Makani

By CHRISTIAN MONTERROSA | Reporter

It’s not everyday that you get to taste a piece of art. In fact, putting a Van Gogh in your mouth would be highly frowned upon and would bring forth the legal hammer from art conservationists.

But tasting a culinary masterpiece is exactly what you get to do when ordering a dish at Makani, the newest restaurant owned by Chef Makani Gerardi, owner of Pono Burger.

This time, the Hawaiian native took a step back from the kitchen and enlisted the help of executive chef Kevin Lee, giving him a blank canvas for his paint brush shaped like a chef’s knife.

Chef Lee moved to the United States from South Korea at the age of 16. After high school, he worked as a designer for a few years until opening a fast food restaurant with a friend that ultimately inspired him to go to culinary school.

“My mom was a good cook, without me realizing it,” Lee said in an interview with the Palisadian-Post. “You know, you grow up with your mom’s food and you’re eating it, but then you go to your friend’s house and you’re like, ‘Dude, there’s something wrong with the food. It’s not right.’”

The homemade dishes served by his mother as a child and the diverse food culture of the San Gabriel Valley, where he lived as a teenager, gave Lee the unique culinary perspective that is quickly tasted in the dishes he serves.

Meanwhile, Gerardi was busy building a small culinary empire of her own in the Los Angeles area. She now owns three separate restaurants, each one a powerhouse of its own.

In her Venice debut, Gerardi designed a feminine enclave with all round edges, to emulate the curves of a woman. An enormous hourglass shaped bar greets new customers that have no idea their culinary bar is about to be raised.

Lee served Eggplant & Nurungji, a spicy eggplant, fire-roasted peppers, basil, mint, puffed rice chip, inspired by a snack frequently made by his mother. At the sight of my delectation, Chef Lee smirked, knowing he was just getting started.

The Buttermilk Fried Niman Ranch Pork Ribs made with chipotle-gochujang ‘bbq’ glaze, peanuts and chives gave new life to a commonly served rib, and the accompanying mac n’ cheese gave new life to my stomach.

Beverage Directors Raymond Wick and Conner Mitchell who have created a “rum-centric bar program touting over 80 varieties from around the world,” served their Casco Viejo Daiquiri, a panamanian ron with citrus, egg whites and sugar cane.

Chef Lee served us just about everything on the menu for this food review, and what quickly became apparent, is that they serve food for just about everyone, creating the welcoming and relaxed environment they had set out to make.

Palisadian Andrea Heindel, who manages marketing and events for Makani, has made it possible to rent out the space for corporate or private events. Heindel—and the Post—strongly recommend Palisadians to step out of the 90272 and visit this new culinary gem.