I noticed the Curious Palate on Venice Blvd a few weeks ago and it looked inviting enough for me to finally stop inside for a look and a taste; now all I’m wondering is what took me so long.

It is a nice small market for all the things to make a memorable meal, whether you are looking for Black Sea Salt from Hawaii, organic lentils, Arborio rice, fair trade Madagascar chocolate (proceeds go towards building a children’s orphanage), Italian Salumi, hand made country pate with peppercorns and port, or their marinated beets or pickles (both home made).

Better yet, eat one of their sandwiches ($8-13 each), like the the Prosciutto Panini, with La Quercia Prosciutto Americano, on a rustic roll with house-marinated baby artichokes, roasted red bell peppers & fresh mozzarella cheese, or their Sloppy Jiao, a soy braised pork shoulder, shitake & bamboo shoots topped with grilled scallion over fresh spinach on a brioche bun.

Vegetarians can choose a salad (about $9 each) like the Big Curious Salad, which is their house salad of green lettuce, Christmas lima beans, feta, olives, roasted peppers & house-pickled beets tossed with Elliot’s famous balsamic vinaigrette, or their Quiche-n-Salad Veggie Salad, made with spinach, Gruyere, tomato, scallions, house made pastry, served with a small Curious Salad. You can even make a meal from their sides ($4-17 each depending on the size) like the beluga lentils with feta, olive oil, smoked sea salt, avocado and roasted red pepper, or a side of their perfectly sauteed spinach with garlic and pine nuts (their version is my new favorite spinach side dish), or the ultimate comfort Gruyere, goat, blue, and cheddar mac and cheese.

And yes, they have desserts like scones, cookies, and brownies, so if you are too full to have dessert here, take it to go. One of the best things about this place is they offer online ordering, so you can pick up your order curbside (a great thing on busy Venice Blvd.) without having to find parking (the lot in the back is constantly full).

The atmosphere and service are both friendly and professional, befitting the quality of ingredients both in the market and on the menu. They are building an additional enclosed patio, so soon there will be even more to this wonderful neighborhood cafe; but go now so you can savor it before it becomes packed with foodies.

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