Day 4 of Santa Monica

Athena ScalziI had big plans for my fourth day in town, but upon waking up I decided I didn’t feel like leaving the bed. So I didn’t! And I went back to sleep. I ended up sleeping about thirteen hours. I had to keep convincing myself that I wasn’t wasting my day, because rest is important, and I’ve jam packed the past few days with so much stuff that it’s okay to take it easy.

I finally got up in the afternoon and got ready to go out to dinner with family friends. They told me they wanted to take me out to a fancy dinner while I was here, so I let them pick the place. And fancy it was!

They decided on taking me to a place called Hatchet Hall located in Culver City. Upon arriving, there was a large outdoor section with tables and chairs on gravel, and those big outdoor fire lamps that I’ve only ever seen in places like California and Arizona. The transition to the indoor part of the restaurant was practically seamless, as it was all open and you could see everything, including the bar.

The menu was a small piece of paper, but was laid out in an interesting fashion.

A tri-folded piece of white paper with several subsections of menu items. There are a few drawings of animals on the menu, including a bear in a raccoon cap, and pigs in dresses playing instruments. All the menu items have the price next to it.

I was then informed it was a small plates style restaurant, so we were going to get a lot of things and share them all. I was a huge fan of the idea, and I’m not picky, so I told them to pick everything.

We started with the honey dates that come in brown butter with date vinegar topped with sea salt. I did not get a picture, because I forgot that documenting was a thing, but they were the best dates I’ve ever had. Which is an odd thing to have a “best I’ve ever had” of, but it’s true. They were soft and sweet and the perfect little bites to start the meal off right.

The next platter that came was half a dozen oysters.

A bowl filled with ice. There are six oysters arranged symmetrically atop the ice, with two sauces in silver containers in the middle. One is filled with a red cocktail sauce, the other a dark vinaigrette. There is also a slice of lemon.

I had never had oysters before, and was having dubious feelings towards them. I like mussels well enough, but oysters are raw, which freaks me out a little. I knew that if I were going to have oysters, they might as well be from the coast and at a fancy restaurant, so I oughta give these a try.

And I actually liked them! I put cocktail sauce on the first one, and it was quite nice. I had been preparing myself for unpleasantness, but was glad that was not the case. For the second one, I tried the vinaigrette, and that was pretty good, too.

A blue plate with golden brown rolls. A scoop of butter topped with flaky salt is on the side.

Next up, I got to have one of these ultra-fluffy, perfectly golden brown rolls. Hopefully you can see the pinch of flaky salt atop the honey butter on the side, because that really took this to the next level. I’m a sucker for flaky salt… and honey… and butter.

A white plate with an assortment of leafy greens, with peach slices.

Following the rolls, we had this grilled peach, burrata, and prosciutto salad. I’m not saying my favorite fruit is peaches, my favorite meat is prosciutto, and my favorite cheese is burrata, but that is exactly what I’m saying, so you can imagine how much I loved this salad. The peaches were fresh and juicy, the burrata was soft and creamy, the leafy greens balanced out the richness of the prosciutto, ugh, it was amazing.

And don’t even get me STARTED on the next dish!

A black plate with sliced carrots, tons of green herbs, white yogurt sauce, and honeycomb.

Grilled carrots with a cumin yogurt sauce, topped with fresh cilantro and dill, accompanied by honeycomb?! I was stunned. It was too delicious for words. The brightness of the herbs with the creaminess of the yogurt, the honeycomb alongside the soft cooked carrots, it was incredible. Quite possibly my favorite dish of the night.

We did have one other dish before the appetizers came, but I forgot to take a picture of that one. It was the braised collard greens. I had never had collard greens before, and they were pretty good, though probably the thing I was least impressed with throughout the night.

A black plate with a hunk of salmon, a bed of greens and herbs resting next to it. A lemon sits at the top of the plate, slightly charred.

