Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Wood

I had a very disappointing breakfast this morning at The Wood, a brand new little cafe in Mar Vista where El Castillo used to be. They transformed the little castle into a cute cafe, with outdoor seating. It is a new venture between the owners of The Grind and Cafe Laurent. I was really hoping The Wood would be a fantastic little neighborhood gem, with decent breakfast and coffee, but unfortunately the best thing in the place is the cool Dave Lefner print on the wall. 

You order at the counter and they bring your order to you. The service is quasi-self-serve. Want syrup for your pancakes, or sugar for your coffee, get up and get it. When the server brought me my meal, the flatware was rolled up in a paper napkin, on the plate with my food, sopping up the grease. Good thing I had already gotten a napkin myself when I got my coffee.

They offer many espresso drinks, but their drip coffee is served in ultra-tacky pump thermoses you serve yourself. My capuccino was brought out in a paper cup for my "for-here" order, and they quickly put it in a ceramic cup at my request. I ordered the 2x breakfast of two eggs, two sausages, two pieces of bacon and two pancakes, with potatoes. The potatoes were greasy and tasted like the oil they were fried in, the scrambled eggs were prepared the way I hate:  not stirred before they hit the grill. So you end up with white bits and yellow bits. The pancakes had the fainted hint of rose water - a very perfumey, soapy taste. Intentional or not, I did not like them. 

The space is loud - it was only me, a table of two and a couple of employees (and lots of traffic at the intersection). I really, really, wanted to like The Wood - it would be so great to have a great breakfast and lunch place within walking distance from my apartment, but the meal was so mediocre, and the coffee so unmemorable, I am afraid to go back and give it another try. 

The Wood
12000 Washington Blvd.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Riva - I Forgot My Camera

I hate it when that happens. I met some friends for a fantastic meal at Riva the other night. Owned by the team that brought you Fraiche, Riva is another awesome creation. In the old Scarboni and Pentola spot in Santa Monica, I think this restaurant will be the first to last in that spot.

They have a nice, all Italian wine list organized by style and price, rather than region, making it easy to navigate for those unfamiliar with Italian regions and varietals (the informed sommelier can help you out too). We ordered from each section of the menu: crudo, appetizer, pizza, main courses, cheese and dessert.

Of the crudos we had seabass, tuna and cuttlefish, each one better than the last. Refreshing, light, and just enough for one bite per person, they were the perfect starter. Then we shared some house-made headcheese, which our sommelier paired brilliantly with a sparking rosado wine. We shared two pizzas (one, curtesy of chef Jason Travi), a bianca with spinach and ricotta, and one with potato, creme fraiche and rosemary. Cooked in a wood burning oven we each enjoyed these pizzas thoroughly. On my next visit, I would like to take a seat at the bar, and enjoy some crudo, pizza and wine and call it a night. But last night we couldn't stop there.

We shared the steak for two (yet big enough to split among the for of us) presented table side, served with lentils, cavalo nero, and bagna cauda, cooked a perfect medium rare. To kick off the end of the meal, we had a cheese plate with three (very small slices) cheeses, then three desserts: torta della nonna, chocolate cake and budino. All beautiful. We were stuffed. I loved the whole experience and cannot wait to return. I am sorry I forgot my camera, I hate blogging without photos. Thanks for reading all the way to the end! By the way, we had a celebrity sighting. At the table next to us was Tom Hanks and Martin Short.

312 Wilshire Blvd
Santa Monica, CA