822 Washington Blvd.
Venice, CA 90292
By SARAH SHMERLING | Editor-in-Chief
For this edition of Reviewing from Home, I made my way to Venice to pick up dinner from Nueva, which opened on Tuesday, August 11, with Vartan Abgaryan and Mesraim Llanez leading the culinary team.
The “contemporary Mexican cantina” is a joint effort from restaurateurs Jared Meisler along with Dave and Patti Reiss of the Reiss Co, which has been in the works for more than a year.
“Opening in the midst of a pandemic has been difficult, stressful and, at times, scary,” Meisler shared with the Palisadian-Post. “But it’s also been deeply rewarding and heartwarming. Helping 50 people get back to work has been amazing.”
As the months of COVID-19 continue on, I have held out on dining at a restaurant and am continuing to cook at home more than ever—which made picking up a meal from Nueva the perfect break in my routine.
For those who are interested in dining in, the patio at Nueva is open for social distanced seating.
“Watching guests smile as they take their first bite of food in a restaurant since March is fantastic. Watching their eyes light up with each sip of 2020’s first margarita is a lot of fun,” Meisler continued. “So is the look of relief when we clear their plates and I can see them thinking about all of the dishes they don’t have to wash.”
Meisler, also behind Roger Room, The Friend and The Little Friend, grew up between Pacific Palisades and Santa Monica. He shared that a photo of him at 2 years old on a swing at the park ran on the cover of the Post in 1978.
“When I was 15, I worked at the Baskin Robbins on Swarthmore,” he recalled. “Looking back, that was definitely my introduction to the restaurant business.”
Dinner began with two offerings from the Botanas menu: First up was Crispy Cauliflower, featuring lime, jalapeño and parmesan cheese, served with a cilantro yogurt dipping sauce.
I was pleasantly surprised with how well the dish held up during the drive—the crispiness of the battering paired well with the tender chunks of cauliflower. The parmesan was a nice touch, rounding out the flavors when dipped into the creamy sauce.
Next was Elote: grilled sweet corn, chipotle butter and parmesan cheese, with a chili lime crunch.
This dish was an explosion of flavor, somehow smokey, sweet and savory, all at the same time. The chili lime crunch on top made for a nice change of texture, while remaining not at all too heavy of a dish.
Meisler shared that all of the Ceviche offerings are popular, so I sampled the Classico option, sea bass, lime, cherry tomato, red onion, cilantro, avocado and corn nuts.
From the first bite, it was clear that this dish was not messing around when it comes to the lime. It was everything you want in a ceviche dish, perfectly scooped up by a side of house-made tortilla chips.
Warming up to the tacos, next was the Smokey Caesar off of the Ensalada menu: grilled romaine, tortilla strips and parmesan with a chipotle Caesar dressing.
Right off the bat, I was impressed with the presentation of the dish—even after being transported home.
After cutting up the head of romaine into bite-sized pieces, the dish instantly became my favorite. I love a good Caesar, but this was my first time trying a salad quite like this. Each bite was packed with a smokey flavor—this is probably one of the top 10 dressings I have ever tried. It was that good.
After parting with the Caesar, I finished the meal off with two taco selections. First was the Roasted Squash—a vegan option, crafted with pipian, pepita, salsa, olive tapenade and corn nut. Overall, not a heavy dish. The sauce was good, reminiscent of a pesto.
Next was the Pork Belly Chicharron, with chili lime salt and a serrano pineapple salsa. Meisler recommended this dish as one of the more popular at Nueva and it did not disappoint. The pork belly itself was savory and well cooked, both crispy and tender. The meat balanced well with the tart sweetness of the fruit.
“The Pork Belly Chicharron and Carne Asada tacos, and the Mole Branzino have been the stand outs at dinner,” Meisler shared. “The vegan options have been a big hit too.”
One thing that was noted after trying both tacos was how good the tortilla is—and, despite being chock-full of filing, did not disintegrate during the drive home, making for an excellent to-go option.
Though I did not dive into these dishes during the experience, Nueva also offers brunch, with two of the most-ordered dishes being Huevos Rancheros Shakshuka and Cast Iron Pancake.
I am already planning a trip back for a second serving of the Smokey Caesar and some brunch fare.
This page is available to subscribers. Click here to sign in or get access.