Thursday, July 30, 2015

Reviewed: Rustic Canyon

Restaurant: Rustic Canyon
  • Cuisine: Seasonal American (menu changes frequently depending on what's fresh/in season)
  • Location: 1119 Wilshire Blvd. - Santa Monica, CA 90401  
  • Pricing: $$-$$$
  • What's delicious: Brined & Roasted Chicken
  • Perfect for: Foodies - date night - small groups - food origin/status/organic-conscious diners
...

Rustic Canyon, the crown jewel and namesake of its small umbrella of sister restaurants and culinary concepts, has long been on my queue of places to try in LA.  And I'm proud to report that, as of last weekend, I was finally able to cross this seasonal American stunner off of my list.  It only took me 14-months!
Situated within a bright and airy modern space (think floor-to-ceiling windows and a room height that soars upwards of 20 feet), the restaurant's aesthetic is as natural - yet visually attractive/tantalizing - as its food and drink offerings.

 
Photo found on www.lamag.com




Upon arrival, Elaina and I were promptly seated at a cozy two-top that hugged the wall of floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking bustling Wilshire Blvd.  To whet our appetites, we were rather quick in ordering a round of cocktails: A cosmo for her and the "Dirty Gibson" (Aviation Gin, Dolin dry vermouth, house-made cocktail onion, and onion brine) for me.  While the "house-made cocktail onion and onion brine" sounded sexy on the menu, I found the flavor to be a bit off-putting.  Don't get me wrong, I love onions - whether fried in rings or freshly-chopped and scattered atop my Mexican food - just not in the 'sippable' form.  In the future, I'll stick with my go-to: A "filthy" Hendrick's Gin martini on the rocks.  Served with as many olives that will fit on a toothpick.  And a "double shot" of olive juice on the side.
In an effort to sample more menu items, Elaina and I split everything we ordered.
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Appetizers

Summer Bean Salad
Blue Lake and Romano beans (both similar in shape and texture to the green bean) were dressed with salted, chopped almonds and sweet pluot segments (of the plum family) before being tossed in a tangy blue cheese dressing.
Elaina and I loved the texture that came courtesy of the crunchy beans and almonds, plus the sweet/salty flavor contrast that resulted when the pluots kissed the blue cheese.

 
Summer Bean Salad
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Grilled 'Le Grand' Nectarine
When I hear the word "summer," I automatically think of nectarines.  So when I spotted this salad on the menu, I demanded that it be included in our appetizer order.
Perched atop a fluffy "cloud" of homemade ricotta cheese were loose leaves of fragrant basil and arugula, fried polenta "croutons," and slices of perfectly-ripened nectarines that had spent just enough time atop the grill to gain their coveted "marks."  Drizzled olive oil, freshly-ground black pepper, and sea salt completed the dish.
Although the flavors were bold and exciting, it was the texture of the nectarine's warm, melt-in-your-mouth flesh against the cool ricotta cheese that was truly transcendent.

 
Grilled 'Le Grand' Nectarine
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Pappa al Pomodoro
As if the sound of "...a rich Tuscan tomato stew" wasn't seductive enough, add "...thickened with pieces of day-old bread."  And, for $3 extra, an ice cream-scoop of burrata cheese!
"This stew is so thick that you could eat it with a fork," our waitress chuckled.  So, you can imagine her surprise when Elaina and I asked her for a few slices of grilled bread for dipping purposes...

 
Pappa al Pomodoro
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Entree

Brined & Roasted Chicken
Plated atop a bed of creamed corn kernels and Vadouvan curry jus was the juiciest, moistest chicken that I've had to date.  The bird was oddly crowned with warm romaine lettuce leaves (Sorry, I just don't understand the "cooked lettuce" trend.  It's off-putting!).
Never one to order chicken at a restaurant (What?  It's fcuking boring.  You may as well order tofu, for god's sake!), I was completely blown away by this dish's unique preparation (brining prior to roasting).  Like I said in the paragraph above this one, I've never had a more moist piece of poultry, save for a fried turkey at Thanksgiving.  While breading and deep-frying is typically favorable, the brining method is much more heart - and waistline - healthy.

 
Brined & Roasted Chicken


Aside from the fact that Rustic Canyon's food/drink is exemplary, it's dishes are composed of ingredients sourced from farmers and ranchers who practice sustainable agriculture.  And that, to me, is a beautiful thing.
In my 14-months of living in LA, this is one of my most favorite meals and, certainly, a restaurant in which I plan to return.