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Govind Armstrong's Willie Jane opens in Venice

March 20, 2013|By Betty Hallock
  • Govind Armstrong has opened Willie Jane on Abbot Kinney in Venice.
Govind Armstrong has opened Willie Jane on Abbot Kinney in Venice. (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles…)

Cornmeal dumplings, smoked hocks, sweet tea and benne wafers have arrived on Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice. Low country-influenced Willie Jane very quietly opened this weekend, the sophomore endeavor from the duo behind Post & Beam in Baldwin Hills -- chef Govind Armstrong and restaurateur Brad Johnson.

Named after Johnson's 100-year-old, Georgia-born aunt, Willie Jane mixes low country and Caribbean cooking with a California bent.

"We had been talking about Low Country, Caribbean and Cajun food from New Orleans," Johnson said of the Willie Jane menu. "We already had kind of migrated Post & Beam’s menu a little bit toward Southern, fried chicken, corn bread, things we didn’t start off with, in response to what the community seemed to want."

Dishes include Willie Jane Dungeness crab soup with savory benne wafer; California quail with cornmeal dumplings and greens; and rainbow trout with peanut and black-eyed-pea hummus with Brussels sprout slaw. There's a sweet-tea-brined pork chop with date mostarda and cast iron chicken with cornbread panzanella and collar green pecan pesto.

The menu also reflects Armstrong's departure from ubiquitous small plates, offering family-style platters that serve four: West Coast shellfish over creamy stone-ground grits; whole curried oxtail with grilled plantains and charred curry leaves; and hickory-smoked sirloin cap.

Long-cooked Blue Lake beans, brown butter turnips and their greens, and dumplings with smoked lamb hock are among the sides. And for dessert, there's red velvet cream cheese cake bombs with vanilla bean ice cream and chocolate peanut butter pudding with devil's food cake and honeyed peanuts.

Johnson said there have been "modest improvements" to the 120-seat restaurant, whose space he described as "an old building with lots of charm.... It feels a bit like an old house that just needed a little warmth and love."


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