photo credit: Matt Gendal
Belles Beach House
Belles Beach House doesn’t leave much room for mystery. From the moment you enter and see the DJ booth, brightly colored cocktails, and an unnecessarily big tiki statue that belongs at a Survivor-themed bar mitzvah, you know exactly what you're getting into.
Whether you’re into the kitschiness or not, Belles has some redeeming qualities. This generically tropical-themed spot certainly isn’t the first, second, or even the third best restaurant in Venice, but it serves a specific purpose—it’s a fun, loud destination for grabbing elaborate cocktails along the Venice Boardwalk, an area that is better known for bars serving draft beers and watered down gin tonics.
The overall decor at Belles Beach House mixes in a little Tulum, some Bali, and a good amount of Tommy Bahama. It’s campy, slightly over-the-top, and definitely culturally confused. But sometimes dark, muted dining rooms can get redundant, which is why the bizarre ‘70s Waikiki fantasy at Belles kind of works. Sink into one of their plush couches, sip on a few mai tais, and coax yourself into thinking you’re at a splashy destination wedding reception.
On busy evenings, Belles turns into a lively scene: there's a DJ spinning house records and groups of friends hovering over boozy punch bowl drinks, tequila-infused slushies, and, a few orders of spicy tuna crispy rice.
Although Belles is technically a restaurant, the food here mostly feels like an accessory. You might not leave disappointed, but you probably won’t be blown away, either. The menu is a jumble of Hawaiian and Pan-Asian-inspired dishes that range from good to boring and, occasionally, downright bad. The char siu ribs are so overwhelmingly sweet and sticky that you'll want to wash your hands (and whole body) afterward. You’ll also find many overdone food trends on the menu: a riff on Chinese bao buns, a plate of sashimi swimming in ponzu, and a teriyaki burger that doesn’t taste like teriyaki. But even though the menu lacks creativity, some of Belle’s dishes, like the crispy rock shrimp and creamy manoffee (mango + toffee) tart, are undeniably tasty.
Regardless of your stance on tiki-themed parties, Belles remains one of the few spots on the Venice Boardwalk where you can sit down for a solid cocktail. And for that reason, we'd send anyone here who is looking for a fruity drink and some cheesy escapism on a Friday night.
A tiki glass is sometimes a warning sign for a sweet concoction with three types of rum, but this mezcal drink is balanced and refreshing. We’re fans of the black pepper sprinkled on top, which adds a little heat to the cocktail’s sweet guava and smoky mezcal.
This cocktail sounds like it has a lot going on—ginger, sour apple, pear—but honestly, it’s just a really delicious whiskey sour.
Crispy Rock Shrimp
We’re not sure if being compared to a fast food chain is a compliment, but these breaded shrimp are carbon copies of the honey walnut shrimp at Panda Express. The aioli in this dish is supposedly spicy—it’s not—but it is creamy and delicious, and fancied up with some chopped chives and scallions.
You’ve seen this dish before. It’s a plate of meh quality yellowtail sashimi covered with ponzu sauce for $16.
We’ve had better versions of this dish at other restaurants, but the kalua pork stuffed into these buns is at once nicely tender and crispy.
Char Siu Pork Ribs
If you’ve eaten a whole bag of your favorite candy in one sitting, you know how difficult it is to stop but how painful it is to keep going. These pork ribs offer a similar experience. While the pork is tender and pulls off the bone, they are drenched in so much sickly-sweet pineapple glaze they are nearly inedible (nearly being the key word here.)
This is a good, juicy cheeseburger that comes with a kobe beef patty and teriyaki glaze. Except it doesn’t taste like teriyaki or kobe beef.
They saved the best for last at Belles. This dessert has a crumbly graham cracker crust filled with tart mango custard and rich dulce de leche sauce. While it’s neither too sweet or too sour, it is also not as big a portion as we’d prefer.