SERVING SAVORY MEXICAN FARE IN SANTA MONICA
From acclaimed chef Richard Sandoval, internationally praised as the Father of Modern Mexican Cuisine, is La Sandia in Santa Monica where guests can enjoy authentic Mexican specialties served alongside over 200 fine tequilas and agave spirits.
Inspired by his culinary mantra of 'old ways, new hands,' Chef Sandoval is known for reinterpreting traditional dishes with innovative techniques and skillful presentation. Located among the restaurants on the rooftop of the nicely renovated Santa Monica Place, La Sandia serves savory Mexican food, alongside a slew of tasty tequilas in a casual, yet refined setting.
The Tequila Bar & Lounge offers a welcoming refuge and is a great place for a quick drink or lengthy stay of bites and booze at the bar. Tuesdays from 4-7pm the bar offers $2 tacos (al pastor, skirt steak, chicken tinga, carnitas); $2 torta sliders (chicken tinga, carnitas); and $2 Tecates. All Night Happy Hour is offered at the bar Sunday through Friday. Other bar promotions includes $5 Bottomless Guac for two Mon-Fri from 4-7pm.
During our recent visit for dinner, we started with drinks as one often does at a Mexican restaurant. The Hibiscus Margarita with Milagro Silver Tequila, hibiscus, citrus, served on the rocks, and the Sandia Margarita with El Jimador Blanco Tequila, watermelon, citrus, also served on the rocks, were good starter cocktails. Honestly, I gave up sugary margaritas years ago for more straight forward and stronger tasting libations but every once in a while you just can’t help but love the taste of a solid, strong yet tasty margarita. These both really hit the spot.
A great feature at La Sandia is the tableside prepared Guacamole. Made with avocado, tomato, onion, cilantro, and Chile Serrano, I always find it a nice touch when you can get your guac made right before your eyes. Add shrimp and mandarin and make it Veracruz Guacamole.
Next we sampled the appetizers as Chef brought out a little bit of everything, including four cheese Grilled Quesadilla; Beef & Chorizo Empanadas made with braised beef (Barbacoa), chorizo, raisins, Oaxaca cheese, almonds, and chipotle sauce; Queso Fundido, think mushroom quesadillas with Mexican cheeses, Chile Morita salsa, flour tortillas and mushrooms; and Chicken Flautas, chicken tinga rolled in a crispy corn tortilla, Chile Morita salsa, Cotija cheese, black bean puree, and creama fresco. If you’re sharing, these definitely do the trick. If you’re eating on your own, you may want one appetizer and the empanadas are the way to go. They reminded me of family gatherings growing up. They have a distinct taste and may be new to many people, but they’re authentic and are worth trying.
For our entrees, I couldn’t resist the Chicken Mole Poblano with Mexican rice, refried black beans and fried plantains. Every time I see mole on a menu I feel compelled to have it. Most times, I find them tasty enough but it’s really rare when I go gaga over it. La Sandia makes a very fine mole, which isn’t too surprising since it even hosts its very own Mole Festival.
The Chipotle Prawns with grilled shrimp, achiote-chipotle sauce, white rice sautéed with market vegetables, and black bean purée was a winner. The shrimp were good sized and so succulent.
For our pescatarien friends, the Veracruzana, fish prepared with olives, capers, Anaheim pepper stuffed with goat cheese and Mexican cheese, served with plantains and Veracuz-style sauce was light yet hearty. This is as guilt free as you can get at a Mexican restaurant, with the exception of La Sandia’s Latin Light Menu.
If you’re looking to eat healthy or you’re counting calories, the Chicken Taco Platter, served with pico de gallo salad, pinto beans and guacamole, is prepared with achiote, and comes with lettuce wraps, onions, and salsa roja and is only 482 calories. Of course delicious and decadent desserts such as Caramel Flan, Churros, and El Tres Leches will lay waste to any diet but sometimes a little decadence is called for. Remember, you don’t have to finish the whole thing, just take a bite to satisfy your sweet tooth, but since you are paying for it, wrap it up and take it home and have a little more the next day.
La Sandia is located on the top floor at Santa Monica Place. Hours: Lunch is daily 11:30am to 4pm; Dinner is 4pm to close; Brunch is Sunday 11:30am to 3pm. Call (310) 393-3300
By: Jose Martinez.
Some photography courtesy of: La Sandia