Rustic Canyon 4

Restaurant: Rustic Canyon [12, 3, 4]

Location: 1119 Wilshire Blvd. Santa Monica, Ca 90401. 310-393-7050

Date: May 13, 2011

Cuisine: Farmer’s Market Californian

Summary: Excellent Seasonal New American


As a seasonal market driven California restaurant Rustic canyon can be counted on to mix up the menu a bit fairly frequently. It’s a friday night favorite for us, and we return every two months or so. Many of the specific dishes change, but the overall types and categories stay consistant. If you are interested in the previous meals at Rustic Canyon, meal 1 heremeal 2 here, and meal 3 here.

The front.

Today’s current menu.

Spanish style – olives on the table.

I got a glass of Riesling.

“Burrata, roasted artichokes, fava beans, stinging nettle pesto, ramps toast.” This is sort of like make your own cheese bruschetta as the blog of Burrata (here for more on this wonderful cheese) can just be slathered on the toast.

“Asparagus soup, asparagus tips, smoked bacon.” It was of course the lardons that made this entire dish.

“Roasted beets & farro, roasted beets, feta, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, red onion, fennel, yogurt.”

This was a special, not on the menu. A squid ink homemade pasta with botarga and fiore di sardo (Sardinian peccorino). Very nice, with a sweet and briny flavor.

The desserts, which are very good here, but we were full.

Check out other LA meals here.

JiRaffe is no Joke

Restaurant: JiRaffe

Location: 502 Santa Monica Blvd. Santa Monica, CA 90401. 310.917.6671

Date: April 1, 2011

Cuisine: French American

Rating: Santa Monica Classic


To me, it seems JiRaffe has been here forever. It opened in 1996, and to have made it 15 years in Santa Monica is no small feat. The space next door (which is a really nice two floor space) has had 7 restaurants in the same period! JiRaffe remains not only in business, but busy — and good. It is headed by Chef/Owner Raphael Lunetta and serves creative California adapted French influenced flair with a concentration on farmer’s market ingredients. Lunetta was ahead of the recent trend exemplified by places like Gjelina, Rustic Canyon, and Fig. His style is more classic, but not in the least outdated.

The nice two floor space. There is a loft (not visible) with a number of tables too.

The cocktail menu.

“Blood Orange Cosmopolitan, Grey Goose Vodka, Key Lime and Fresh Blood Orange.” This is the kind of real cocktail I like to see, not the saccharine kind of concoction I got the other week at Gladstones (see here), but a drink made from fresh ingredients and no flavored alcohols. It was tart, but really flavorful.

The appetizers.

A variety of breads.

The amuse, a mushroom cream cappuccino. Very tasty, almost truffle flavored and very rich. They actually goofed slightly and brought this after our appetizers, making it more of an intermezzo, but it didn’t matter.

“Roasted Organic Beet Salad, organic beets, carmelized walnuts, dried cherries, goat cheese cream, banyuls-ginger vinaigrette.” This dish has become ubiquitous, but I suspect JiRaffe was one of the earliest to offer it on their menu (it might have been an 80s Wolfgang Puck invention, but I’m not sure). This particularly implementation has always been one of the best I’ve ever had. The sweet of the beets pairing beautifully with the sharpness of the goat cheese, and the chewy crunch of the walnut/cherry combo adding to the effect.

“Purple Peruvian Gnocchi, rock shrimp, pearl onions, mandarin tomato concassé, herb infused tomato nage.” Although these gnocchi look like the grubs I encountered in china (as a breakfast condiment for congi), they tasted delicious. The sauce was extremely buttery, and paired perfectly with the soft little pillows and the tender shrimp.

Les entrees.

“Crispy Scottish Salmon with parsnip puree, white wine braised fennel, and an aged balsamic nage.” Note that the fennel was substituted out here for spinach.

“New Zealand Lamb Rack, yellowfin potato samosas, vegetable moussaka, thyme-scented lamb jus.” The lamb itself was delicious, exactly what you’d want. The jus perfect as well. My only complaint was the samosas which were very bland, tasting only of potato. I’m not such a plain starch fan. They were okay soaked in the jus, but I would have preferred a strong curry flavor or something.

JiRaffe also has a VERY yummy looking dessert menu, but we were too full to partake. The full menu can be found HERE.

Overall JiRaffe is a Santa Monica classic, and for good reason. This is a solid kitchen and everything is very tasty. The menu remains consistant. It does change, but in a slow evolutionary way, mostly swapping out seasonal ingredients and preserving what is essentially the same dish. They could experiment a little more, but they do have a good thing going.

Rustic Canyon 3D

Restaurant: Rustic Canyon [1, 2, 3, 4]

Location: 1119 Wilshire Blvd. Santa Monica, Ca 90401. 310-393-7050

Date: February 25, 2011

Cuisine: Farmer’s Market Californian

Summary: Excellent Seasonal New American


As a seasonal market driven California restaurant Rustic canyon can be counted on to mix up the menu a bit fairly frequently. It’s a friday night favorite for us, and we return every two months or so. Many of the specific dishes change, but the overall types and categories stay consistant. If you are interested in the previous meals at Rustic Canyon, meal 1 here, meal 2 here.

