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A great night out at ‘Tar & Roses’

Tar and RosesTar & Roses

602 Santa Monica Blvd,
Santa Monica, CA

310 587 0700

FutureGreg (FG) and I hadn’t been on a date night in a while due to illness and busy schedules, so I was very excited to try this new place yesterday which FG had suggested after meeting the owner, Chef Andrew Kirschner.

We arrived without a reservation thinking it wouldn’t be a problem, mainly because it was a Monday night and we usually sit at the bar anyway.  We were shocked to see it was slammed. I couldn’t believe how busy it was and they were fully booked until 9.30pm (we were there at 7.30pm!) The bar area is very small (mainly because they only serve wine and beer,) so we opted to wait and see if there were any cancellations. Just our luck a table for two became available within 5 minutes. PERFECT!

Restaurant

We decided to start with the ‘Chicken Oysters on a stick’.  Our server told us that the oysters of a chicken are two small, round pieces of dark meat on the back of the bird near the thigh.  I love dark poultry meat so this was ideal for me, the pieces were very soft yet tender with a lot of flavor.

Chicken oysters

The sticks reminded me of a dark meat chicken satay and came with a tamarind sauce on the side, which had a slightly spicy kick to it but was sweet and tangy too. Nice little bite to begin with.

Chicken Oysters on a stick-tamarind sauce $7

Gnocchi

Next we tried the ‘Ricotta gnocchi’.  This dish was full of interesting flavors from all the elements like squash and Brussels sprouts. The balsamic sauce was delicious with ricotta cheese and gave a subtle sweetness that paired beautifully with the soft gnocchi pieces which were cooked perfectly. I ate the remaining sauce like a soup it was so creamy and delicious.

Ricotta Gnocchi- Winter squash, Brussels Sprouts, Balsamic $11

Our neighboring table (who by complete coincidence turned out to be the Chefs father) got the snapper and I admit I was astounded to see the fish whole on the table, complete with eyes and tail! They did tell us that it was fantastic, and I could see the fish literally fall off the bone it was cooked so beautifully. Not for the faint hearted, or the fussy ones though!!!

Whole fried Snapper for two- Cold soba noodles, dipping sauce $48

SNAPPER

I went for the hanger steak which was perfectly cooked medium rare and came with wood fired leek that gave a sort of charcoal toasty taste to the dish. The squash purée was like mash potato but less creamy so much easier to eat and the chanterelles mushrooms were surprisingly good.  As most of my readers know, I don’t like the texture of mushrooms usually but these went down nicely with the steak. They weren’t too firm or at all rubbery.

Hanger Steak

The whole dish was covered with some sort of sweet almost red wine type sauce that worked with all the components of the dish.  The overall result was heavenly and I wiped the plate clean.

Hanger Steak- sunchoke puree, wood fired leeks, chanterelles $25

FutureGreg had the Skate wing (the fin of a fish that looks like a sting ray) which was incredible too. It was a white fish that fell apart when you ate it but still had a nice texture to it. The salsa verde on top gave another dimension to the dish and the celery mash underneath worked beautifully with the other flavors on the plate.  Skate Wing

I love sting rays as an animal (my favorite sea creature) so I was sad when I realized what we were eating, but I must say this is a really incredible entree option that I highly recommend and very yummy.

Skate Wing- Wood roasted escarole, celery root puree, salsa verde $23

Brussels SproutsWe got a side of Brussels sprouts, which weren’t my favorite at first but certainly grew on me the more I ate.  I felt the mustard dominated all the other flavors on the plate and the sprouts were cooked a little too al dente for my liking but it was by no means a bad dish, and FG certainly enjoyed it.  I did love the chestnuts on the plate, which were soft and sweet.

Brussels Sprouts- Chestnuts, crisp Pancetta, mustard $9

Instead of dessert, we decided to end with a few options from the cheese section of the menu.  You can mix and match bruschetta, meats and cheeses for a very decent spread. 3 for $14 or 5 for $20.  We went for the Cane De Cabra Spanish Goats Cheese, Cabot clothbound Cheddar from vermont and the Duck Bruscetta with fig jam and arugula. The platter came complete with raison toast pieces, apple slices and quince paste.

Cheese board

The duck bruscetta was moist and a great size crostini, the date paste underneath it gave a tasty sweetness that complimented the braised meat.  The goats cheese was delightfully soft, very creamy and a great choice. The cheddar was amazing too and I highly recommend both those choices for cheese.

I am giving Tar & Roses a full 5 out of 5 platters!

5full (1)

This truly was a wonderful place for dinner. Chef Kirschner has put together a great restaurant with an excellent menu. We had an extremely delicious meal and didn’t really dislike any elements of the evening.  I felt that the dishes were all correctly sized and fairly priced for how great they were. The atmosphere was lovely too. A warm and inviting little restaurant with a lot of nice features and great lighting. Not too loud either, so we were able to hear each other across the table, which was nice for a change.

I wish they had a bar program with cocktail options, seeing as i’m not really a wine or beer drinker, but other than that this is a great great option for your next date night. Enjoy!

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The Corner Door

The Corner Door
12477 W. Washington Boulevard
Culver City, CA 90066
310-313-5810
 
 
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I had a really great time at this restaurant, the first time we went.  I had heard some good things about the drink menu from my boyfriend FutureGreg (FG) but had no expectations of the food.

