I took my girlfriend out to dinner here about a week or so ago for her birthday. They had unfortunately lost our reservation (I made it three weeks in advance so something might have been confused) ... in any case, I called that afternoon and they straightened things out.
We arrived five minutes before our reservation at 8PM on a Wednesday and the place was PACKED. The host was graciously attending to everyone and everything that happened to pass him by. It seemed like a lot of people were regulars with the attention he was lavishing on a certain few. We waited for about twenty minutes before our table was ready, which was a bit irksome, but the rest of the evening went off without a hitch.
We split an appetizer of small Maine mussels with garlic butter. It was a pretty large portion for an appetizer, and it was stellar. It was simply prepared (garlic and white wine with a side of the garlic butter), but each mussel was extremely fresh and perfect. It was probably one of the best executions of mussels I've had in a LONG time.
We went on to order two pastas: the fettuccine with chanterelles and the butternut squash tortelloni. The fettuccine was fantastic. It was simple and delicious. The butternut squash was well-executed, although it was too sweet for both of our tastes (could have been a dessert). However, neither of us could deny the quality of the ingredients used in the dish. The pumpkin seeds helped to give it textural contrast as well as a salty counterpoint to the almost-cloyingly sweet squash.
For our mains, I ordered the brick-flattened chicken and my girlfriend had the whitefish. I felt like this was where it slipped a little. The chicken was surprisingly dry, although the skin was crisp and delicious, and the accompanying mushroom salad was tasty, although nothing special. The whitefish was rather bland, and I felt as though the dish just didn't come together as we both had hoped. It wasn't bad, just not as good as we had expected based on our apps and pastas.
I brought in a bottle of champagne and we had a couple glasses of wine (the names escape me right now). They have a focused Italian list, I thought.
Our waiter brought out a trio of ice cream (gelato?) with homemade cones for my girlfriend. "Happy Birthday" was written on the edge of the plate ... it was a nice touch.
We both loved it (although next time we may stick with antipasti and primi) ... we'll be returning!
1432 4th St.
Santa Monica, CA