1147 3rd Street, Santa Monica CA 90401
Drink, then Eat: A new menu for a classic destination restaurant where atmosphere and excellent service are always on tap.
In this year of many firsts, the eat+drink crew of core contributors decided to grab a few of our loved ones and celebrate the holidays with a visit to that Santa Monica dining institution called Michael's. A fixture on the LA food scene for 37 years, a new chef recently introduced a approach to the menu which focuses on seasonal fare.
Before diving into our festive dinner on the beautiful tented in patio, we gathered in the lounge for a pre-dinner drink and appetizers. The cocktail menu was incredibly diverse as Roman will attest, and there was a good selection of wines by the glass. We all agreed that the lounge would be a wonderful spot to hang out, have a drink (or two) along with a nosh, and spend an hour or two catching up with friends. The location right off 3rd Street and Wilshire Blvd. near the Promenade also offers a quiet respite from what can be a hectic tourist location.
In true eat+drink fashion, we took the communal approach to dinner, ordering pretty much every dish of the notably straightforward menu. The first course included the Spice Roasted Baby Beets (farmer's cheese, white chocolate and almond) with pears that wowed some of us, Potatoes a la Plancha (parmigiano-reggiano, bonito flakes, furikake aioli) which never fail, and Violet Yams with hoison, treviso radicchio, and toasted grenache vinegar marshmallow. This was just a warm up to the plethora of meat and fish dishes that were to follow.
The Barbequed Quail knocked it out of the park for most of us with its distinctly asian flavor (braised white miso) and perfect roasting. The Swordfin Squid offered a new twist most likely because of the maitake mushrooms that were divine. The Denver Steak with kale had the consistency of wagyu beef and disappeared before I could get seconds!
By a majority vote (who says democracy was dead?) the Grilled Branzino with curried black lentils was the clear favorite - I would definitely order on a return visit - while the Duck Breast with roasted delicata squash was prepared just right and easily came in a strong second place. If that weren't enough food for us, the White Pumpkin Agnolotti was a crowd pleasing vegetarian dish to fill any empty gaps in our rapidly filling stomachs. Some of us did not save room for dessert, but the Roasted Barley Pot-de-Creme and Hazelnut Chocolate Genache earned raves. The Whipped Cheesecake though was in a class of its own. A delicate combination of cream and cheese that we had never experienced!
As you can tell, when we get together as a group we don't skimp on the celebration. The patio space was lovely with a large round table to accommodate our group of 9. Not surprisingly, we became more "animated" as the cocktails and wine flowed, but the service never dipped below classy attentiveness. Some of the staff seemed rushed when resetting the table after each course. I'm not sure if they are understaffed (it didn't feel like it) or are pushing the wait staff a bit too hard.
Michael's isn't a place I could see myself adding to a regular rotation, but I will easily add this as a destination to hang out at the lounge with appetizers and cocktails. I remain curious what the seasonal changes to the menu will bring and look forward to a future comparison visit.