Surprisingly, it has been more than a year (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/918734) since I last dined at Tar & Roses. Wanting to remedy that sooner rather than later, I tried Reserve, a new concierge reservation app, to find a table. The service was able to get us a reservation for early evening on a Sunday, with just a day’s lead time!
Since I got a credit to try the app, my plan was to finally get the impressive Whole Fried Snapper for Two on this visit, but to work our way up to it, we ordered a few smaller plates to start...
Lamb Tartare, banana raita, grilled naan, za’atar [$10]: I’ve had tartare here before and I’ve had lamb here before, but I haven’t had them in the same dish. The meat was very clean tasting, to the extent that I couldn’t necessarily tell it was lamb, which for many people is probably preferred. For me, I don’t mind a bit of gaminess to distinguish lamb from other animals, but the absence of it is obviously not dealbreaker. Regardless, this was a great way to start the meal.
Pork Chicharrones, persimmon, pearl onion, pomegranate molasses [$9]: A great combination of flavors and textures, the version of this dish with figs instead of persimmons was one of the James Beard Foundation’s favorite dishes of 2014. I have to agree that the figs worked better than persimmons, but it’s not fig season right now, and the persimmons worked decently in this dish.
Jerusalem Artichokes, goat cheese, lemon vinaigrette, hazelnuts [$9]: A relatively new dish (I think), the sunchokes had a texture that’s a cross between regular artichoke heart and mushroom, and with a nuttier flavor. Tar & Roses always has great vegetable dishes on the menu, and this was no exception. (PandanExpress's husband, on Instagram, introduced me to the term “fartichokes” as another name for these. Fortunately, I wasn’t any more flatulent than usual. Heh.)
Candied Sweet Potato, ginger aioli, togarashi, sesame seed [$9]: Speaking of great vegetables dishes, this was indeed a new one, according to the waiter. We had the shichimi togarashi (seven flavor chili pepper) on the side. Basically the best version of sweet potato fries we’ve ever had; the ginger aioli was the surprise hit of the show!
Whole Fried Snapper for Two, cold soba noodles, dipping sauce, [$58]: The pièce de résistance, this was more than enough to feed my family of four after our our opening dishes. The fish was flavorful, and, while not super moist, was fried nicely, with crispy skin and tender meat. The soba was al dente, just how I liked it. Saving room for dessert, we actually took about a half of this home, which I proceeded to have as a midnight snack later that evening.
Quite full, we decided to share just two desserts amongst the four of us…
Brown Butter Ice Cream, toffee, almonds, [$5]: A very clean and simple rendition, I actually didn’t get too much of the brown butter flavor, but it was a great scoop of ice cream nonetheless.
Sticky Toffee Pudding, whipped cream, [$9]: My wife cannot leave Tar & Roses without having this dessert. It’s everything you’d expect: ooey gooey (what does “ooey” even mean?), sticky, sweet, and salty.
As mentioned, I made our reservation through the Reserve app, which also handles payment. At the end of the meal our waiter informed us that the check would be paid automatically and asked if I wanted to see the bill anyway. I said I did, and I was presented with the receipt sandwiched by a folded message from Reserve.
So here's the deal on Reserve. Yes, the service charges a $5 concierge fee, but only if you get a table and only after you've completed your meal. So there's no risk in trying for a reservation through the app! They've already partnered with some of the best restaurants in L.A., including Alma, Bestia, Melisse, Republique, and Rustic Canyon. Obviously, while I was able to get into Tar & Roses with just 24 hours notice, results may vary.
If you want to try Reserve for yourself, go to http://reserve.com/ and download the app from the App Store to your iPhone or iPad (iOS-only for now). Create an account, and use promo code [preemptively redacted--check my blog for the code] in the app (Account, Payments, Add Promo Code) to get a $25 credit.
Disclosure: While I have received dining credits to try out the app, I do not receive any sort of referral fee when my code is used. If you prefer, use LAKITCHEN5 instead to donate $20 to the L.A. Kitchen organization (http://www.lakitchen.org/). I believe you still get a $5 credit on your account to try the service once on the house.
Tar & Roses remains one of my favorite restaurants in the greater Los Angeles area. I would love to gather up a bunch of folks to try one of their advance-order large format T&R Suppers, like the wood fired goat or the paella. I am also looking forward to seeing what concept chef/owner Andrew Kirschner brings to his next project, Santa Monica Yacht Club, just down the block in the old La Botte space.
Tar & Roses
602 Santa Monica Blvd
Santa Monica, CA 90401