THE DINING ROOM AT HOTEL SHANGRILA
SANTA MONICA’S BEST KEPT SECRET
Described by some as Santa Monica’s best-kept dining secret, The Dining Room at Hotel Shangrila is a wonderful gem of fine, farm-fresh fare with a flair for bold and spicy flavors.
The Art Deco family-run hotel is a landmark along Ocean Avenue where previous celebrity guests have included President Bill Clinton, Madonna, Tom Cruise, and Bill Murray. Whether you choose to start with drinks at the swanky (and pricey) Suite 700 on the top floor while you take in the impressive ocean view, the lobby-level Dining Room features stunning California cuisine utilizing a “farm-to-table” approach where all its ingredients come directly from the nearby Santa Monica Farmer’s Market—delivering a truly first-rate meal (breakfast, lunch or dinner).
Delicious dishes are served amidst a stunning vista overlooking the Pacific Ocean, as well as nearby Palisades Park, as a team of creative chefs craft a harvest seasonal menu for discerning travelers and refined guests, foodies and gourmets. But be warned, these chefs like their food spicy, yet savory.
During our recent visit for dinner, we started with the fine Flash Seared Diver Scallops served rare and prepared with wasabi pea crusted avocado puree, and black vinegar. This is a terrific starter item.
Definitely give their cocktail menu a gander. Their Tamietini, mixed with Snow Leopard vodka, muddled basil and passion fruit, with a champagne float is nice and refreshing, while the Berry Apropos, made with Belvedere Black Razz and St. Germain poured over dry ice, and topped with berries and champagne is another winner.
Dig a little deeper into the menu and another fantastic starter to share are the Brussel Sprouts, a delish mix of butternut squash, leek cream, sunchokes, and crispy leeks. Brussel Sprouts are really making a big comeback around town and it is refreshing when a kitchen will get creative with a familiar dish and present it in a bold new way.
A really cool bar item is the East-West Poutine, which is actually French fries topped with red curry gravy, Oaxacan cheese, and peppadew-chive relish. Move over nachos, there’s a new boss in town. While this may not be the norm for fine dining, it’s a fun item and if you’re just doing bar bites and drinks, it will go perfect alongside the Korean Sliders served with chili pickled cucumbers, kimchi aioli, pickled daikon, and sesame bean sprouts. Bar food never tasted so good. Another great side dish is the Sweet Potato Fries served with avocado salsa, a nice and distinctive touch that really adds a lot of flavor.
But if you find yourself in the mood of a more traditional sit down dinner, then do order the Fig Flatbread, made with fig jam, bresaola, cabrales bleu cheese, caramelized onions, and fresh figs, as it is out-of-this-world good and perfect as an appetizer to share.
Two other must-have appetizers are the Arancini, risotto fritters with wild mushrooms, fontina, and Romesco sauce (nut and red pepper-based sauce), and the Lobster Louie, served over Boston lettuce, tomatoes, pickled fennel, and smoked chili dressing. These two winners pair ever so well with a fine glass of Pinot Noir – Bryon, Santa Barbara County 2010.
For entrees, I suggest the Sea Bass if you like fish. Served with sweet potato, Tuscan kale, chorizo, caramelized onions, and Romesco, this is a light and satisfying dish that really hits the spot. And you should really pair it with the Sauvignon Blanc – Villa Maria, Marlborough, New Zealand 2010.
If you’re looking for something hearty, then go with the Red Curry Braised Short Ribs, which are tender with just the perfect amount of spice. The meat is so full of flavor yet is presented with a pretty unique taste all its own.
Dessert may be overkill but rest assured you’re in for something decadent yet delicious. And if you’re really feeling like you want the party to keep going, them go for their satisfying beer float. You really can’t go wrong. Next stop, Shangrila!
The Dining Room at Hotel Shangrila is located at 1301 Ocean Ave in Santa Monica. Call 310-394-2791.