The current menu.

Spanish style – olives on the table.

The current wines by the glass.

I had two wines tonight. The “2008 Yves Bruessin, Vouvray, Loire.” and the “2009 Domaine des EscaravaillesLes Antimagnes’ Cotes du Rhone.” The white was pretty much as expected, the red was a little rough around the edges.

“Local sardines, Crostone, Olivada.” Grilled sardines on the crunchy bread, with a sort of olive tapanade. I had hoped these would be a bit more marinated, like typical Spanish Boquerones-anchovies. It was tasty, but not for land-lubbers — Sardines always have a bit of the… sardine taste.

“Prawn and pork belly Spiedino, Garlic, Rosemary, Lemon, Chilis.” A lemon butter sauce with a strong garlic-rosemary thing going on. The pork was very soft. Essentially a variant of bacon wrapped shrimp!

“Roasted beets & farro, roasted beets, feta, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, red onion, fennel, yogurt.”

“Crispy white polenta, wild mushrooms, sunny side farm egg, parmigiano-reggiano.” Interesting mix of textures, crunchy soft. Very cheesy.

“Ricotta Gnocchi, braised duck ragu, parmigiano-reggiano.” Incredibly soft gnocchi, very nice cheesy/meaty ragu. Classic Bolognese type taste, but with the soft pillowy texture of the risotto.

The dessert menu.

“Lemon cornmeal sundae, meyer lemon sherbet, toasted cornbread, whipped cream.” The cornmeal was a bit like cornflakes, giving me this Japanese vibe. The sherbet had a great soft lemon flavor, enhanced by the whipped cream, which had an almost creme fraiche vibe. This all gave it the overall flavor profile of a lemon cheesecake. Refreshing.

Figs are in Season

Restaurant: Fig

Location: 101 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica, Ca 90401. 310-319-3111

Date: January 14, 2011

Cuisine: Farmer’s Market American

Rating: Solid!


It’s fairly impressive that the Santa Monica Fairmont invested in getting a REAL chef (Ray Garcia) and turned their in-house restaurant into a place that’s worth going to even if you don’t have any other reason to be in the hotel. I’ve written extensively about all the new LA Farmer’s Market driven restaurants, and this is a place in line with Gjelina (REVIEW 1, REVIEW 2), Rustic Canyon (REVIEW 1, REVIEW 2), or Tavern (REVIEW 1, REVIEW 2). You can’t really go wrong with any of them, although each has its own distinctive personality.

Bread is in the bag. It comes with this arugala butter. Even better than normal butter.

The menu. You can also find it online HERE, but they change it constantly based on the seasonal ingredients. Notice that they even tell you which produce is in season at the bottom.


The by the glass wine list.

I wanted something light and got a glass of this Husch Anderson valley Gurtz. It was ok, but reinforced my opinion that old world imitations of German whites don’t really compete.


For a fairly casual place, it’s nice to get an amuse. Mandrin orange with micro greens.

“Apple and Butter Lettuce, Pecans, Cabecou, Spring Herbs.”

This was a special. Shrimp ravioli (singular), with ginger, micro salad, and grapefruit. This was really good, but very different. The Ginger/Seafood/Citrus pairing was very nice and light, and went well with my wine.

“Pumpkin Tortellini Blue Hubbard Squash, Sage.” Other than being mysteriously overpriced at $28 this was a very nice dish, and my wife LOVES pumpkin Tortellini. Still, it wasn’t quite as good as the completely classic form from Verona/Mantua with the amaretto cookies and the simple butter and sage sauce.

Meat Pie, Chanterelles, German Butterballs.” This was the ultimate “shepherd’s pie.”

Inside is braised waygu beef cheeks! Very tasty, rich meaty inside with a fluffy layer of mashers on top. My style of meat and potatoes.

The dessert menu, but we were too full.

The hotel has this very cool tree out front in the valet circle. Parking is free with validation, which is nice given that hotel parking (Peninsula, you know who you are) can sometimes be crazy expensive.

I like fig, and we’ve been 5-6 times. The atmosphere by the pool/garden is very nice too, particularly during the day. But the food is very good, and changes frequently, which I like. They have a lot of meats and cheeses too. Once I ordered the “Foie Gras and Chicken Liver Parfait, Fig Marmalade, Grilled Baguette,” but it was just too fatty EVEN FOR ME!

Rustic Canyon Redux

Restaurant: Rustic Canyon [1, 2, 3, 4]

Location: 1119 Wilshire Blvd. Santa Monica, Ca 90401. 310-393-7050

Date: Dec 20, 2010

Cuisine: Farmer’s Market Californian


When I first moved out to California in the early 90s LA cuisine was typified by Asian influences and whacky fusions — all of which I enjoyed. In recent years fusion has become more subtle — and more prevalent — and more and more top restaurants have become ingredient driven. Those whose chefs have a knack are really good, and Rustic Canyon is one of them. My review of a previous meal is here.