I was starting to get full, but the entrees were arriving. Here we have some King Salmon, with labneh and herbs. I haven’t had labneh since like 2016, so this was a welcome reunion. The salmon, underneath that crispy skin, was cooked more medium than I’m used to, but it wasn’t a bad thing, in fact it was delicious!

A white plate, with a heaping pile of grits and leafy greens, with pork belly resting on top, garnished with cilantro.

Underneath the giant garnish of cilantro, we have braised pork belly, with grits and cannellini beans. I don’t think I’ve ever had grits before this, but I quite liked them. My friend told me they’re a lot like oatmeal, you have to do something to them or else they’re extraordinarily bland and boring. As for pork belly, I had it once at a Jamaican restaurant, so having it again was nice. It was tender, the grits were creamy, and it was a savory medley.

Which was the perfect end before dessert.

Three desserts. One is a giant meringue with blueberries and strawberries, one is a small, circular panna cotta with sour cherries and crumble on top, the last is a bowl of peach cobbler with a perfect scoop of vanilla ice cream on top.

We all decided to pick our own desserts and not share. Mine was the lil’ vanilla panna cotta on the right, with sour cherries and mulberry crumble. If I were a dessert, I feel like I’d be vanilla panna cotta. I did end up trying one bite of the giant meringue, specifically because it was so big and she needed help with it, and it was ridiculously good. Like make you reevaluate your whole life good. Of course, the panna cotta was excellent, too, as was everything that night.

Sadly, all good things must come to an end, and the meal was over. It was amazing, and I hope I get to go back someday. Preferably soon.

Some interesting things I noticed about this place was that none of the plates matched. Heck, even some of the chairs didn’t match. It was like they got everything from a thrift store and just had mismatched silverware and plates now. Not that that’s a problem at all, it was just unique.

Oh, also, my friends informed me that their menu changes with the seasons, to ensure everything is always in season and fresh. Man I love California.

If you had eaten here, what would you have picked? Which dish looked the best to you that I tried? Are you a fan of the small plates style? Let me know in the comments, and have a great day!

-AMS

15 Comments on “Day 4 of Santa Monica”

  1. Uh – have you taken a COVID-19 test yet? B/c you Dad just posted that he has it, and your sleeping so late makes me worried….

  2. It’s one of our favorite restaurants. And their menu can change daily depending on what is the best available at the time.

  3. I think the reason we don’t have those heat lamps at restaurants in the Midwest is because the time between “it’s way too cold for a heat lamp to make a difference” and “it’s too muggy for anybody to want a heat lamp” is so short.

  4. Hello Ms Cotta, or do you prefer Vanilla when being informal with friends? Well you did say if you were a dessert… ;-)

    Goodness, loved today’s post. It’s dinner time as I read this and now I’m hungry, and your meal looks a lot better than what I’ll be having.

    I’m so glad family friends treated you. How nice!

    It’s fun to see California through a visitor’s eyes. Living here I’m so used to, and love, our restaurant styles that spill from indoors to outdoors, and the informal hodgepodge collection of décor. I love it and it just feels right to me. I belong here.

    As an aside, if you need sleep, go for it. Sleep is never wasted. One of the easier ways to stay healthy, get the rest your body asks for.

    It’s funny because I’m somewhat new to retirement and I have to tell myself the same thing. It’s okay if I feel like sleeping in a bit. My whole adult work life was skimping on sleep to make it to early meetings or work late to hit some schedule. I’m glad to be done with that.

    Anyways, enjoy dreams of wonderful food tonight with friends.

  5. ASSUMING ATHENA IS AWARE HER DAD HAS COVID-19, HAS TESTED HERSELF & IS NEGATIVE:

    Well, I’d ditch the carrots as the only way I like them is raw – but the rest sounds great!

    I might not have the salted honey butter as I need to watch my sodium intake, but that’s more a question of amount and willpower than any criticism of the dish itself.

    If I had to change a main dish, I’d get the grilled lamb over the pork belly – but really, you can’t go wrong either way. (I had to open up the full-sized menu image from my e-mail and then zoom in in PS Elements because I have Old Man’s Eyes.) OTOH, $119 for a strip steak? Holy crap!

