Friday, February 4, 2011

DineLA 2011 Review - La Sandia - Beautiful Restaurant and Food

I've generally had better lunch rather than dinner restaurant week / DineLA experiences, and it was no exception at La Sandia.  Overall, it was a significantly better meal than my recent DineLA dinner experience at Hostaria Del Piccolo, plus it was $10 cheaper per person and a definite steal at $16 per person overall.  La Sandia is in the new Santa Monica Place mall on the third floor with most of the restaurants.  I think the restaurant is really gorgeous with a great indoor / outdoor feel: an inviting patio facing the mall, a lovely dining room / bar area lined with blue and white mexican tiles and pottery, antique bronze lattice and iron work, comfortable worn leather furniture,  cool light fixtures, and open and airy back dining room with hanging lights and fountains.  I really like the space, much better than Red O, which goes for a similar modern mexican look.  Food and service is also better than Red O!
We ordered off the DineLA menu:
Complimentary chips and salsa
Handmade guacamole, not part of the DineLA menu; we were upsold
Shrimp Hurache: bean puree, oaxacan cheese, avocado, chipotle aioli
Duck Sopes: slow roasted duck, mexican corn slaw, huitlacoche vinaigrette
Chipotle BBQ ribs (amazing): slow roasted baby back ribs, smoked chipotle bbq sauce, charro beans, sweet corn tamal, mexican slaw
Chile Ancho Tuna: grilled ahi tuna, ancho chile rub, watermelon orange salsa, boniato mash, blood orange habanero glaze
Mexican churros and ice cream sundae
The food was beautifully presented and in most cases, tasted as good as it looked.  I really can't remember the last time I had such pretty, well-composed plates.  I particularly loved the chipotle bbq ribs; the meat was incredibly tender and falling off the bone and the chipotle bbq sauce was wonderfully tangy and slightly sweet.  The mexican slaw was refreshing and the corn tamal was delicious and sweet.  I also really loved the duck sopes; the duck had a bit of the texture and flavor of pulled pork, and was perfectly balanced with the salty cheese and fresh slaw against the dense corn cake base.  I thought the shrimp hurache was really good too; more light and straightforward of all the dishes we had.  The ahi tuna had a lot of really interesting and new flavor combinations (at least to me), particularly with the watermelon and orange garnish. The ancho chile rub taste wasn't particularly discernible so the tuna was a little lost in the whole dish.  It was definitely very pretty though.  The guacamole was good and fresh; probably could have used a little more salt.  We were definitely upsold to order it while perusing the menu; I don't like when restaurants do that, especially when we had way too much food.  The complimentary chips and salsa would have been plenty; the salsa was really good with a nice subtle heat, although I wish they used more of the homestyle thicker tortilla chips.  By the time we got to the desserts, we were stuffed.  The churros were good, although a tad on the dense side, as were the chocolate brownies in the sundae.  All in all, a really enjoyable meal at a great price!  It's the best restaurant week meal that I've had, and I actually even want to go back.  I've only been to Pizzeria Antica and Sonoma Kitchen and Wine Bar (and Pinches Tacos, which is much more casual), but La Sandia is my favorite restaurant by far in the new Santa Monica Place.

La Sandia Mexican Kitchen and Tequila Bar
395 Santa Monica Place
Santa Monica, CA  90401
(310) 393-3300

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