Sunday, July 22, 2012

Superba Snack Bar: Jason Neroni Resurfaces

Superba Snack Bar opened on Thursday evening to crowds that have been enthusiastic, packing the small restaurant from opening til close (midnight on weekends).  The new project from Chef Jason Neroni, formerly of Osteria La Buca, is located on Rose Avenue, just East of Main Street at the border of Santa Monica and Venice.  The menu has an Italian focus and is divided into Cold Cuts (cured meats etc), Snacks, From Our Backyards (vegetables) and From Our Hands (house-made pasta).  The dishes are small plates and meant to be shared and while no substitutions are permitted, they do offer gluten-free pasta in a nod to the many celiac and gluten-sensitive folks in their demographic.

Five "cold cuts" are on offer and they are priced $8 for 1, $18 for 3, or $25 for all 5.  The term "cold cuts" brings up images of deli platters and casual sandwich buffets.  These are nothing of the sort, but rather meats and terrines that Neroni has cured or prepared in-house.  Julia's chicken liver mousse is served with balsamic cherries (note they still contain the pits) and is scooped out of a container like a perfect quenelle shaped chocolate ice cream when plated.  This is no ice cream, but silky chicken liver that spreads easily on the provided toast.  Even better is the Duck rillette with tarragon and pickled green strawberries.  The rlilette is served in a jar, is packed with flavor and has a pleasing texture.

The snacks section of the menu includes pan con tomato, olive oil and sea salt (2 pieces for $8) and an ocean trout crudo that looked beautiful and which I would have ordered, but it had chorizo oil in it but with the no modifications rule, this wasn't an option for me.  Fried duck egg, papas bravas, truffle vinaigrette & tuna prosciutto is a savory treat with the runny yolk coating the potatoes below and the duck prosciutto (they were out of tuna proscuitto) adding another textural element as well as richness to the dish.

The vegetables Neroni serves come from farmers who grow the produce for him, or from the farmers market.  The most umami of the veggie options is the Cherry tomatoes, dashi broth, smoked tofu and shiso/basil.  This lovechild of agedashi tofu and a cherry tomato salad is a highlight of the menu.  The dashi broth is better than at most Japanese restaurants and the smoked tofu paired with the ripe cherry tomatoes is an inspired combination.  One would be remiss in not ordering this dish, and in leaving any drops of broth left in the bowl.

Pasta dishes have become Neroni's signature and they have a pride of place on the Superba menu.  The bucatini with carbonara, pancetta, milled black pepper and Aracuna egg and the Gnocchi with burrata and broccoli necks are the most frequently ordered so far.  The Garganelli with lamb bolognese, black garlic, ricotta salata and mint is a hearty dish and a satisfying end the main part of the meal.  The pasta was cooked to a pleasing degree of doneness and the meaty sauce clung to it well and the proportion of sauce to pasta was spot on.

The Dining Room @ Superba Snack Bar
Desserts are available, although I did not sample any on my visit.  The room is comfortable, with a chef's counter, and a mix of indoor and outdoor seating.  There is a large print on one wall with a repeating stylized pattern of holding hands.  The wine program while small is well thought out and includes several unusual bottles, such as a Greek white wine.  The atmosphere is conducive to stopping in for a light snack or a full meal, although if the restaurant continues to be packed - I can't see customers be willing to endure a long wait just to get a snack.

Currently Superba Snack bar is open for dinner seven nights a week from 5 pm - 11pm (midnight on weekends) and lunch and brunch will follow later once they get a handle on dinner service.

Well worth checking out.  Note that while I was recognized, this was not a hosted meal.

Superba Snack Bar: 533 Rose Avenue, Venice | 310.399.6400 |