    I’d personally get the meringue because it has lots of berries in it, and I love berries. But again, that’s personal – it all looks great.

  6. stunned… jaw dropping sticker shock at some of those prices…

    …never mind post-Covid, even pre-Covid that level of pricing suggests a whole ‘nother level of spending

    always comes back to the local economy to provide context…

    nothing wrong with living it up just a matter of priorities and budgeting when considering the longer term and not many folks seem ready for the next ‘big bad’ surprising the country

  7. Assuming I did not have to completely avoid gluten and that money is no object, I could happily try almost anything on that menu. Even having to eat gf, I was intrigued by the hamachi collar, the ceviche, the roasted almonds and the elk loin and for dessert, the stone fruit or the meringue. What an awesome meal! Really pricey, but sometimes you just have to go for the experience.

  8. I used to live near Santa Monica and I do miss it sometimes, it’s a charming little place. As for the food, well only the grilled carrots took my fancy. I have never been able to bring myself to eat raw oysters and I doubt I ever could! I have had them smoked though.

    I’m not a fan of most desserts, lemon sorbet and ‘cheese on biscuits’ are my favorite ones. I like desserts that are light and refreshing. None of the desserts shown took my fancy really, though I would probably quite like the vanilla panna cotta (I now know what a panna cotta looks like!). Strawberries are hit and miss, you never know if they are actually ripe.

  9. Your dinner with friends must have been wonderful. I enjoyed reading the menu- Benton ham comes from east Tennessee and Anson Mills grits are from South Carolina and they’re quite tasty.
    I live in north Alabama and patio heaters are common here, both in restaurants and and at home-we have two.

  10. I’m old, so no, not a fan of the small plates. I don’t mind sharing but I prefer a “real” dish myself. And I have to admit, this place is not for me. But, YMMV.

    They have heat lamps like that i Key West and New Orleans as well, which come in handy come Christmas time and other cold periods. I’ve seen them here in New York too, though have never eaten at a restaurant where they used one.

  11. I love a good meringue so that would be choice #1 but all of the dessert options look tasty.
    For the others it would be the oysters (without cocktail sauce, just a little bit of lemon) and the salad.

    Oh for the final, non-dessert one. Grits are just hominy corn which is a processing of the corn kernels. It’s most commonly known use isn’t grits but corn tortillas. And since it’s just the processed, grinded kernel it definitely needs something to flavor it up – usually salt, pepper and butter but also garlic and other spices.
    I’m going to take a stab in the dark and say you’ve had pork belly more than once – if you’ve eaten bacon in the US you’re almost always eating pork belly. It’s been smoked and cured a different way than others so but it’s the same basic cut.

    Looking forward to day 5’s commentary :)

  12. I’ve never been diagnosed with sleep issues, but I am proud to be a champion sleeper.

    Now retired, I can take a long nap in the afternoon, usually with 1 or 2 puppies, go to bed early, be up and about at 3-4 am, go back to bed. After my second Moderna shot I slept 18 hours the first night, 16 the second night.

    I like oysters in any form. Have had fried oysters at a NYC Japanese place imported (frozen) from Hiroshima, the radiation was undetectable / non-existant. Delicious. Did not want to share! We are fortunate to have a seafood shop in town where pints of oysters in season are commonly available, I bring them home, roll them in crumbs or cornmeal and fry them for a couple of minutes on a side… yummm! Others I also just eat raw, usually with some high-proof liquor as a health adjunct.

    Sounds like a great restaurant, would love to eat there. Pricey is relative — sometimes you get what you pay for.

    Those Michelin stars don’t come cheap, ya know. I’ve only eaten at 2 starred places that I’m sure of, one in Paris and one in NYC, both amazing. But not cheap. Who goes to either location (Paris or NY) and expects to be able to do things without spending money?

    And now I’m yawning at 13:17 EDT…. hmmm?

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