Venice Roots

Westside newbie Leona brings a progressive dinner experience to the beach

Written by Michelle Lyn | Photos Courtesy of Leona

The Leona experience begins the moment you log onto the restaurant’s website. The tranquil music lulls you into a relaxed state as you peruse the menu, already feeling yourself slip into a unique dining event.

Hailed as one of the top restaurants in LA, Leona has barely been open five months and already touts Eater LA’s Chef of the Year 2015 title. The top toque is not a woman named Leona, but Nyesha Arrington.

A nod to Venice’s roots, Leona, in fact, was the original moniker for Washington Boulevard, where the restaurant sits, adjacent to Venice Pier. Husband-and-wife owners Breegan and Kristian Vallas are Southern California natives (as is Arrington) and according to Kristian, they “wanted this restaurant to represent why we love Venice and its tradition of avant-garde entrepreneurship.” What’s more, adds Breegan, “Abbot Kinney tried to create a destination in Venice celebrating entertainment, dining and sophisticated fun. We’re excited to bring those elements in to our process at Leona.”

The space’s thoughtful design invites diners to cozy up in a banquette or make new friends at communal tables while admiring historic black and white photos of Venice assembled on whitewashed brick walls.

Arrington’s menu, meanwhile, is focused on “Progressive Californian” cuisine, which ranges from light dishes like Hibiscus Cured Hamachi with pomegranate ponzu and Shiso leaf or her signature dish, Honey Mustard Broiled Black Cod made with local honey, to heavier fare featuring innovative techniques like the Chicken “Brick” with layers of crispy chicken skin and slow roasted apricots.

“We want you to feel like you were hugged from the inside,” explains Arrington. “Our food is consciously prepared with health benefits, like turmeric or ginger, but we’re not afraid to use butter, cream and other classic culinary styles when it is appropriate.”

The eclectic menu, inspired by a blend of Arrington’s California roots, cultural heritage and the local neighborhood, is forward-thinking and can take you around the world with each bite. But even more important, Arrington states, “We also strive to be progressive in creating sustainable sourcing and kitchen practices with little to no food waste.”

With intriguing house-made desserts like the Sweet Corn Tumeric Ice Cream with white peaches, rosewater and pistachios, it’s doubtful that guests are letting any food go to waste.

123 Washington Boulevard
Venice, CA 90291

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