Hans and Mary Rockenwagner, who met and married while working at Le Parroquet in Chicago, arrived in Los Angeles only two years ago with a television set, two cats and a determination to start their own restaurant. In mid-June, they opened Rockenwagner in Venice knowing no one, and without the usual crutch of publicity or fanfare. To draw their clientele, they relied, instead, on their skills and straightforward philosophy of cooking.
The food is decidedly European in concept and execution. That's because Hans is from Germany, and trained there and in Switzerland and France; his American wife, Mary, was brought up on Italian home cooking and worked in French restaurants. To the point and honest, the food has the look of casual nouvelle cuisine and the stamp of California freshness. Warm tuna salad on a bed of mache (also known as lamb's lettuce and widely available at gourmet markets) exemplifies the Rockenwagner style, and is shown at left. Each slice of tuna is painted with ginger butter, cooked, on one side, on a square of foil (which helps the fish maintain its shape and makes flipping onto the plate easier) and served uncooked side up. This salad is offered as a starter at the restaurant, but it can also serve as a glamorous company lunch.