Thursday, March 1, 2012

Tar & Roses

The first thought that came to my mind when I was invited to this media comped meal in Santa Monica was "how the hell am I going to make it to Santa Monica in time for dinner during pilot season?". But by some miracle I made it and what a meal it was. Tar & Roses has only been open for a little over a month, but it already has huge buzz and deservedly so. Most of the food is prepared in a huge wood-burning oven and it's fantastic.

We started with popped corn ($6). This is no ordinary popcorn. It's got a lovely mix of sweet, spicy and salty with bacon, brown sugar, and chili. It's addictive and we left it on our table long after most of the other dishes had been cleared away.

Popped Corn

Short ribs on garbanzo pancakes with pickled vegetables. This was a great little appetizer with the pickled onions cutting through the richness of the short ribs. The garbanzo pancakes had great flavor.

Pork Cheeks on Garbanzo Pancakes with Pickled Onions

None of my dining companions had ever heard of chicken oysters ($7). Apparently they are located behind the thigh of the chicken. These are skewered and come with a tamarind dipping sauce. I think the trip to the west side was worth it alone for this wonderfully seasoned appetizer.

Chicken Oysters on Skewers

Wood roasted English peas are topped with flaked sea salt and mint and are eaten like edamame. The peas are so sweet and I couldn't get enough.

Wood Roasted English Peas

Charred Little Gem Lettuce with Pickled Sardines, Burrata, and Dijon ($10) had a nice mix of bitter, tart, and creamy.

Charred Little Gem Lettuce with Pickled Sardines, Burrata, and Dijon

I was bummed that I got the smallest of the balsamic baby back ribs with fried basil, but it was probably for the best.

Balsamic baby back ribs with fried basil

The charred octopus ($9) was perfectly tender and a little spicy. I'm so glad that people are no longer over cooking octopus.

Charred Octopus

I wasn't a huge fan of the wood-fired duck egg ($10). With gigante beans, tomato, and the thinnest guanciale I have ever seen, I thought there was a bit too much going on to fully appreciate the richness of the egg.

Wood Fired Duck Egg

The braised lamb belly with apple chutney ($9) was tender with a hint of muskiness. We all enjoyed it.

Braised Lamb Belly

I could only eat a bit of the bone marrow with pickled onion marmalade and charred sourdough ($9). It was so rich.

Bone Marrow

The shrimp in the shellfish pot were a little overcooked, but the mussels and clams were done perfectly and the curry broth was addictive. Luckily there was more charred bread to dip into the luscious broth.

Shellfish Pot

I would never have thought to put a little char on cabbage, but now I want to eat all of my cabbage like this with the fennel and caraway thrown in for good measure ($7).

Charred Cabbage

The hangar steak with duck fat potatoes ($23), though cooked perfectly, was a little under-seasoned for my taste. The tomato relish definitely helped add some sweet flavor.



The risotto was a little more firm than I'm used to while dining out, but was creamy and packed a serious lemon punch.

Lemon Risotto

The duck ($24) came out with crisp crackling skin, and topped with crunchy hazelnuts and sweet cherries. It was beautiful as well as tasty.


Potatoes are not my favorite food, but were wood-roasted and paired with a lovely aioli that may make me a believer.


I think our favorite dish of the evening was the roasted chicken ($19). For such a humble dish, it certainly was flavorful and the chicken was moist. The bread in the panzanella stayed surprisingly crispy.

Roasted Chicken over Panzanella

I love the smokiness that the wood oven gave to the whole roasted branzino ($24) that was paired with the meyer lemon risotto above.

Whole Roasted Branzino

All of the vegetable dishes were great, but I think the broccolini with parmesan pudding was my favorite. The pudding added a richness to the dish, but the broccolini was great on it's own too.

Broccolini with Parmesan Pudding

The simple beet salad was elevated by the fact that the beets were also given the wood-firing treatment.


Even dessert gets wood-fired at Tar & Roses. The blood orange and strawberry crostata is paired with an addictive honeycomb ice cream. It's sweet and tart with a hint of herbaciousness from the chopped thyme on top.

Strawberry and Blood Orange Crostata

Honeycomb Ice Cream

Lastly, the rice pudding with marcona almonds and passionfruit is just rich enough with crunchy passionfruit seeds running throughout the pudding. The tart seeds are a great balance for the creamy pudding.

Rice Pudding with Passionfruit
I didn't get any pictures of the interior of the restaurant, but it's cozy and a really cool space, made even cooler by the fact that chef Andrew Kirschner designed it himself. It's a wonderful and reasonably priced addition to Santa Monica and if I didn't live so far away, I would be back often.

Tar & Roses
602 Santa Monica Blvd.
Santa Monica, CA 90401
(310) 587-0700

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vanillasugarblog said...

wow. you get the best deals. i mean dishes, i mean offers! LOL
the photos are so good - was there really good lighting in there?

The Duo Dishes said...

Gosh, how did you fit it all in? So much food. The popped corn, garbanzo pancakes, broccolini and lamb belly sound really good. Heard great things about the restaurant, so now we have to check it out.

Peggy said...

This sounds like such a great experience! All of the food looks amazing =)

susan said...

what are all these restaurants going to do without you??? cannot wait to read all about chicago and it's culinary cuisine!

Joanne said...

That is one INSANE meal! It's a good thing you made it in time!

Nancy said...

I love your restaurant reviews Esi - I've bookmarked them all - my own personal restaurant recommendation guide!

lisa is cooking said...

I'm waiting on dinner to cook right now, and this has just made me very hungry! Love the idea of charred edges on cabbage. I have to try that.

angela@spinachtiger said...

Wow. I hope there were a lot of people with you. That was a ton of food. Now I want to burn my cabbage too.

Gastronomer said...

It was a pleasure dining with you! So, when are you we going to SADIE?!

Diana said...

I looooved that strawberry crostata there! Honeycomb ice cream is a very good thing.

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