Night + Market: Great Food, Disappointing Wine Program

I have very mixed feelings about my experience at Night + Market in Venice. I have read and heard great reviews. After all, chef and owner Kris Yenbamroong was a semifinalist for the James Beard Foundation in the Rising Star Chef category and the James Beard Foundation’s Best New Chef West award. Los Angeles’s Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Jonathan Gold praised the restaurant and named it 24th best restaurant on the 101 list.

Arriving at the Venice location, I knew the space would have a hipster vibe. It was packed, lively and energetic. The decor has a playful cheesiness to it with pink strands and colored lights hanging down in front of the windows, neon lights and posters all around. 

The food, as I had hoped, was delicious. I was a little intimidated at first as I know Thai food can be spicy and lots of dishes had chili signs next to them. When we asked our server about the spiciness, she answered but was not particularly friendly. There was a coldness to her and she did not exude positive energy.

We ordered a few dishes and asked for little or no spice. Everything we ate was delicious. The Garlic Green Beans had a rice garlic sauce that I was licking up every last drop.

The Panang en Neua is a beef short rib panang curry served with roti, a fried bread. The meat was tender and the curry is rich and spicy (although we asked for it toned down) and had a lasting finish.

The Chicken Pad Thai is served with sweet radish, tofu, egg, crushed peanuts and chili powder. The noodles are thinner and were cut in smaller pieces that typical pad thai dishes. But, I liked the smaller noodles, both for the texture and for the ease of eating.

The Khao Pad Pu is crab fried rice. The crab is mixed in with the rice. There seemed to be a lot of crab meat but the crab flavor did not stand out.

In case of unexpected spice, we ordered the Coconut Sticky Rice. 

And for dessert, we had the seasonal Mango and Coconut Rice.

The food at Night + Market did not disappoint and made me happy. What annoyed me was the wine list. I knew that Night + Market focuses on natural wines, which is not a draw for me. I am all for organic, sustainable, biodynamic, minimal intervention wines. But the natural term/movement has always rubbed me the wrong way. Natural does not mean it is better wine and I don’t want an oxidized or dirty tasting wine just because it is “natural”. But despite the issues I have with the movement, I know there are many good wines and figured there would be some interesting wines.

Considering the menu has a lot of spicy dishes, it would be appropriate to have a few white wines with a little sweetness, such a some German Rieslings. The sweetness in the wine can help mitigate the spice of a dish and makes for a great pairing. But, there were no Rieslings by the glass and nothing that would fit that need. Our server sort of snipped at me that there were Rieslings available by the bottle (but for the record, I only counted one on the list).

Instead, there are three white wines, two orange wines, one rosé, one pet nat and three red wines.

My friend ordered the Rosé, a blend of Grolleau and Gamay from Loire, France. It had notes of sour red berries with a little bit of funk and my friend was not particularly excited by it.

I was looking at the 3 white wines and trying to decide what I wanted. There is the blend of Falanghina and Bombino Blanco from Puglia, Italy, the Mauzac from Southwest France and the Chenin Blanc from Loire Valley, France. I was curious about the white blend and generally like Falanghina. But, our server, who did not know my level of wine knowledge and spoke to me like I was a wine idiot, said that Falanghina is weird. I told her that I like Falanghina and she said that the wine has a barnyard-iness to it. Falahghina is typically zesty with peach fruit, minerals and almond notes. Barnyardy? I looked at her and said, “oh, you mean it is flawed.”

This is what was annoying about Night + Market. As good as the food is, the wine list was a disappointment. It wants to be TOO cool, TOO obscure, TOO hipster. Had I ordered the wine and knew nothing about Falanghina or “natural” wine, I would have not liked a white wine that smells like a barnyard. I would have the wrong perception of Falanghina. In the end, I ordered the Chenin Blanc, which was ok. Next time I go to Night + Market for the food, I will bring my own wine and pay the $30 corkage as that way I know I will get a wine that is not flawed and will compliment spicy food.

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