Art deco bar that I fell in love with
Signature Cocktail: Speak E-Z-T
Crunchy Yellowtail Crudo
Pinot Noir Braised Short Rib and Wagyu Beef Aburri Duo
Miso Marinated White Sea Bass
Warm Chocolate Criossant bread pudding
Downtown isn’t my first choice to go for a night out but this particular adventure was inspired by a glowing recommendation from a close friend. It was also a special occasion (taking my man on a date). After getting completely lost for 20 minutes in the convoluted one-way streets of downtown we finally reached our destination: Chaya Downtown.
The Chaya Downtown feels more upscale than the restaurants other location in Venice as the decor seems both newer and nicer. It is strewn with chandeliers and an etched mirror bar that I could not take my eyes off of all evening (or perhaps it was my dazzling reflection!). The clientele seems to be classier too, but that is probably because of the nature of the area (think Asian business men).
Chaya has an eclectic menu to say the least; you can order anything from sushi to homemade pasta. In an effort to experience the range of options the menu has to offer we began the meal with the Crunchy Yellowtail Crudo with garlic jalapeno ponzu. This was just what we needed to calm our nerves after getting lost. It was light, yet was bursting with flavor. The fish was extremely fresh and flavorful on its own yet the other ingredients only enhanced the fresshness even more. The roasted garlic added a smoky flavor I wouldn’t ordinarily think to pair with raw fish, yet it added complex flavor. The jalapeno provided just the right amount of heat to get AND keep my attention. Even the crunch on the yellowtail was unique, it was these little crunchy ball type things that soaked up all the flavor of the ponzu and didn’t lose any of the crunch.
Eric (‘boyfriend’) was brave enough to try one of the signature cocktails, made up of many many ingredients. He ordered the Speak E-Z-T which included Russian standard platinum vodka, ginger beer, punished mint, squeeze of lime and candied ginger. While the drink came off tough (just look at that heavy duty mug it comes in), it is actually a light refreshing cocktail. No harsh taste of alcohol, just the light flavor of mint, ginger and lime I could imagine myself sipping it sitting on a wrap-around porch in Madison, Wisconsin in the summa-time. (Go Badgers!).
For the main course we ordered the Pinot Noir Braised Short Rib and Wagyu Beef Aburri Duo two meats, one plate. I’ve had pinot noir braised short rib in the past and it has tasted exactly like pinot noir, NOT what I want my meat to taste like. With this dish, the short rib had the rich essence of the pinot noir without the heavy wine flavor. It was smooth and tender and melted onto my fork and into my mouth. The mushroom risotto was my favorite part of the dish and had a rustic flavor that paired well with the short rib.
On the other side of the plate was the Wagyu Beef Aburri. The combo had an Asian essence without feeling out of place next to the rustic short rib. The meat was tender and had a light wasabi marinade. I preferred the braised short rib to the wagyu, but it was all-excellent. The short rib was just one of those melt-in-your-mouth moments and nothing on the table compared (except the dessert which I will get to in a little).
We also ordered Miso Marinated White Sea Bass, which has for now restored my faith in fish. The Sea Bass was fresh and cooked into a delicious buttery soft fish-cloud. It was light and flaky with each bite oozing with miso flavor. It sat on top of sticky rice that had a mellow coconut flavor but played nicely with the miso sauce when mixed together. The eggplant had the tenderness of a ripe heirloom tomato, each bite melted into my tongue and disappeared in my mouth like cotton candy. I’m not the biggest fan of bok choy soley because it’s stringy and limp and surprisingly tough to pin down and cut into small bites, but on this dish there were smaller versions that were pleasantly much more manageable.
Finally, the crowning glory of the meal was the Warm Chocolate Criossant bread pudding with a scoop of dulce de leche ice cream on top (it’s the dessert that kind of looks like an octopus). This is their signature dessert and it was divine. Every bite had the rich buttery-ness of a croissant but the baked gooeyness of bread pudding. Then you would hit bites of chocolate and it would be a game changer. Don’t get me started on the dulce de leche, chilly and warm, caramel and chocolate, crunchy and soft, every bite had you spooning for more.
I would highly recommend Chaya Downtown as a dinner option before any Downtown activity. Every plate around me (yes I was drooling on the tables next to me) looked just as delicious as the ones I was being served. Chaya Downtown you get Two Forks Up! Oh, and I’d like a second bread pudding to go please!