Chaya Venice Reprises Its Garlic Fair

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Flat-Iron steak with roasted garlic cloves Photo: Tatiana Arbogast

If you're anything like us, our condolences you're ga-ga for garlic, with no destination as glorious as Gilroy and no recipe that won't benefit from fragrant slices of the lightly-cooked stinking rose. Okay, maybe that's going a little too far, but we are quite devoted to the bulb at home. For the 17th year running, Chaya Venice is running its Garlic Fair menu through September offering, 21 different dishes inspired by chef Yuichi Natori's Japanese heritage, Chaya's European exchanges, and additional flair added by its Oaxacan sous chef. The varied selection includes a motley mix of escargot cocotte, black garlic-seared yellowtail sashimi with garlic-citrus miso, tandoori-spiced salmon with garlic corn, fusilli arrabiata, and grilled chicken with a garlic pumpkin mole.

We tried five dishes last night on the restaurant's invitation, diving into a flat iron Angus laden with multiple cloves of roasted garlic, yellowtail sashimi, Kurobuta pork gyoza with chili garlic ponzu, soy-glazed black cod, and what's typically a favorite treat of our's, the izakaya specialty of komochi shishamo, fried whole smelt packed with their own roe.

Smelt

Komochi Shishamo, fried whole smelt packed with roeTatiana Arbogast

You say "garlic fair" and our memories snap back to a heady, sweet, spicy smell of serious comfort wafting from mama's pot. Here, garlic seemed to provide more of a supporting role in most of what we tasted, disappointingly more evident in sauces than playing point-guard in the dishes.

Gyoza

Kurobuta GyozaTatiana Arbogast

The smelt, authentically packed with roe, lacked snap, leading to a mushy mouthfeel and the unmemorable gyoza lacking any discernible pork juice. The sliced steak was pretty and pretty hom-hum, tepid with a kim chi pilaf devoid of any kim chi sensation whatsoever.

On a better note, the black cod was flawless and more or less to kill-for, tenderly sliding off in sweet sheets, while the yellowtail bore notable, but not gnawing, garlic notes, offered a subdued astringency from its garlic soy sauce and combated by tiny dabs of smooth avocado for a nice balance. Of course, those are just five of the 21 options on offer, with two of the five recommendable, the others in need of some fine-tuning.

Our feelings about a restaurant we don't normally run to was recently altered by Chaya Venice's excellent buffalo-based menu a few months back, and the garlic fair does feature a buffalo burger, this time around with garlic-chili chutney, so maybe that might have made a stronger choice. In any case, the full breadth of Chaya's "Garlic Fair" menu is below if you're interested in trying your own hand with some garlic-bearing picks.

Chaya Venice's Garlic Fair
September 4-30

Menu

STARTER

Escargot Cocotte (3-pcs) 9

Hummus with Pita Bread 8

House Cured Salmon w/Truffle Oil Lebanese Garlic Spread & Garlic Herb Crostini 14

Fried Japanese Shishamo Smelt Fish with Garlic Salt, Spicy Mayo 12

Sweet Shrimp & Garlic Pickles Ceviche, with Garlic Tostada 11

Tsubugai, Scallops, Mushroom, Haricot Verts, with Provençal Garlic Butter 15

Black Garlic Seared Yellow Tail Sashimi, Garlic Citrus Soy, Micro Shiso 15

Beef Carpaccio with Wild Arugula, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Garlic Olive Oil, Lemon 13

Kurobuta Potstickers, with Chili Garlic Balsamic Ponzu 12

Heirloom Tomato with Wild Arugula and Garlic Boursin Cheese 13

SEA

Tandoori Spiced King Salmon 29
Garlic Corn I Asparagus I Potato Medley with Salsa Verde

Organic Tilapia 29
Sautéed Garlic Chives I Julienned Vegetables I Sweet and Sour Sauce
Garlic Flake I Steamed Brown Rice

Soy-Glazed Black Cod 32
Hijiki Garlic Brown Rice Pilaf l Steamed Bok Choy l Tempura Asparagus
Sweet Soy Sauce l Garlic Flake

Grilled Whole Sea Bass 32
Stuffed with Garlic I Fennel I Rosemary l Tomato & Basil

Fusilli Arrabbiata 19
Sautéed Shrimp l Roasted Garlic l Goat Cheese Purée

Bouillabaisse 29
Shrimp l Whitefish l Mussels l Clams l Potato l Garlic Toast
{add ½ lobster $6}

LAND

Grilled Free Range Chicken with Jumbo Shrimp 29
Garlic Pumpkin Mole I Garlic Potato Puree I Broccolini

Buffalo Burger 23
Pretzel Buns I Garlic Chili Chutney I Pepper Jack Cheese I Garlic Sweet Potato Fries

Angus Flat Iron Steak 30
40-Cloves Roasted Garlic Herb Au Jus I Asparagus I Kimchee Rice Pilaf

Kurobuta Pork Chop 30
Cinnamon Sesame Puree I Spanish Olive Tapenade l Haricot Vert l Garlic Green Risotto