Feeling a bit under the weather, I ordered the spicy chicken soup ($9) for lunch at Axe on Abbot Kinney in Venice. Made with white chicken and rice in a simple, clear broth, it tasted clean and healthy. I’m not usually a huge fan of cilantro so I asked for the spicy relish on the side. But after tasting the onion-heavy mix, I dumped the whole batch into my bowl to kick it up a notch. One question: Would it kill them to add a few veggies?
Axe (pronounced ashay) has always been a top choice for a local lunch, namely because it never sends me into an afternoon food coma. The dishes are light and healthy, a simple mix of soups and salads made with fresh organic ingredients from local farms. The lentil sausage soup with tomato onion relish is a wonderful and hearty choice for cloudy beach days.
I was a little surprised, however, to see the “fall salad” (with chicken, apple, potato and celery) still on the menu in April, given that Axe touts itself as seasonal. When I inquired, the hostess said they switched the dinner menu but won’t have a new lunch menu for another few weeks. Fall ended more than three months ago. How seasonal can it be?
The bottom line: If you’re a vegetarian or just someone who enjoys simple food that won’t hurt your waistline or the environment, you will probably dig Axe. (This place sends its kitchen scraps back to its farm suppliers for composting.) If you’re looking for inspired, high-concept cuisine, go elsewhere. Axe is essentially a minimalist’s paradise.
The basic rice bowl, which I always order with brown rice, bursts with beans sprouts, carrots, cucumber and onion, radicchio, peanuts and huge sprigs of basil and mint. You can add “mostly wild” salmon (whatever that means), chicken, tofu or a hard-cooked egg. You can also construct your own salad plate with choices such as beets, hummous, quinoa, goat cheese and greens of the day.
The dinner menu is more substantial, with soy braised beef short ribs, porterhouse pork chop and sake marinated filet of beef. But whatever you order, be prepared to sit on hard benches amidst bare white walls and artsy Venice types. It can get crowded and loud, and yet I keep finding myself coming back again and again.
Axe, 1009 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, CA; 310-664-9787.