My partner was in the mood for a place tonight that's outside of our usual rotation of restaurants and was hoping for ambiance that was better than our typical hole-in-the-wall selections. He had been thinking about going to The Charleston for awhlie, apparently. For whatever reason, I was hesitant to go The Charleston, so I suggested Wilshire. He thought it was too pricey.
The hostess at The Charleston was wearing glittery hotpants.... Not a good start. The live music was WAY too loud. The waitresses were dressed as steam punk women of the night. The high top tables were so close together we're not sure how normal-sized adults were supposed to fit around them.
We decided to leave and to go next door to Wilshire Restaurant. We were seated immediately (around 7PM) in the indoor area (all the patio tables had apparently been reserved). The complimentary sourdough (warmed) was delicious, w/ a nicely crispy crust and a fluffy crumb. We ordered the mussels, the roasted beets, and the special fish (the waiter might've said it was "galeana"? He said it was in the cod family). We greatly enjoyed all the dishes. The mussels tasted fresh (although some of them seemed to still have a bit of silt in shells.... hmph) and had a lovely, light broth that tasted a lot like panang curry. The roasted yellow beets were combined w/ hazelnuts and melted burrata. I could've done w/o the hazelnuts and would've liked a larger portion of beets! The fish was served w/ fennel, fennel puree, blistered tomatos, blanced garlic, a light tomato sauce. It was perfectly cooked (tender flesh but fantastically crispy skin).
I don't know much about wine, so I asked the waiter for a recommendation for a red that was fruity and not too dry. We recommended the Melville (?) pinot noir, which had a wonderful aroma and was indeed not too dry.
My only criticism of the food is that the flavors were fairly tame (although all the ingredients were all high-quality).... But perhaps that's what the Santa Monica crowd wants? Service was polite, unobstrusive, and knowledgable (well, at least *our* waiter was knowledge.... The one helping the table next to us seemed considerably less so).
The bill (including tax) was $104 for an entree, 2 sides, 2 glasses of wine, one mixed drink (the "Captain Kirk," which my partner tasted like a hodgepodge -- and not necessarily a coherent one -- of different liquors). Pricey, yes, but not unreasonable given the ambiance and the simple but tasty preparation of the food.