It took a friend to suggest “Michael’s”, a restaurant that has been a Santa Monica mainstay for the last 15 years, still in the same location and yet terribly overlooked. In Los Angeles, like in most cosmopolitan cities, restaurants go in and out fashion, chefs rotate, and trend setters like to move around. It’s a testament to Michael’s that his owner, Michael McCarty, stayed true to what he set out to do when he first opened: serving fresh and local ingredients, prepared in what came to be known as California style. And when local, sustainable and farmer’s market were not part of the everyday vocabulary.
“Michael’s” is located on Third Street, right off the Promenade yet it’s a world away. Stepping inside is a bit of a throwback to the early ’90’s, with the round tables and the wicker chairs that were fashionable then but it does have the best patio in Los Angeles – spacious enough so that tables don’t need to be on top of each other, away from any street noise, prettily landscaped, it’s very romantic and relaxing. Above all, comfortable.
On a Friday night, sad to say, not many diners occupied the lovely garden and those who were there, judging from the long conversations with the wait staff, were regulars – median age fairly up there. Our server was knowledgeable if a bit too chatty – for being such a quiet night, the service took way too long and the problem didn’t seem to originate with the kitchen. The menu is quite extensive and very seasonal if not super friendly to vegetarians: a lot of seafood, from scallops to lobster and meat, including quail and duck. The selection of appetizers is equally large with no concessions to pastas or rice. We settled for a delicious and dairy free pea soup and for house cured gravlax on brioche which was outstanding, served with the warm and slightly toasted bread and a generous amount of perfectly cured fish.
My King Salmon arrived medium rare, the way it should be cooked, and deliciously flaky on a bed of tender asparagus and thyme potato rosti which should have been a bit more crunchy (but I am really being picky here – the thyme flavor was just right). We rounded up the meal with a plate of cookies, solid if not terribly imaginative.
I could picture myself having lunch with a pack of girlfriends, away from the tourists roaming the Promenade and from the bustle of the beach. Or maybe a romantic date, knowing it will be possible to have a conversation that will not be overheard or shouted.
1147 Third Street – Santa Monica Tel 310 451 0843