SANTA MONICA FAVORITE REOPENS IN BIGGER LOCATION
There’s something to be said about our favorite hole-in-the-wall restaurants. They’re so comforting and cozy and make us feel special to be in the know. But for practicality sake, sometimes bigger is better; at least it improves our chances of getting a table.
So when Manchego on Main Street, a Santa Monica staple for authentic and delicious Italian cuisine, moved three doors down to a bigger, yet still intimate, space, regulars had to be ecstatic that the local gem now won’t be as hard to get into.
Sporting a new and expanded menu courtesy of Executive Chef Vivianna Hernandez (previously of Bouchon, Blue Plate Oysterette, Messhall, and 41 Ocean), Manchego still retains its charm with intimate seating and candle lit tables in the main dining room, but this new location also boasts a private back patio, adding al fresco dining to the experience.
"Manchego has always been the best kept secret with Santa Monica locals,” says owner Ash Amir. “We look forward to sharing our new amazing space and curated Spanish wine collection with you all."
Manchego’s re-vamped the menu features Spanish tapas focused around Spanish cheeses (thus the name Manchego) and meats with a bit of a Mediterranean influence.
Something to take note of is Manchego’s BYOB policy, which they maintain Monday thru Thursday when their corkage fee is only $7 for a bottle for two or three people. The restaurant is now offering its own hand-selected wine list, consisting mostly of unique, small production Spanish wines as well as some South American and organic local wines.
During our recent visit for dinner, we started with a fresh, house-made glass of White Sangria. While the sun hadn’t set yet, this just seemed like the ideal way to start a lovely Santa Monica night.
Taking our cue from owner Ash Amir, we started with the Quesos a la table (Spanish cheese board), which also paired well with the white sangria. Next we tried the Chartcuteria (meat plate) with house-made pickles and paired that with a glass of red sangria, which was very dessert forward.
Moving onto red wine, Ash recommended the 2011 Ecovitres “Aspirall” Garnatxa, which proved quite lovely with taut red and dark berry flavors and a subtle licorice nuance. Manchego offers several sharable tapas dishes and we decided to work our way through several, starting with the Empanadas—chicken and cabrales cheese with red pepper sauce, as well as the braised lamb with jalapeño aioli. Both were very tasty but I think I slightly preference the lamb, especially paired with red wine.
Dinner was almost ruined after having the outrageously delicious Chorizo and Mushroom Lasagna with idiazabal cheese paired with Por que No? organic Zinfandel from Napa Valley. I wasn’t sure anything could be better. This lasagna was so loaded with flavor that I almost felt like ordering another one. Consider this a must-have.
Next we went with the Spicy Red Pepper and feta, with chile arabole, and crispy pita. It was cold, which surprised and slightly disappointed me as I was expecting a hot item. It was OK and I did enjoy its spicy flavor.
Kudos to the Kale Salad with avocado, manchego, and citrus vinaigrette. I love when a simple dish surprises you by being so flavorful. I strongly recommend this as a starter or shared plate.
Another winner were the Jamon Wrapped dates, think of these as nuggets of goodness. I never seem to tire of bacon wrapped dates and these were so delicious—great with a glass of red wine. Likewise, the Huevos Diablos (deviled eggs) filled with lemony taste were addictive as well.
Looking for bigger dishes, the Calamari in Ink Sauce, served with basil and avocado was very tasty. This dish was gravy heavy in texture and seemed more California than Spanish, think of it as Octopus Stew, but was very nice.
Our main entrees were absolute favorites, the Seabass Filet with anchoa olives, capers, and kohlrabi was light, fresh and delicious, as was the hearty Flank Steak with cabrales, and piquante sauce.
Dessert seemed almost like a lost cause after such a fantastic dinner, but we soldiered on and went with the Churros and the first rate Flan de Yeye made from one of the staff’s grandma’s recipe; delish!
While Manchego is now in a larger location, it’s still cozy and intimate and maintains a vibrant energy that really makes for an entertaining dinner.
Manchego is located at 2518 Main Street in Santa Monica. Hours: Sunday through Thursday from 5:30 to 10:30pm; Friday and Saturday 5:30 to 11pm. Happy Hour runs from 5:30 to 7pm Monday to Thursday. Call (310) 450-3900
Story by Jose Martinez
Some photos courtesy of Manchego