Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Wabi Sabi - Beauty In Venice's Imperfection

Ever since Wabi Sabi opened on Abbot Kinney Boulevard in 2001, it's been our go-to place for sushi. We were sad when the Korean liquor store in the location at 1637 Abbot Kinney closed up shop, but really good sushi just a walk across the street consoled us quite a bit. Fourteen years later, it's still one of our favorites, and in fact, has become even more of a beloved treasure more recently when it's become one of the few places on the block that you can still see a lot of locals.

I sat down the other day for one of my favorite cocktails in Los Angeles (the grapefruit basil martini - pure Summertime!) with Wabi Sabi's manager, Fumi Kimura to catch up and hear the latest on what's going on with our hangout. Kimura (who has been at Wabi since a month after they opened) told me that after Yo Santa Monica Mirror posted an item about the Wabi Sabi building being sold (for 7.4 million!), the restaurant has been inundated with calls and emails from people wanting a table for their last night, in a total panic that the place was closing. As of now, that is not true.

Kimura said that yes, the building has sold. Yes, there is a new owner. But no, they don't have a new tenant, and Wabi Sabi is staying right where it is, for as long as the new owner allows them to - and even they don't know how long that will be. Total limbo. If the building's new owner is smart, it will be a long, long time. With the closure of our Hal's (now going to be a stupid Houston's/Hillstone!), Wabi Sabi has picked up the slack. The community really can't handle the closure of another community fixture, not without a lot of resentment building up for whoever would take over. So let them be! NO MORE CHAINS! Venice is not everywhere. Gross.

Wabi Wabi is now the place you can walk in and wave to all your neighbors at Happy Hour (5:30-6:30). Wabi Sabi is one of the few places left on AKB where you can get a real drink (and a delicious one!), not just beer and wine, and that liquor license is real valuable. The art on the walls is by local artist legend (being evicted from his Venice studio) William Attaway. The chalk drawings above the bar are by our homegirl, Anna Kondo. Locals who have been priced out and have had to move away make the drive back to Wabi Sabi specifically, always expressing their relief that Wabi is still there, thank God. Wabi Sabi is also one of the places where it's not a hipster scene, and the staff is genuinely glad to see you.

We LOVE the Wabi Sabi staff, and they love each other. It's fun to see people working among friends, going out together in the neighborhood when they get off, and enjoying and helping each other when they are at work. I wanted to take a photo of everyone, and they all wanted to wait until they could all be in it ... so we waited. In the middle of a dinner rush, the sushi chefs can still find the time to make a little origami treasure for a little girl regular. It's like that.

Kimura said that locals are feeling sad that Venice is losing its fabled edge, and are giving up, "but now is the time for us all to appreciate each other even more ... now is the time to grow together in a special way." What a lovely way to put it.

Wabi Sabi means "Beauty in imperfection" in Japanese, and with so much imperfection going on all around us all the time, Wabi Sabi is truly a bit of beauty within it all, and we're all so grateful to still have it.

Wabi Sabi is OPEN - every day.
1637 Abbot Kinney Boulevard

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