooms and haricot verts.  This was the most traditional of the dishes and was quite solid.  If you are a fan of venison, this was the purest expression of the meat as the loin was roasted and served rare to medium rare in jus.  Personally I enjoyed the use of venison in dishes that are traditionally made with other meats, but this is a classic rendition.

The Texas Spiced Venison Burger was the only dish I can't recommend.  I had it without the cheese and bacon (I abstain from pork) so I did not try it as a complete dish.  I didn't feel that the burger showcased the taste of the venison or had an overall deliciousness in its own right.  It is served with crispy bacon, pepper jack cheese, arugula, red cabbage, fuji apple, red pepper chutney and spicy mayo and country potato wedges alongside.

You only have two weeks to get to Chaya Venice to try these dishes, as come Monday December 12th, the fair will pull up stakes and the fairgrounds will stand empty.  Game meat is all too unusual on Los Angeles menus, so take advantage.  The venison is farm raised in New Zealand.  Chaya Venice puts the festive in food festivals, so go enjoy the ambiance and the meat.  Bambi would approve.

My visit was hosted.

Chaya Venice: 110 Navy Street (at Main St) in Venice.  Phone: (310) 396-1179.  Website:

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