Enjoy the food. Savor the conversation.

Santa Monica Yacht Club

Santa Monica Yacht Club
620  Santa Monica Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90401 $$$

Eat AND Drink: The right kind of seafood that fits in with LA's sprawling foodie culture and many influences and stands out in a recent push of seafood in the city.

The Santa Monica Yacht Club opened a year and a half ago and became a raging hot spot on the westside for a good long while. I really loathe fighting my way in to a restaurant when it opens with lots of fanfare (ie, don't expect a review of Catch anytime soon). I find that reality rarely lives up to the hype, the staff are under the gun because of the demand and the kitchen can be very spotty. I very much like waiting awhile and seeing if first the hot spot has any legs and secondly, can the staff and kitchen evolve to be more than what everyone was talking about 6-12 months before.

On a Wednesday night recently, I opted to finally make it over to the Santa Monica Yacht Club with three friends I work with as a bit of a celebration for one who has recently had a baby. Said baby finally received all his shots and Mom was running to get a night out with a real drink in her hand.

I arrived a bit early to check out the bar and have a drink. The host was delightful and quickly directed me to the bar where one of my friends was already waiting. I loved the decor - part nautical, part contemporary Los Angeles restaurant with clean lines and lots of shiny wood. Oysters were on display at the end of a well stocked bar. I was very much hoping they had a decent bar program and I wasn't disappointed.

I started out with a LuLuLime - vodka, cucumber, mint, lime, ayurvedic bitters, cayenne - it was pretty perfect for cool (for LA standards) night even though it sounds like a summer drink, mostly because even though it was cool like a cucumber, that cayenne gave it a good solid kick. My friend ordered a beer - a Scrimshaw can tell I was paying attention. Keeping with the vodka theme, I tried the Eastern Trade Wind - vodka, asian pear, yuzu, jasmine honey - next. It was delicious by I went right back to the LuLuLime - it just had the right combination of light and spicy and foamy that was working for me that night.

Somehow, while everyone was chatting and perusing the menu, I convinced them to just let me order for the table. To start us off, I ordered the Yellowtail Crudo - citrus, whipped ricotta, shiso, white soy - and the Striped Bass Ceviche - coconut water, cilantro, pea shoots. The yellowtail was cut a bit thicker than I've had it in the past and I half expected it to reflect a bad cut of fish but the added heft gave the dish an unexpected appeal. It felt hearty and substantial but with all the lightness and citrus I was expecting. Now for the ceviche - I'm not a ceviche lover, something about it just sets me off but this version was served in a half coconut and really allowed you to dig into the coconut meat in each bite. It was meaty in its own light way. Delicious.

Next on our menu were the Yellowtail Collar - pomegranate bbq sauce, lemon - and the Rock Shrimp Dumplings - san bai su, green onion, sriracha. Both were excellent and brought something different to my ideas of seafood.

For the "main" course, I ordered the Grilled Branzino - sunchoke puree, apple, endive, hazelnut - the Duck Leg Confit - brussel sprouts, dried cherry compote, chestnuts - Whole Fried Snapper - cold soba noodles, dipping sauce - and the Green papaya and Cabbage Slaw - fish sauce, herbs, peanuts. The Slaw went perfectly with the Snapper, just like our waiter said it would. And the Snapper - what can I say. It's such a show stopper when it comes to the table and the pieces of meat just pull off since they're already cut into diamond shapes. It was all so well put together and fun and not too stuffy or taking itself too seriously - my favorite kind of food.

It's also interesting to note that Los Angeles has had a spate of seafood restaurants in the last few years - from Connie & Ted's in West Hollywood to Herringbone in Santa Monica to Knuckle & Claw - that have all focused on East Coast Seafood which was sorely lacking on the west coast. I love my lobster roll, oysters and clams like the next New Englander. But Santa Monica Yacht Club is not the same. It's seafood - yes. But it's seafood with Asian influences, Californian influences and an easiness that makes you happy to be there.

To cap the night off I ordered ALL the desserts - my signature move - along with two dessert or "end of the meal" wines. I was emboldened by my recent completion of a wine class and was very excited to know what a Fino Sherry and Canadian Icewine were! 

All the desserts were decadent and delicious. From the whimsical Root Beer Float to the Bread Pudding but our by far favorite was the Fruit Tart - flaky and sweet and tart and sugary and.....ahhhh. All kinds of goodness wrapped up into one small plate.

I'm excited to stop by again soon and to make up for lost time at their sister restaurant - Tar & Roses. It's a long story and my fear of restaurants with ampersands in their name....ah, for another time.