At 6:30 on a Saturday night, it’s almost full. By 7:30, you’ve got a serious wait for a table. The place is surprisingly elegant for its location. I was expecting something much more homey. The servers are in dressy uniforms, and there’s an elegance to the place that I quite enjoyed (although I felt a little underdressed in shorts and a t-shirt).
They’re having a gumbo soup special, where a portion of the price goes to Habitat for Humanity in New Orleans. Of course we had to try it, and it’s delicious. The shrimp and chicken and andouille are fresh-tasting, and there’s a nice spicy bite to the broth.
The calamari was pretty good, and you get a lot of it. And what I liked was that there were a lot of tentacles. That’s my favorite part. It’s served with a horseradish cream sauce that’s great the first bite but gets old after a while. I don't know why they give you such a large portion of calamari, and only one sauce. A selection of 3 sauces would work so well here.
The market salad was appropriately named. I’m increasingly finding restaurants offering “heirloom tomato salad” and what I get is a green salad with a few tomato slices. I don’t know why they call it heirloom tomato salad at all. They should call it arugula salad with heirloom tomatoes. Here, it’s a nice blend of ingredients with a tasty vinaigrette dressing.
The pork belly appetizer was awesome. I mean, what can be better than crispy pork anyway? It’s the size of a brownie, and the flavor is deep and rich. The meat is stringy-tender and the crisp crust on top makes it interesting texturally. The tomatillo sauce that it’s served with helps to break up the flavor of the pork, and adds some tartness.
The ocean trout (salmon) was good, with a crisp skin and very tender meat. I’m not a fan of this fish, but this version was above average.
And the mac n cheese was divine. You get a large bowl of it, too much for the two of us to share although if we didn’t have the other dishes, we could probably have finished it. It’s creamy, and the noodles are soft. The crunchy breadcrumb topping was a real treat, too.
We’ll be back for sure.
11628 Santa Monica, between Federal and Barrington