My SO took me to Ocean and Vine for a b-day dinner, thinking a place that pairs food and wine would be a good fit.
The space is great. Dark woods and a dark wood floor invite you to gaze out the windows at the ocean and pier. The walls have hip art and the center of the eatery is a fire place with soft sofas that invite you to hang out at.
We started at the bar, where the bartender whispered everything. Was this an act? It was a bit annoying and pretentious, but hey this is LA.
When seated, we started with ordering. I had the "Caesar Salad" with butter lettuce. Right off you realized that the midwestern chef had a very earthy palate. The Caesar dressing was a wreck and shouldn't have been called Caesar; it was lacking garlic, anchovy, bitter lemon or even dashes of hot sauce... any ingredient in any Caesar I've ever seen. The white dressing was again, earthy. The lettuce was far too delicate for anything remotely resembling a Caesar and the crutons were hinted at but far too small to be considered anything but crumbs.
We received a complimentary tapanade tart of black truffles. It was earthy and good, but just this side of dirt, lacking any sort of acid to cut the deep earth taste. Good? How about interesting.
Next came a fondue for two. Simple, easy and fondue. Can you really screw up a fondue?
I ordered Baja scallops and a paella, my SO the sea bass. I should have known, with the earthiness of the rest of the dishes that a chef with roots strongly in midwestern flavors would butcher a paella, and he did. The four scallops were amazing. The "paella" was shrimp deep fried (not cooked in the same vessel as the rice or even in the same room, for that matter) and a saffron infused sticky mess of a rice, more of a risotto than anything, and lacking anything resembling sea food, spice, herbs or an item hinting at paella. My SO's sea bass was very good, however.
Desert was a quad of chocolate, two of which were outstanding (the soufle' was a-mazing) and two were boring.
The wine pairings throughout the meal were good, but with the food being that poor does the wine pairing do anything but get you through dinner and pay a $350 bill without becoming a felon?
Ocean and Vine
Inside of the Loews Santa Monica
1700 Ocean Avenue