Miner Incident- Bourbon, Apricot, Lemon, Honey, Thai Chilies $12

The first drink I tried was great and called the ‘Miner Incident’. It was beautifully balanced with a definite kick from the chilies. Slightly sweet although the bourbon came through nicely and the use of apricot was a welcomed change from other fruit options usually on offer.

FG had a Mezcallin to start, which he described as a ‘Mexican Penicillin’, which is pretty much what it is!

Mezcallin- Mezcal, Lemon, Ginger, Pineapple Gomme $12

The food menu looked very appealing and so we began with some tasty bites.  We ordered the Bread and Whistles, which FG enjoyed a lot but sadly I didn’t find it to be anything special.  I have had honey and ricotta style appetizers before and loved them, this ricotta brand wasn’t my favorite. The bread was great though.

Bread and Whistles- with Butter, herbed olive oil, ricotta, honey $5

Next we had the brussel sprouts (something I usually hate, but when done right are truly delicious!) they were perfectly sweet with caramelized onion, and a burnt honey’d taste.  The texture was great too, soft center with crunchy outer leaves.  The feta on top was a nice finishing touch. This is an excellent appetizer and I highly recommend it.

Brussels Sprouts- Roasted and fried, Feta $9

By the time our appetizers were done we needed another round of drinks. I went for the Swizzle and FG had ‘The Left Hand.’  The Left Hand was one of the specials on the board for the night, it was basically a Boulevardier with Rye, which he enjoyed although I found a little on the bitter side.  The Queens Park Swizzle was good though, sweet and refreshing. I couldn’t quite taste the strawberry in the bitters, but the overall drink was nice.

Queen’s Park Swizzle- Rum, Lime, Mint, House Strawberry Bitters $12

     

Left Hand- Rye Whisky, Sweet Vermouth, Campari $12

For our Entree we ordered the Salmon and the Asparagus with Burrata.  The Salmon dish was nothing short of excellent.  I mean, really, this was a fantastic piece of fish.  The dill sauce was creamy but not heavy or too rich.  The fish itself was full of flavor with a nice moist center and almost crispy edges. The frisee was fresh and paired nicely with everything else on the plate.

Pan Roasted Wild Salmon (original)- Green olives, orange, Frisee $24

The asparagus was just ok, it was cold asparagus with a warm cooked egg on top and I didn’t like the cold and warm contrast that much. The flavors paired nicely but the temperature differences just didn’t work for me.

Grilled Asparagus & Burrata- Fried egg, Cilantro pistachio pesto $14

For dessert we had a very tasty piece of horchata soaked almond cake. Oh my goodness was this delicious. It was moist, with the taste of almond essence or marzipan.  The salted caramel ice cream occasionally had large salt crystals in it, but the two worked perfectly together. It was a decent sized slice also, great end to the evening.

Horchata soaked almond cake- “dulce de leche”, salted caramel ice cream $9

The bar itself is really attractive, I love Edison style lighting and it worked nicely in this setting. There was a big bar in the center and the place had a casual, warm feel to it.  The staff were friendly, the food was great and drinks list was varied.

This place was going to get full marks for food, sadly I have to be honest (which is why I have taken a while to put this review up, because I don’t like to give negative remarks if I can help it.)  The thing is, FG and I returned a few weeks ago because I was utterly craving the salmon (it was that good).  When we arrived I told the bartender (same one from previous visit) that i’d been daydreaming of it all day, he remarked on how it was one of his favorites also.  We didn’t even look at a menu, just ordered the Salmon dish and the brussels again.  The Brussel Sprouts were just as great as the first visit, however when the Salmon came out it looked completely different.

At first I thought my memory was totally off, but it was in a corn like broth and wasn’t the same grilled piece of fish I had expected. I commented on it and the bartender informed me that they had changed the recipe and now it had a red pepper risotto (I hate red pepper I should add) and they’d changed the cooking method.  It was more than a little upsetting for me, mainly because it really was a totally different dish and I had truly been craving the other version all day.  Now I must say, it wasn’t a bad dish. It was still good actually, but nowhere near what it had been previous.  I totally understand and welcome seasonal menus, I have no issue in changes daily, but the only part that upset me was the fact that the bartender didn’t mention the menu had changed when we ordered it. When I pointed this out to him, he said “Yeah I guess it did change, I kind of preferred it before too” WELL WHY DIDN’T YOU SAY SO EARLIER!? haha…Oh well. It is, what it is and the place still gets a good mark overall because of everything else.

I am giving this place 4 out of 5 Platters because the first visit was so successful.  Word to the wise, be sure to check ingredients when you go to places that change their menu constantly. You may end up falling in love with a dish that is no longer available a week later! 😦

I’m giving 3.5 out of 5 Coupes for the drinks. The options were decent and varied, the staff sweet and I really did like my apricot drink a lot.  Nothing totally blew me away, but the drinks were certainly balanced and enjoyable for a night out.

If you are in the Culver City area any time soon, I will say The Corner Door is certainly worth a visit.  I am sure FG and I will be back…we’ll try something different to become the new favorite! Oh, how I will always have fond memories of that first salmon though. 🙂

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Areal Restaurant

Areal

2820 Main Street
Santa Monica, CA. 90405
310-392-1661

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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

More Food…

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

Drinks please!

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

Sweet tooth

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 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 🙂

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