How did I spend so many years in LA and never set foot in Loews Santa Monica?
The atrium / lobby was breathtaking - with towering palm trees underneath the skylit glass roof, and a waterfall wall behind the reception desk offering soothing background noise. I didn't notice this until friends started pointing it out recently - but apparently whenever I really like a place I say: "it feels like you're on vacation". Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel makes me feel like I'm on a tropical getaway, without the kitsch.
There were six appetizers to choose from. Our unanimous first choice was the Santa Monica Ceviche with lime, chili and cilantro marinated shrimp, baja sea scallops, salmon, guacamole, tortilla chips. This was a decent sized platter, and the ceviche and guacamole tasted fairly fresh. But though I appreciated the thoughtful menu (they didn't just serve generic 'bar bites'), and understood these were offered at a pretty low price for SM beachfront property - the quality wasn't something we dreamed about after we left. Not sure that I would crave it, if it weren't for the view.
I guess we could sit on the beach for free - but I liked Papillon, again for making me feel like I'm on vacation. Plus, you can drink at Papillon...
So, Designer decided on champagne and I went for the red sangria. Of the two, I would recommend the champagne (the sangria tasted like 'a drink inspired by wine' and not really real wine with fruit - too diluted and only a piece or two of token fruit).
estimated savings $29)!
After a pretty delicious bread basket containing what I thought was carrot bread (there were some orange - subtle, not dayglo - pieces in the mix) we both of course went for the seafood starter: Santa Monica Chili with Laughing Bird Shrimp, Baja Sea Scallops, Lump Crab, Roasted Garlic, Fava Beans ($16 on regular menu). This reminded us of a bouillabaise but lighter and a tad spicy. All the seafood tasted really fresh, and we appreciated that the shrimp was not overcooked, but tasted made to order.
Four thumbs up on this one.
Ginger Persimmon Nage, Pacific Lobster Mashed Potatoes, Agave Glazed Heirloom Carrots and Beets would taste (and it was not on the regular menu!).
Our server let us know the texture of the shark would resemble swordfish, which then deflated our expectations as neither of us were fans of swordfish - we both liked our fish tender and velvety smooth. We should have guessed that the meat would be tough, as sharks of course swim constantly, are lean and pretty much all muscle. We were glad we tried it, but probably wouldn't order it again anywhere else. The lobster mashed potatoes was the star on this plate.
All in all, a great value for dineLA prix fixe - despite the faltering on the one dessert choice - you get to dine in a relaxed but beautiful setting, AND if so inclined - to grab a few cocktails out by the ocean before dinner at Happy Hour prices.
We will definitely be back again to Papillon for Happy Hour, and maybe dinner at Ocean & Vine at some point when we're able to splurge!
[For photos from other meals / deals from dineLA Fall 2011, check out the album on my Facebook page]
On a 7 point scale:
Flavor - 5.5 bites
Presentation - 5 bites
Originality - 4.5 bites
Ambience - 6 stars
Service - 5.5 stars
Overall experience - 5.5 bites
Price - $$$$ (4 bite marks regular menu)
Probability of return visit - 100% (for Happy Hour & view)
Happy Hour - Daily 5-8pm Wine, select cocktails and appetizers $6.60
Ocean & Vine
dineLA dinner - $34
Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel, 1700 Ocean Avenue, Santa Monica, California, 90401
Parking: Meters on Ocean Ave 2-hour limit, or free after 6pm daily; meters on Main Street 2-hour limit, free after 6pm and free Sundays (of course, double check street signs)
OpenTable: Look for reservations