Dining

Proper Hotel Santa Monica (Calabra Rooftop Bar and Restaurant)

Proper Hotel Calabra

  • By Arlene Winnick

Everyone asks me “What’s the best place in Santa Monica for great food and drink with an ocean view?” Top of my list is Calabra on the rooftop of the uber hot Proper Hotel. And I’m not alone – Forbes named Calabra on of the “Best Outdoor Hotel Restaurant Patios in Southern California.”

The atmosphere is simply vibrant and refreshing – cool and chic with killer views of the ocean and mountains. Seating is available on the sundeck, in the indoor lounge or around the circular bar.  The crowd is cool, chic… and welcoming – the right mix of tourists and locals. 

The food and drinks are equally inviting – I knew it would be with Executive Chef Kaleo Adams in charge (formerly of the Maybourne Beverly Hills). Picture an elevated mix of Mediterranean and Californian cuisine – everything bright and fresh and plated to the extreme so it’s a delight for the eye as well as the palate. I love my Aperol and their Mambo Italiano is a winner! Be sure to start with their “Dips” all served with warm Laffa breads (the hummus is amazing) and a selection of Mezes like the crisped Halloumi or Tuna Tartare followed by a Steak Kebab with a side of za’tar fries. The Sushi Roll menu (Wed-Sun) offers the freshest fish combinations and aged Sake.  Calabra is ideal for Sunday Brunch, too. This place is hot so be sure to make a reservation!

For reservations and menu, click here.

LAVO in West Hollywood

LAVO WEST HOLLYWOOD

  • By NINA SVENTITSKY

Part of the Tao Hospitality group of restaurants and clubs, Lavo on Sunset is a stunner. Looking much like a film set, with flattering lighting and warm design elements (Danish mid-century blond wood plus tile plus greenery from floor to ceiling) the vibe continues with a coastal Italian menu of updated classics, presented with a lighter hand than one might expect and finishing touches like osetra caviar on oysters, and limoncello mignonette. 

 Start out in the bar area, which is cozy and charming and allows for conversation. Move to the main dining room for the main event. Lavo has several large booth tables that make a group of 6 or 8 feel intimate. We were excited for clams oreganata and ‘the meatball’ which gets its own category; a huge creation of Wagyu beef sitting in a zesty tomato bath, topped with whipped ricotta. Wood fired pizza did not disappoint (black truffle, cacio e pepe, were fabulous). Pastas are inventive and perfect. Try the silk handkerchiefs with white Bolognese. The fish — branzino and Dover Sole were excellent. For meats, the chops — lamb, veal, and pork — are outstanding and finished simply with grilled seasonal veggies. All manner of steak cuts is available. The cocktail and wine lists are quite good, and service is wonderful. The entire dining room sits under a retractable roof, so I suspect brunch is grand.

For more details, click here.

Wolvesmouth

Wolvesmouth

  • By Kymberly Chase

It’s a special occasion! Chef Craig Thornton has created what is likely the most unique dining experience in Los Angeles with Wolvesmouth, a unique pop-up dinner that blends world class cuisine with artistic vision. The nine-course meal held in Thornton’s Silver Lake home is not easy to access. Putting your name on a list for upcoming dinners does not guarantee entry; instead, you’ll find out a few days beforehand whether you are one of the lucky chosen folks. Each dinner is an intimate affair, with 12–16 seats and BYOB. 

Thornton uses his dishes to portray the raw conditions of the wild, both in ingredient choices and presentation. Nothing is off limits, and the menu changes each month. Rabbit is always featured in one way or another. Puréed pomegranates splashed across a white plate might convey a spray of blood in the snow, but there are calmer, more inviting scenes, too, like a pool of snap pea juice surrounding a slab of pork belly, crab, and grilled peaches. How about a slice of seared ribeye presented under an intensely purple sauce made with squid ink? Bite into it and you get the fresh taste of kimchi and Asian pear. 

Between bites, friendships may be formed at the communal table, with everyone enthralled by the chance to be part of the meal. Craig Thornton puts his art on a plate, and you eat it!

For more details, click here.

Fifty One’s Strawberry Macaron with Ice Cream (Photo Paige Petrone)

FIFTY ONE

  • By Arlene Winnick
  • Photo By Paige Petrone

Fifty One Chinese Kitchen, located in the heart of Culver City, is a modern bright restaurant celebrating the cuisine of the Southern regions of China. The food is very fresh with authentic ingredients and generous portions. I’d suggest going with a group as you will want to taste everything on the menu!

We started with the Xiu Mai sampler – a good selection of the house made Dim Sum followed by a bowl of their Hot and Sour Soup.  We split the special BBQ platter piled high with roast duck, crispy pork belly, ribs, Pork Char Siu and Soy Sauce Chicken plus sides of green beans and their killer lobster fried rice.  If you like your food ultra-spicy – take their Sichuan Spice Challenge – “flaming hot” beef, chicken or pork served with delicious crunchy rice. Or maybe go for the Hot Pot Fish Fillet cooked in peppercorn oil. For a more delicate treat, order the Lemon Steamed Alaskan Cod. Even though it wasn’t my birthday, I couldn’t resist the E-fu Noodles – traditionally eaten on birthdays for longevity! Save room for dessert – the egg custard buns are delicious and so are the ice creamed filled macarons.

You’ll be thirsty so check out their unusual wine and beer flights. The best deal in town are their Prix Fixed menus – Lunch is $25 and Dinner $40 with five course and multiple items to choose from. There’s a Vegan menu too for $30.

For more details, click here.