I haven't seen a review of Whist lately, and I've eaten there in 4 very different circumstances, so I figured this might be a good time to leave my first restaurant review on Chowhound...
Whist is the restaurant at the Viceroy Hotel in Santa Monica. The first thing you'll notice when you walk through the door will either be the doorman hitting on you or the setting. The setting is gorgeous (although the obnoxious doorman was not). The interior is simultaneously hip and antique. The patio, with oversized chairs, cabanas, and a pool, feels surreal.
As beautiful as the restaurant is, the rest of the Whist experience is mightily underwhelming. The food, in fact, is downright bad. My takeway from these 4 experiences...I will never again consume food at Whist, but I will return on occasion for drinks and people-watching.
Experience 1: Tasting menu with a group of 7 - We were seated at the cabana and received our drinks, but it took the waiter more than 30 minutes to come back for our dinner orders. When he did, we all ordered the tasting menu. Unfortunately, this occurred too long ago to remember the specifics, but most of the dishes were cold, everything took forever, and nothing was good. I remember some kind of lobster or crawfish dish that was bland.
Experience 2: Dinner with Mollyomormon - The service this time was wonderful, and we loved our key-lime martinis (garnished with a graham cracker crust!). The food, however, simply sucked. There were no specials, so we just ordered from the menu. We received an amuse bouche (the highlight of the meal) of artichoke puree with what tasted like some kind of cheese. We loved it. For an appetizer, we shared the pork belly. It came out cold and overcooked. We had to send it back, something we hate to do, because it was just too gross to eat. The replacement arrived hot and moist, but the flavor was still only average. As entrees, I ordered the duck polenta and my friend had the scallops. The duck polenta was reasonably tasty, although there was far too much sauce. I have to wonder if they were trying to mask something. My friend's scallops were overcooked and too salty (and she loves salt!). The meal was definitely overpriced. Neither of us mind paying top dollar for good food, but it was very clear that we were paying only for the "ambiance."
Experience 3: Corporate event - My only good experience at Whist was when I was invited to a private event on the patio for about 30 people. There were complimentary cocktails and an appetizer/dessert spread. Of course I loved mingling by the pool because, again, the decor is spectacular. The drinks were great, and I enjoyed the appetizers and desserts (probably because they were free and I was drinking). I especially enjoyed the chocolate-dipped strawberries, but especially disliked the tuna tartar, which tasted like it had been sitting out for too long.
Experience 4: Happy hour - My office brouht some colleagues and me to the bar for a happy hour. We sat indoors this time. The setting was great, as were the drinks. The food, again, was the low point. I sampled the truffle-oil grilled cheese and the Kobe beef burger. The grilled cheese was far too greasy and the truffle oil tasted artificial. I didn't mind the burger, but it too was grease-heavy.