Next Iron Chef competitor must have learned all he needed to know as former chef of Wilshire, because everything here was impeccable.This Santa Monica eatery has beautiful, rustic dishes and an ambiance of unrefined sophistication. Marble tables are surrounded by walls of reclaimed wood in Andrew Kirschner's welcoming, dimly lit space. The natural woods and raw materials emphasize the simple, honest quality of the modern American restaurant. There are plenty of wood-fired dishes with healthy, organic ingredients to choose from. The
I never would have guessed this was 'Tar and Roses' opening night because there was not a glitch in the food or service. Here's a look at dinner.
Beef tongue slices [$13] were served cold, and though the cut was on the thicker side, the tongue was tender, resembling sashimi texturally speaking. The ample flakes of roasted garlic brought a wonderful warmth of flavor and the small scoops of Mediterranean tuna added a Spanish element to the dish and a natural salinity that I adored.
The lemon ricotta gnocchi [$12} with charred rapini was a nice, subtle dish. The dumplings were soft and light, and the faint lemon flavor of the broccolini was a gorgeous accompaniment. The slight crunch of the greens, and the tender potato compliment each other well. This is a mild dish that is pleasantly rustic.
The bone marrow [$9} with marmalade and gremolata was delicious and copious. Piled and smeared onto heavenly pieces of garlic bread, with the parsley and lemon zest sprinkled on top, this extremely rich treat has incredible taste. A creamy nuttiness and sweetness to it, this primal fuel source of animal fats and protein is also loaded with vitamins and minerals.
The whole, roasted sea bass [$24] made a picturesque arrival. With grill marks on the crispy metal flakes of its skin, and lemon slices and herbs placed between the delicate filets of its belly, the branzino looked too pretty to eat on it's bed of leafy greens. Luckily, I was able to capture the beauty with my iPhone, and the truth is, fish bones are just as darling to admire.
The fish came with a meyer lemon risotto that was so creamy it made me light headed with happiness. Of course, I had to eat more to regain my strengths. We also ordered a side of Tahitian squash [$6] that arrived with quinoa, kale and pistachios. The squash was spiced with tumeric and I loved the spices and nuts thrust together in the bowl with the kale and quinoa. What a handsome blend of earthy tones and warm notes to balance out the sweetness of the squash for a taste of something rugged and wholesome.
The little gem lettuce salad [$10] was perfect as an after dinner salad to help us digest. There was an intense lemon dressing on the lettuce, with mustard seeds and small sardines for that added bite that made the salad memorable. A dollop of burrata helped cut the acidity and mixed in with everything nicely, in that luscious way that is so classic of this gooey mozzerella.
Seriously, this crostada [$8] was even better than it looks. With a warm egg custard layered on top of handmade, flakey crust and piled high with small, lightly toasted, forest strawberries, blood orange and rosemary, I was instantly hooked. There was a glass jar full of honey comb ice cream from L.A Creamery that had bits of real honey comb and swirls of honey in it. The ice cream was too good for words. Now I know why all this fuss is made over the birds and the bees. The raw honey crystals weren't just sugary. They were sticky and candied and sweet and could not have been better suited for the tart berries and bold flavor of the blood orange. Maybe The Land of Blood and Honey isn't Angelina Jolie's Bosnia, but a dessert at 'Tar and Roses'.
Arborio rice pudding [$7] arrived in a passion fruit caramel sauce with Mercado almonds. Fruity, sweet, nutty, rich and creamy. The passion fruit was a magnificent touch, just bursting through the other flavors and enhancing them.
'Tar and Roses' also features an extensive charcuterie and cheese selection and family-style dinners that must be ordered in advance for parties of 5 or more. Some of these truly inventive and hearty dinner options include a wood-fired goat with Moroccan accompaniments, a whole goose with traditional sides, a standing rib rack with horseradish potato purée or a shellfish pot with roasted corn. With such spectacular choices, choosing can't be easy, but no matter what, I think everything here is coming up roses.
All you foodies out there with eclectic palettes who want to stay abreast of what is going on in the world of food have found a new, mouth watering blog to sink your teeth into. Justine Freeman wants to talk about the healthy quinoa salad and tuna stuffed peppers she eats regularly at Pizza Mozza but then she cannot wait to divulge every greasy detail about the sensational short rib and mac n cheese sandwich she devoured at the Grilled Cheese Truck. Here, It's all about FOOD.