Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Is it Good or Does it Suck

Mr. & Mrs. Bubbles were in town for the week and we were trying to get together for dinner. Mrs. Dancer was organizing our get together and was attempting to coordinate when and where. I suggested to Mrs. Dancer that we try Tar & Roses, a new gourmet neighborhood restaurant that opened up in Santa Monica not too long ago and that was getting great reviews. I have been dying to try it. Funny enough Mrs. Bubbles had heard from a co-worker about Tar & Roses as well and also suggested to Mrs. Dancer that we try this place. Both of us didn’t have any idea that the other had suggested it. That was serendipitous!

Since Mr. & Mrs. Bubbles were staying in a hotel near the restaurant Mrs. Dancer and I carpooled down. Poor Mrs. Dancer is in a very uncomfortable back brace and will be living in it for the next two months. It is very ‘Romy and Michele’ of her… I’m so the Mary, Mrs. Dancer so don’t even play that hurt card! But all jokes aside she has a compression fracture and a herniated disc both which are totally screwing with her back and that is causing some numbness in her feet. We are all praying that the back brace will be successful in helping alleviate the problem and let her back heal on its own. If not then she will need surgery. She is a trooper and she is not going to let anything get her down, but let’s pray for her anyways.


Reservations were pretty packed. With new restaurants like this and with the fact that we were calling the day of it wasn’t surprising. We ended up opting for an earlier dinner, as in the 5:00 hour, as in right when they opened, rather than a late dinner, as in 9:00. Mrs. Bubbles is pregnant and we didn’t want to go too long to get some dinner in her.


I glanced at the drink menu and vowed in the very near future to bring drag Mr. Rogue here. They not only had a pretty well rounded wine list with a few wines I really like (served only by the bottle of course) they also have a decent beer list with many taps my husband would adore. I ended up ordering a red wine, a syrah that I hadn’t tried before, I got snickers all around the table when I asked the waiter point blank: “Is it good or does it suck?”. Personally I thought I was getting right to the point. Although he was right, the wine didn’t suck, but it also wasn’t awesome, it still fell short of something I would order again. It was a tad bit vinegary and for some reason pretty cold. I ordered a second glass, mostly because I didn’t want to mix reds but also because I was hoping that somehow the second glass would be better. Ah well, all wines cannot be amazing.

The “modern and rustic” menu is divided into four parts: snacks, smalls, veggies and large. Let me tell you HOW MUCH I adore menus like these with small portions. It allows me more opportunities to taste and a less anxious ordering process because I am not putting all my savory taste bud eggs into one main course basket. If you have been reading for a while or know me, you know that I am one picky girl. And honestly disappointment isn’t really an option I like to consider.

Everything on the menu looked delicious minus a few things that we didn’t quite know what they were. Take the sweetbreads for instance. Mrs. Bubbles made the mistake of thinking they might be tasty. Since none of us at the table were exactly sure what they were she asked the waiter, OH LORDY you should have seen that girls face when he answered her question. Don’t ever tell a pregnant girl that what she is thinking of ordering is in actuality the thymus gland. Easy to say that item got quickly crossed off her short list.

The restaurant had a charcuterie menu that was pretty large. There were several things that looked super delicious but I wanted to make sure to save room for the rest of the courses. Since the smallest selection was three items each of the girls got a pick. Both Mrs. Dancer and I ordered the tomato bruschetta while Mrs. Bubbles opted for a meat appetizer where the name escapes my memory. Of course it would have been helpful if these appetizers had arrived before the small meals like they were supposed to, or even before the large meal. In the end we had to pull out the indignant card and ask for them. It was very nice that the manager stopped by to let us know that our appetizers would be on the house. Yes thank you!


For the rest of our options to order it was a hard contemplation. In the end I do what I love to do at new restaurants where everything looks good, I force the waiter to narrow down my choices. I used to work in the restaurant field for years while putting myself through school and there isn’t a whole lot about the restaurant and the food that the wait staff doesn’t know. We know what looks good, what tastes yummy, what is so so and what people RAVE about. He gave his top four items off the menu and I convinced Mrs. Dancer to split three of them. HURRAH, good food coming our way.


Lamb Belly / Minted Apple Chutney
The meal began with a ridiculously tender lamb belly. Lamb belly is in essence bacon. I have only had it once before, prepared more like bacon strips, so I was curious to try it another way. Oh good lordy, slow cooked meat to the point where it disintegrated on your tongue, it was superb. One bite and I was completely smitten. And then to make it taste even better the apple chutney was the perfect accompaniment. The chef’s dishes were surpassing my already high expectation. Sweet and savory was the name of the day.

Ricotta Gnocchi / Charred Baby Broccoli
Oh how I loved this little plate of deliciousness. Seriously I want to try each and everything on the menu now. This plate had a simplicity that just kept exploding in your mouth. The flavor centered around the broccoli with the strong pure lemon zest tempered by the shavings of ricotta.

Fresh Snapper / Lime Cilantro Sauce / Sweet Soba Noodles
This was the only item that we ordered that was a little QUESTIONABLE. It came highly recommended by the waiter however when it came to the table it was the WHOLE FISH; as in the head, the eyes, the fins and even the tail. Despite the presentation the deep fried fish was so good. It came with a killer Asian inspired lime sauce and the best sweet soba noodle salad I have ever had. The flavors melded together perfectly.


Strawberry Ricotta Crostada / Salted Caremel Ice Cream
And even though we were full we simply couldn’t stop without getting dessert. This was by far and away my favorite of the desserts we ordered. The mix of strawberries and the blood orange was sprinkled with pepper and thyme and was nestled on a buttery sugar dusted pastry. The combination of savory and sweet hit just the right note of awesomeness. Balance in a dish like this is key and for me the chef hit the ball out of the park with this one. I so wish that Mr. Rogue could have been there with me, he would have appreciated the delicate complexity and I would have loved sharing it with him. But at least it does give me an excuse to come back.


The damage/bill came and we totalled up our tab. A little too full we filed out of the now very crowded restaurant. Not ready to say goodbye and in need of getting rid of a few calories we all agreed to take advantage of the beautiful California summer night and walk around Santa Monica. I love the city at night, especially a city like Santa Monica that is so clean, where I feel safe and where dancing lights play in the dark trees. Of course if I knew we were going to take a long walk I would have worn more appropriate shoes. Thank goodness I am a girl that can rock a pair of high heels.


I always get sucked into the musicians playing the promenade. There are the guitarists, the dancers, and even the inventive percussionists that Mrs. Dancer got roped into. So many of them are really fantastic and I got lulled into listening to a young woman crooning a beautiful song. Loving that moment I had to purchase her music, now I can take her home with me. One day when she just might become famous I can say I heard that girl on the street one night singing her heart out way before she became a someone. Then it was time to call it a night. I love LALA land on nights like this.



Jennifer Arens said...

What a spectacular looking meal! The name of the restaurant is weird to me though.....Again, Cali has it all!

paul peggy zeus said...

The food looks amazing!!! WOW !

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