(Another dineLA review while it's still going on, so if you read something you like, you still have time to try it...)
Last week, my wife and I tried dineLA's prix fixe lunch menu at Blue Stove in the Nordstrom in Santa Monica. For $15, you can choose one of three appetizers (Banh Mi Vietnamese Chicken Sandwiches, Salt & Pepper Calamari with Lemon Zest, Mole Short Rib Taquitos with Cilantro Lime Crema & Radish Salad) and one of three entrees (Szechuan Glazed Ribs, Lamb Brochettes with Harissa Dipping Sauce, Lemon Scented Risotto Seared Scallops & French Beans), and includes a 2-oz wine tasting with each course, no additional charge (substitutions with non-alcoholic beverages are offered).
My wife opted for the calamari and risotto, and I went with the taquitos and brochettes. We also added a dish each from the regular menu, Heirloom Tomato Salad with Burrata Cheese for her and Scallop Crudo with Citrus & Mint for me. We both opted for non-alcoholic beverages since we were on our lunch breaks.
First came the bread service, with a few slices of baguette and some olives in olive oil. The bread was average, but the olives and olive oil was pretty good.
The rest of the dishes were brought out in groups, set in the middle of the table, and to the side were a stack of plates and utensils for sharing, tapas-style, starting with the Heirloom Tomato Salad with Burrata Cheese and the Salt & Pepper Calamari with Lemon Zest:
* The salad was essentially panzanella with burrata on top. Each ingredient contrasted with and complemented each other well, the sweetness of the tomatoes with the creaminess of the burrata with the salty-tartness of the cubes of bread soaked in olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
* The calamari was basically a classic calamari fritti. The batter was a little thick, but not enough to make this dish too heavy. The lemon zest imparted a nice citrus flavor without having to make the batter soggy with lemon juice. The calamari was tender and not at all rubbery.
Next were the Mole Short Rib Taquitos with Cilantro Lime Crema & Radish Salad and the Scallop Crudo with Citrus & Mint:
* The taquitos dish was larger than expected, four stacked like Lincoln Logs to form a square perimeter, the radish salad and mole sitting inside. The tortilla was fried to a light crisp, rather than a hard crunchy shell like some taquito I've had. The mole had a mild but deep flavor. The radishes lightened the dish a bit but were somewhat forgettable.
* The crudo had a bright, colorful presentation, the supremes of grapefruit looked almost like they came from the ocean along with the scallops. I wouldn't have ordered this dish if I didn't think I'd like it, but it surprised me with how good it was. The scallops were not as sweet as I've had before, but had a pleasant brininess that worked really well with the tart and bitter grapefruit. The mint made sure the citrus didn't overpower the delicate scallops.
Finally, the Lamb Brochettes with Harissa Dipping Sauce and Lemon Scented Risotto Seared Scallops & French Beans arrived:
* The brochettes were drizzled with a white sauce, possibly cucumber and yogurt, and rested in the harissa. The lamb was ground and formed onto the brochettes and cooked just enough so the inside was still a little pink. It was very moist. The cucumber and yogurt sauce added a nice tang and tempered the harissa, which was actually not very spicy.
* The risotto had an aroma of butter and lemon that gently permeated the table. The scallops were well seared. The risotto was perhaps a touch too lemony for me, but it was well prepared The scallops, as in the crudo, were good.
In conclusion, Blue Stove was a pleasant surprise. For $15, the amount of food was quite generous. We would not have left hungry even if we hadn't add the two other dishes. Some of the dishes bordered on being too salty, but none of them crossed over the line. I wouldn't mind coming back and trying a few other things sometime.
Blue Stove (in Nordstrom in Santa Monica)
222 Broadway St
Santa Monica, CA 90401
[Full-size images, laid out with captions, at http://theoffalo.com/2012/07/blue-sto...]