My cousin Barbara was coming from Pasadena to celebrate her 50th birthday with us so I wanted to pick a special restaurant. After numerous raves from clients I chose Tar and Roses in Santa Monica.
After making a reservation I looked over the menu and had some hesitation, since it was not the standard fare but decided to be adventurous and give it a try.
We arrived at 5:30 on Sunday and were promptly seated on the outdoor “patio” area, which is actually enclosed with a glass ceiling. The room had a cool feel and fun vibe, especially during the golden hour.
Our waiter Joe greeted us as if he had known us and gave us a guided tour through the menu. He explained their “snacks” which are tiny bites of things, “smalls” which are considered appetizer portions, “veggies” which are appetizer plates of different vegetables with interesting combinations of spices and additives, and “large” items, which are entrée portions with various sides.
We decided to try several items and share. We ordered roasted beets with feta and tarragon, cauliflower with pine nuts and lemon, king trumpet mushrooms with soft egg and rosemary, ricotta gnocchi with asparagus (all small and veggie dishes), and then 2 large plates: wild king salmon with roasted tomato, eggplant, artichokes and peppers, and pork tenderloin with creamed corn, kale and smoked peach.
I am not a beet lover but have to say the roasted beets with feta looked like they were fresh out of the garden, roasted perfectly with a hint of tarragon and embellished with feta.
The ricotta gnocchi were as our waiter said – little “puffs of heaven” – teeny, tiny with only 3 each to share but worth every little bite. The cauliflower and mushrooms were tasty and fresh.
The salmon came with a tomato sauce, which was new and interesting and perfectly cooked. The roasted peppers, eggplant and artichoke accompaniment was exceptional. I did not end up tasting the pork but the creamed corn, kale and smoked peach taste I had was memorable on all taste bud levels.
For a birthday treat they brought us Strawberries seasoned with thyme on a thin bed of ricotta, atop a flakey pastry coupled with honeycomb ice-cream. It was pure bliss. Who would have thought to season strawberries with Thyme?
Johnnie the manager came around a few times during the dining experience asking for honest feedback –something you don’t see too often at restaurants in general. They are really interested in providing fresh wholesome healthy food with flare.
When we left I felt extremely satisfied but not bloated, and happy to have tried some new fun interesting combinations. Although I had a few more carbs than I normally eat, I had no physical repercussions showing how fresh their food is.
If you want to go to a cool hip place where everyone is craning their necks to see what other people are ordering, give Tar and Roses a try. I know we can’t wait to go back and try the rest of their menu.
“The Damage” as they say when you receive your check may be a little high but it’s worth every penny.
My rating system is below and these are the numbers (out of 5)
1. Clean Food (sampled) – 4 (no grass-fed meat)
2. Clean Space – 5
3. Friendly Staff – 5+
4. Balanced proportions of protein/carb/fat – 4.5
5. No Food Hangover – 4.5
Tar and Roses got a 4.75/5