Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Santa Monica Small Plates: Tar & Roses

We celebrated Ms. Cruiser's birthday this year at Tar & Roses.
It was worth the trek to Santa Monica.  Yeah, I said trek.  It's a trek now for me.  Sigh.

Complimentary cheese, fruit, nuts, bread.  Why complimentary?  Because we waited 15 minutes for a table even though we had a reservation.
The host, server, and manager were all very apologetic and also gave us free beverages.  The Cruisers opted for some wine, while we downed two Fever Tree ginger ales.

It was a good start.  I like when people in the hospitality industry care about your happiness, make an effort, and say sorry when it's warranted.  Kudos to the Tar & Roses staff for this.

And the night only got better.

Chicken oysters on a stick, tamarind ($7).
How can something so simple be so good?  These were just grilled chicken spheres on sticks, and they were super.

Charred octopus, Yukon potato, salsa verde, piquillo pepper aioli ($9).
I loved every blackened bite.

Charred little gem lettuce, pickled sardine, burrata, dijon ($10).
Oh, the char!  They do the char so well!  Even on lettuce!  Paired with burrata?  Fab!

Bucatini carbonara, duck egg, pancetta, Parmesan ($12).
Enjoyable but no wow factor.

Braised lamb belly, apple chutney ($11).
If there's lamb on the menu, Mr. Cruiser will get it!  This night was no exception, and this was a lovely home-y dish.  Very comforting.

Shellfish pot -- scallops, clams, mussels, shrimp, maitake, curry ($23).
Ms. Cruiser picked this one, and we were all very happy she did.  It was a brothy seafood bonanza!

Baby broccoli, Parmesan pudding, olive oil croutons ($8).
Tar & Roses has a fairly ample vegetable section.  The Parmesan pudding and olive oil croutons really made this broccoli a treat to eat.

Wood-roasted parsnips, honey, mustard, crisp pancetta ($8).
I'm not sure if I'd ever had parsnips in their original form before this night.  They looked sort of alien and creepy, but the pancetta accompanying them helped me get over their weird appearance.

Wood-roasted whole branzino, Meyer lemon risotto ($24).
Impressive.  It's not often you get a whole fish with the head when you're at a non-Asian restaurant.  The Meyer lemon risotto was the perfect tart partner for this branzino.

Strawberry ricotta crostata, honeycomb ice cream ($9).
Extraordinary.  I'm not a big dessert person, but I can honestly say that this was my favorite dish of the night.  You should go to Tar & Roses just for this.

Chocolate hazelnut budino, whipped yogurt, candied wheatberry ($8).
I only had a bite of this because it's chocolate, but my taste was rich, creamy, and dreamy.

Your bill will come in this clearly labeled envelope.
And the damage won't be too terrible.  Very good meal for a decent price.  I'd return.


  1. My first thought at the parsnips photo was, "That looks like something out of a horror movie." Ha!

    It's nice to hear that they took good care of you after the waiting. Cheese, bread and fruit always make me happy.

    1. ALIENS!!! ON A PLATE!!!

      Yes, service can make all the difference. :)

  2. If Tar & Roses weren't such a trek, I'd be there on the regular ;-)

  3. Looks delicious! Something to try when we finally get the kiddo a babysitter.

  4. I've never had parsnips like that. or perhaps ever. i will have to rectify this. the branzino looks lovely.

    1. I'd only had them pureed or mushed-up. Not sure I could even identify them before this night. LOL.

  5. Love the bill and the Parmesan pudding. Mmm...

  6. staub everywhere! it looks great. kind of sad i'm not on the westside anymore.

  7. Hmmmmm. Candied wheatberry looks suspiciously like Sugar Smacks? Dig 'Em!

  8. This review comes at a perfect time for me, because I am looking for a restaurant to visit next Friday after a company event in Santa Monica. Thanks!


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