3 Square Cafe on Abbot Kinney has always been slightly confusing to me. Hans Rockenwagner owns 3 Square, along with several namesake bakeries around Los Angeles. The cafe on Abbot Kinney is prime real estate amongst Gjelina and Joe's, so I guess I clump 3 Square in the same category, but that would be a mistake.
As soon as you step foot into the open doorway of 3 Square, you realize, oh, I could have worn my flip flops. There are colorful floral plastic table coverings and orange cafeteria chairs inside, and wood covered ones outside on the enclosed patio. The servers and hostess couldn't be friendlier and more welcoming, and then you realize, maybe this isn't like the other places on Abbot Kinney. No pretension and no stuffiness, though it wouldn't kill them to utilize their nice windows on the patio to capitalize on some natural breezes.
3 Square is current running a pop-up called "La Sal" which features tapas by their pasty chef, Cesar. Cesar grew up on the beach outside of Barcelona and has put together a short, but sweet list of inspired dishes from his childhood. Think patatas bravas, tomato salad, tortilla espanola. Seeing as we actually are in Southern CA, we started by thinking toast, since we are now forced to see it on most menus around town. This toast included salmon with some greek yogurt, wildflower honey and dill to keep things light and fresh, and that they were.
Then we saw "kalecotada" on the menu and I immediately wanted to know when that word was created and where. Regardless of origin, I liked the smokiness the grilling brought to the kale, and the romesco and braised leek were interesting touches I'd never seen combined with kale before. Not sure if that's what they're doing in Barcelona, but I was intrigued. At first I wasn't sure if it worked, but then I wasn't sure it didn't.
To further my confusion, we ordered the chicken tenders which had a potato chip coating, but a lovely tumeric aioli. Spanish? Who cares. It tasted good.
The eggplant dish was quite nice, probably because it was lightly breaded and fried, but it too had a unique twist with molasses and greek yogurt, giving me a Mediterranean feel that I happily embraced.
We had to finish with flan, even though I'm not a huge fan. It had some creamy caramel underneath, which is a winner, but the texture is always hard for me to shake. This tasted a bit like rice pudding and was slightly chunkier and deceptively tasty.
My more favored finish was the Moulin De Gasac Rosé, luckily in this case from France and not Spain, since I feel the French are superior to all when it comes to making Rosé. Yup, I said it and don't try and disagree. You know you won't win.
I may continue to be confused by 3 Square Cafe, but I don't mind. I like that they try different things than their neighbors and that what they offer is a relaxed, friendly setting for a casual night out in Venice.
3 Square Cafe
1121 Abbot Kinney