2820 Main Street
Santa Monica, CA. 90405
My boyfriend FutureGreg (FG) and I found ourselves at Areal in Santa Monica recently enjoying another of our Monday date nights.
We sat at the bar, as per usual, and were fortunate enough to have our drinks made by their head barman Rich Andreoli.
A very Happy Hour
We arrived at the tail end of happy hour but managed to order a couple of bar bites and a daiquiri off the smaller happy hour menu before it ended.
We started with the Vegetable risotto, it was creamy but not too rich and had a slight chicken stock flavor to it. The peas and asparagus were perfectly cooked, not too crunchy and not too soft.
Risotto: Spring peas, asparagus, lemon parmesan $9
Next we had the beef tartar which had a nice light spiciness. The meat itself was soft, moist and had capers and onions mixed in. It came with hot toasted bread on the side which made a nice contrast with the cold beef. Both dishes were great options for the price.
Beef Tartar: Fresh herbs, capers, shallots, arugula $8
The Daiquiri was a nice simple classic, it was slightly sour for my tastes but FG enjoyed it and it was a bargain at $6.
Original Daiquiri: White rum, fresh lime juice, sugar $6
After the happy hour tasters we ordered off the main menu. We couldn’t decide between the steak or the shrimp pizza…so naturally, we got both!
The 14oz Rib Eye with vegetables was a great choice, the dish reminded me of Sunday Roast dinners my mum would make back in England. All the vegetables were delicious, crunchy and full of flavor.
Yes, you heard correctly, the Fussy One (who used to shy away from anything green on her plate) ate a whole plate of veggies… and enjoyed every one of them! There was Artichoke, Purple Cauliflower, Asparagus, Roast potatoes, Parsnips and Carrots…plus some caramelized garlic and shallot pieces that gave a delicious sweetness to the plate. It was very very good indeed.
Ribeye: Roasted seasonal vegetables, sautéed garlic spinach, herb butter $38
I had high hopes for the pizza we ordered, however sadly the menu didn’t mention it had chilies on so it was a little too spicy for me. The pizza base was delicious though, soft and crispy dough with powdered flour on the edges. I do enjoy a good pizza crust.
Wood Fired Shrimp Pizza: Goat cheese, Roasted garlic puree, Cilantro marinated shrimp $14
Rich is a great bartender and gave wonderful suggestions for pairings with the food. He convinced me to try a large variety of drink options, so we sat at the bar and enjoyed many an alcoholic beverage. He chose me a great glass of wine to enjoy with the steak which was a nice change from the cocktails too. I’m not usually a red wine drinker but he gave me a glass of the medium bodied Mondave Cabernet which worked beautifully with the meat, it was fruity with just a hint of oak.
The first mixed drink I ordered was the ‘Secretariat’. It was a nutty, very rich and sweet drink. It was a little too intense for me at the start of the meal but had a great combination of flavors. The pistachio honey really came through nicely, and worked well with the walnut liquor and bourbon. I didn’t really pick up on the lavender bitters because there were so many other overpowering flavors present. Certainly an interesting option, although i’d personally suggest it as an after dinner drink as opposed to with a meal.
Secretariat- Bourbon, Pistachio honey, Walnut liquor, Sweet vermouth, Lavender bitters $12
FG tried the ‘Single Village Fix’. He certainly enjoyed it, mainly due to the Mezcal, which has become one of his fast favorites recently. The drink itself had a fair amount of sweetness to it from the pineapple gomme (which is basically a syrup) but the smoky mezcal flavors were the most overpowering part of the drink and not really my style.
Single Village Fix- Mezcal, Fresh lime, Pineapple gomme $12
I so wanted to like the Cameron’s Kick, because all the ingredients are things I enjoy. The orgeat was very light, so the drink itself was pretty strong and I didn’t like it as much as I thought I would. FG enjoyed it a lot and described it as balanced but strong. I’m just fussy it would seem…haha who knew?!
Cameron’s Kick- Scotch, Irish Whiskey, Fresh lemon, Orgeat $12
The ‘Infante’ was the only drink that I honestly had no interest in trying because I’m not exactly a tequila fan but FG and Rich convinced me to give it a go at least. Of course, it turned out to be my favorite drink of the night. The tequila wasn’t overpowering at all and the rose water mist and nutmeg on top gave a great nose. It was balanced, refreshing and delicious! I highly recommend this drink.
Infante- Blanco Tequila, Fresh lime, Orgeat, Rose water, Nutmeg $12
Dessert was just utter decadence. We were so full from food and cocktails that we boxed up half the pizza, but somehow Rich convinced us to try the ice cream sundae! This is definitely not correctly advertised, ice cream sundae sounds kind of boring when you see it on the menu…but if you knew how good it was you would get this in a heartbeat. It’s a home made toasted marshmallow ring for the base, butter pecan, chocolate and vanilla ice cream in the center then topped with cream, nuts and bourbon caramel sauce. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!
This was beyond delicious, the marshmallow wasn’t overtly sweet and had a soft almost whipped texture to it. The ice cream was creamy, (butter pecan happens to be my favorite flavor) the bourbon caramel sauce wasn’t overpowering it just blended nicely with all the other ingredients and the toasted hazelnuts gave a nice texture. What a dish!
Ice Cream Sundae for two: Bourbon caramel, chocolate sauce, toasted hazelnuts $12
Just when we were about to explode, the pastry chef brought us a Pavlova to try! She told us that she makes sure the house made meringues remain chewy, so we had to have a taste. Sadly the meringues on this occasion came out a little on the crunchy/dusty side…however the intension was there and i’m sure if we ordered it another time it would be as its intended. The whipped goat cheese was a great accompaniment to the berries on top.
Pavlova: Chewy meringue, Whipped goats cheese, Seasonal berries $9
Time for some Ratings
The food was a solid 3.5 before the dessert came out, but the ice cream sundae bumped it right up to 4 out of 5.
If you can only order one item, get the sundae!!! The rest of the food was all very good as well, the risotto and Steak were my favorites and if it wasn’t for the chilies the pizza would have been excellent also.
I’m giving the drinks at Areal 4 out of 5 also.
All the cocktails were executed well, Rich was chatty and friendly and is a man who clearly knows his craft. I liked that he suggested things to try and asked me what spirits I prefer so he could make a drink accordingly, it made the whole experience more personal. I found some of the drinks sometimes aired a little on the sour side for my tastes, but seeing as I usually go for diabetic sweet they are probably fine for most people!
I highly recommend this restaurant and i’m sure we’ll be back soon. The courtyard has fairy lights everywhere and looks beautiful. The whole restaurant has a romantic and attractive atmosphere, the bar is well stocked with lots of interesting bottles and liqueurs (some we’d never seen before) and the background music they play is great. Soft rock and chill songs by bands such as Oasis, Red Hot Chili peppers, Snow Patrol and Cold Play (all my favorites!).
All in all a great night out. Shame about the $68 parking ticket that awaited us, we were having such a good time we forgot to feed the meter!
Oops… still well worth the night out though