Sunday, September 15, 2013

Superba Snack Bar

It is a thing of beauty when the "To Eat" lists of friends overlap. On a recent double date with fellow food lovers, we all wanted not only to catch up but also to cross a spot off our ever-growing lists, which led us to Superba Snack Bar in Venice.

Superba Snack Bar

Superba Snack Bar is the brainchild of restaurateur Paul Hibler (Pitfire Pizza) and chef Jason Neroni (Osteria La Buca). The restaurant, which has large cut-outs exposing the main dining room to the open air, feels a bit like an auto repair shop ...if your mechanic were to serve up housemade charcuterie, fresh takes on veggies, and handmade pasta, that is.

We began by delving into Superba's boozy offerings, ordering three of the restaurant's four cocktails.

The Elder @ Superba Snack Bar

The crisp, fizzy Elder combined elderflower syrup, Cocchi Americano, citrus and a splash of prosecco ($12.00).

Pepino Fresco @ Superba Snack Bar

The Pepino Fresco with Dolin Vermouth, Bonal, lemon juice, cucumber, ginger and a splash of prosecco ($12.00) was dry but refreshing.

Superba Sour @ Superba Snack Bar

In the Superba Sour ($12.00), Cardamaro was tempered with simple syrup, fresh lemon juice and egg whites, yielding a rich, frothy drink with a hint of sweetness.

As is common with small plates restaurants, a glance at the tables around us confirmed that our server was overstating the number of dishes that our party of four should order. As such, we settled on four smaller plates and two pastas.

Porchetta di Testa Pastrami @ Superba Snack Bar

To start was the Porchetta di Testa Pastrami ($10.00) from the "Cold Cuts" section of the menu, in which head cheese was cured pastrami-style and served thinly shaved atop a slice of rye bread and topped with dill pickles. While I don't normally give head cheese a second glance on a menu, I appreciated the inventiveness of this take.

Grilled Watermelon @ Superba Snack Bar

Off the "From Our Backyard" portion of the menu, we selected two items-- first, this cool, crunchy combination of grilled watermelon cubes, whole basil leaves, bao crumbs, fried chicken skin and pickled ramp dressing ($15.00). We found the flavors to be balanced and refreshing but all agreed that the bowl could have used more fried chicken skin and couldn't explain the pretty steep price tag on this simple dish.

Cauliflower T-Bone @ Superba Snack Bar

Our second veggie plate was the Cauliflower T-Bone ($16.00), a steak-like slab of cauliflower dressed with avocado puree and topped with pickled beets and castelvetrano olives. While this is undoubtedly one of Superba's breakout dishes, our group felt that the cauliflower didn't wow when eaten without the other components on the same forkful.

Charred Figs, Ricotta and Porchetta @ Superba Snack Bar

This simple plate of charred figs, housemade ricotta, opal mustard and shreds of porchetta ($14.00) from the "Snacks" portion of the menu was a winner. Each bite was simultaneously salty, sweet, tangy, creamy and delightful.

Cacio e Pepe @ Superba Snack Bar

Cacio e pepe may seem unadventurous, but the simplicity of this al dente whole wheat rigatoni bathed in pecorino and black pepper ($14.00) hit the spot.

Sweet Corn Agnolotti @ Superba Snack Bar

Our final savory course was also my favorite, a plate of pillowy sweet corn agnolotti spiced up with jalapeno butter, ancho powder, and fresh lime ($18.00). Crumbles of creamy sheep's milk cheese finished the plate. These kicked-up accompaniments were way more exciting than the brown butter which is usually paired with corn agnolotti.

To finish, we dug into the menu's two desserts.

S'mores & Chocolate Pudding @ Superba Snack Bar

This grown-up take on s'mores with graham cracker crumbles, creamy chocolate pudding and a mountainous toasted marshmallow ($9.00) didn't bowl me over but was perfectly enjoyable. We also missed the cute lil' jar that we'd seen house the dessert in pictures (#InstagramExpectations).

Macerated Strawberries, Burrata Gelato, Lime Curd, Corn Pop Crunch @ Superba Snack Bar

While I didn't quite understand the combination of burrata gelato with macerated strawberries, lime curd and corn pops ($9.00), the sweet, crunchy spoonfuls just worked, and I stopped thinking about it too hard. 

Despite some misfires, Superba's blend of fresh, California-inspired cooking and standout pastas will keep me coming back.

Superba Snack Bar
533 Rose Avenue
Venice, CA 90291
(310) 399-6400
Superba Snack Bar on Urbanspoon

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