Thursday, January 18, 2007
Rustic Canyon *yawn*
It is generally not a good sign when I look over a menu and cannot find anything I really want to eat. Luckily, my party decided to share everything, so the decision was not entirely up to me. Rustic Canyon, the new Santa Monica "wine bar and seasonal kitchen," makes a noble effort to provide a comfortable, yet hip atmosphere, and fine food. The truth is, most everything we ate was perfectly good, just not very memorable (and it is not really a wine bar - there is a small bar and waiting area, but until this initial buzz wears off, do not expect to find a seat). Nothing on the menu sounded very original or interesting. Do we need another restaurant serving their version of The Office Burger? Their Rustic Canyon Burger comes with (what else?) Applewood smoked bacon, Point Reyes blue cheese, and wild greens, blah, blah, blah ($14). As an appetizer they serve Fra Mani Salumi (who doesn't these days?) with Humbolt Fog cheese. The mains complete the basic restaurant menu checklist; 1 vegetarian dish, a burger, a fish, lamb, steak and chicken.
After a nice plate of Spago-esque flatbread with tapenade and butter, we started off by sharing sauteed wild mushrooms over crispy polenta ($12). This was the highlight of the evening. The polenta was ground fine, formed into thin patties, pan fried to a crisp, topped with sauteed mushrooms, including chanterelles, and topped with a little spring of thyme, sticking out of the mushroom pile like a surrender flag. Great combo, nicely executed, just a little too small. Then we shared their wild salmon croquettes with spicy cress and saffron aioli ($12). These were not our favorite. Very fishy tasting, a little dry and too dense.
For the main, we shared pan roasted lamb chops with white beans, watercress and lamb jus ($30). The lamb was ordered med.-rare, and came out slightly underdone (luckily, that is ok with us), and undersalted. The beans had an lovely undertone of smokey pork, reminiscient of many a Lucques dish. The grilled NY steak with sauteed pea tendrills and hand cut (shoestring) fries was boring ($28). Too salty, and a little past med.-rare, and too lean and chewy. The fries were not as crisp as they should have been.
Three glasses of an Italian white wine at $11 each, and a bottle of Box Car Syrah for $40 (the wine list was varied and interesting), the total came to $176.45. For these prices one could dine at Joe's or Lucques and have a far more creative and superior meal. Don't get me wrong, the food was not bad, just underwhelming. And the space is very loud, but that never seems to keep anyone away.
1119 Wilshire Blvd.
Santa Monica, CA 90401