Another gem from my cellar. Parker gives this 95. “Another unbelievably rich, multidimensional, broad-shouldered wine, with slightly more elegance and less weight than the powerhouse 1996, this gorgeously proportioned, medium to full-bodied, fabulously ripe, rich, cassis-scented and flavored Grand-Puy-Lacoste is a beauty. It should be drinkable within 4-5 years, and keep for 25-30. This classic Pauillac is a worthy rival to the other-worldly 1996. Anticipated maturity: 2002-2025. Wow! What extraordinary wines Grand-Puy-Lacoste has produced in both 1995 and 1996. At present, I have a marginal preference for the blockbuster 1996, but I am not about to argue with anybody who prefers the 1995! Both are compelling wines.”

The menu here changes daily. Very little is the same as the last time I visited and reviewed.

Like in Spain, olives on the table.

“Squash blossoms, goat cheese and mint.” Fry is always good. This is a Roman dish, specifically, it’s a Jewish Roman dish that’s centuries old — and it’s still great.

“coleman farms lettuces pickled shallots, parmigiano-reggiano, mustard vinaigrette.” Tasted more like pizza than salad!

“panzanella hierloom tomatoes, green olives, red onion, country bread, arugula.”

“ricotta gnocchi braised duck ragu, parmigiano-reggiano.” These melted in the mouth, and were as good as a similar dish at any Italian joint.

“niman ranch burger sharp cheddar, onion fondue, bread and butter pickles, herb remoulade 18 hand-cut french fries.”

“niman ranch pork chop roasted pears, pancetta, porcini, sage.”

“niman ranch burger, breakfast style. With confit bacon, sunny side-up egg, hash brown, tilamook cheddar, 18 hand-cut french fries.”

Zoom in here for the heart stopping view.

If you read regularly, you’ll have seen this favorite before. Parker gives this 96. “Beaucastel has been on a terrific qualitative roll over the last four vintages, and the 2001 Chateauneuf du Pape (which Francois Perrin feels is similar to the 1990, although I don’t see that as of yet) is a 15,000-case blend of 30% Grenache, 30% Mourvedre, 10% Syrah, 10% Counoise, and the balance split among the other permitted varietals of the appellation. This inky/ruby/purple-colored cuvee offers a classic Beaucastel bouquet of new saddle leather, cigar smoke, roasted herbs, black truffles, underbrush, and blackberry as well as cherry fruit. It is a superb, earthy expression of this Mourvedre-dominated cuvee. Full-bodied and powerful, it will undoubtedly close down over the next several years, not to re-emerge for 7-8 years. Anticipated maturity: 2008-2025.”

The desert menu.

Coffee ice cream, more like gelato.

“Pear ginger sundae, pear riesling sorbet, gingerbread crumbs, caramel sauce.” Not your classic sundae. The pear sorbet and the breadcrumbs tasted like pear pie. The creamy looking stuff was more a creme fraiche than a whipped cream. Overall delicious.

“Passion fruit posset, creme fraiche whipped cream, toasted pistachios.” Tasted like passion fruit pudding. I love passion fruit.

Again Rustic Canyon proves it’s chops. And Ron Howard was there too.

The New Cal Cuisine: Rustic Canyon

Restaurant: Rustic Canyon [1, 2, 3, 4]

Location: 1119 Wilshire Blvd. Santa Monica, Ca 90401. 310-393-7050

Date: Aug 25, 2010

Cuisine: Farmer’s Market Californian


Having lived for 16 years in LA I’ve watched the evolution of California Cuisine. When I first came here we were still in the fading years of the 80s eclectic, typified by places like Spago or 90s fusion like Matsuhisa or the much missed Abiquiu. Today, it’s all about being ingredient driven, and Rustic Canyon is one of our many fine examples of this trend.

Burrata with peaches. You can pretty much never go wrong with Burrata or Fresh peaches.

An heirloom tomato (this very buzz word a legacy of the trend), cucumber, yogurt, goat cheese salad.

Tonight’s pick from my cellar. I love my burgs. RP gives it 93, “The dark colored 1997 Latricieres-Chambertin has profound prune, plum, and licorice flavors. This satin-textured, explosive, deep, masculine wine is tannic, structured, and powerful. Blackberry juice, mint, and plums can be found throughout its deep flavor profile and opulently flavored, persistent finish. It will require cellaring patience yet has the potential for mid- to long-term aging. Projected maturity: 2003-2012+.”

Sweet corn soup, with Pistou. This dish had an unctuous foamy texture, and brought out the very best in sweet corn flavor.

A trio of crustini. Each with very interesting (and delicious) flavor profiles. Tomatos and basil, new style. Anchovies (not the over salted sort) and a sweetish tapanade, crisp goat cheese and olives.

Homemade Gnocchi, with fresh Genoese pesto. This brought out the lovely brightness of the basil.

Sweet corn (again :-)) Agnolotti. Yum. Fresh pasta, which you never saw 10 years ago.

Cinnamon beignets with a foamy chocolate cappachino sauce. This is really a variant of the traditional Spanish churro with chocolate. And that’s not a bad thing because both are delicious! These were hot hot out of the frier.