Clearly, and deservedly so, the new Santa Monica hotspot is Rustic Canyon. Young, hip and polished this place has the saavy of Bin 8945 (if not quite the wine program), the heat of Mozza and the conviviality of Lou's or Max.
Acoustics aside, the design competes with the best... think of a much more intimate Napa Rose or less decked out Wilshire.
Food is first rate with a small, concise menu that finds a nice balance between the traditional and creative. Try the root vegetable pot pie which had our non vegetarian palates quite happy with a buttery crust (okay there's a little dairy), delicous baked vegetables in nicely flavored broth for $16. The burger is of the solid Father's Office variety with a generous supply of Stilton Farm's bleu, thick smoked bacon and crispy shoestring fries for $14. The great starter is the Moroccan salad plate for $12 which includes small scoops of excellent hummus, eggplant, beets, mushrooms and harissa. Salmon croquettes for $14 were a nice alternative to the cliche crab variety. We could've done without them however given how full the two of us were by the end which had us missing such inviting desserts as a Meyer lemon panna cotta or a rocky road bread pudding. Wines seem to satisfy with an Argentinian Malbec getting the most play. A small but shrewd selection of non alcoholic bevs are also highlighted which is terrific for a wine bar.
As the two of us left, three younger well heeled guests sat down and breathlessly announced, "Wow, this place is hot. We had 8:00 reservations and are just being seated." It was 8:50pm. Try to go early. We reserved at 6:45pm and we're seated at that time.