Last October, John Mascarenhas partnered with Post & Beam restaurateur Brad A. Johnson to turn Abbot-Kinney's longstanding Lily's into Wolf in Sheep's Clothing, taking the same lupine name of the owner's popular pop-up, even as the chefs who built a buzz around its cooking were going on to Southern glory at The Hart & The Hunter. The appropriation of the name didn't sit well with everyone, but it still never seemed to stop the restaurant from being packed. Last weekend, the partners started anew, reopening the restaurant as Willie Jane, named for Johnson's Southern centurion grandmother, and featuring menus from Govind Armstrong, the locally-raised, local product-obsessed chef who chased the demise of his Table 8 empire with the more rooted Post & Beam in Crenshaw Plaza.
The new restaurant hits you over the head with its theme of dressed-up Southern cuisine cleverly stitching down-home elements into a general California sensibility where meticulous market ingredients steer the ship through Mediterranean ports of call.
To this end, Armstrong's menu features dishes like a sweet tea-brined pork chop with date mostarda, rainbow trout with black eye pea hummus, and cast iron chicken with cornbread panzanella and collard green pecan pesto, along with sides like long cooked Blue lake green beans with pear chutney and toasted farro and grilled leek porridge with picked hog meat, with dishes mostly priced between twelve and 24 dollars.
A market-priced menu features three larger format dishes, including a sort of Caribbean fish-out-of-water of curried oxtail with grilled plantains and charred curry leaves that already has us moist of mouth.
Cocktails, meanwhile, stick to the same Southern theme with cherry lime rickeys and Coal Miner's Daughters, served aside Cajun classics like the Sazerac and Vieux Carre. Check out the full current drink and food menus below, available over dinner at Willie Jane.
Willie Jane, 1031 Abbot Kinney Blvd. Venice; 310-392-2425.
Dungeness crab soup with savory benne wafer 14
Oak Leaf lettuces with sunchoke, roasted grapes, Humboldt Fog and pumpkin seed dressing 11
Steamed mussels with tasso ham, grilled spring onion, and preserved lemon butter 12
California quail, cornmeal dumplings, greens 13
Rainbow trout, peanut and black eyed pea hummus, brussels slaw 22
Sweet tea brined pork chop, wilted greens, date mostarda 23
Cast iron chicken, cornbread panzanella, collard green pecan pesto 23
Seared local halibut, warm bibb lettuce and spring vegetable salad 24
Large Format Plates
West Coast shellfish over creamy stone ground grits MP
Whole curried oxtail with grilled plantains and charred curry leaves MP
Southern Comfort and hickory smoked sirloin cap MP
Cornmeal dumplings, smoked lamb hock, garden peas, smothered shallots 7
Creamed savory cabbage with forest mushroom and pickled dried cherries 7
Long cooked blue lake beans, cippolini, and pear chutney 6
Brown butter turnips and their greens with beef bacon and Medjool date mostarda 7
Toasted farro and grilled leek porridge, picked hog meat 7
Brussels sprouts, duck ham, and pecans 7
Tequila, grapefruit liqueur, lime juice
Cherry Lime Rickey 12
Gin, Luxardo cherries, lime, simple syrup
Mississippi Tea 12
Vodka, Altar herbal, rosemary
Coal Miner's Daughter 12
Bourbon, macerated ginger, lavendar honey, lemon juice
Bourbon, Angostura, cherry syrup
Vieux Carre 14
Rye, cognac, Carpano Antica, Benedictine, Peychaud bitters
Bourbon, Campari, Vermouth, thyme
Absinthe rinse, bourbon, Peychaud bitters