Michael’s Santa Monica Still Vibrant After 33 Years With Sparkling Spring Menu
Recently, I was invited to try Michael’s new Spring Menu and happened to visit on their 33rd Anniversary (Michael McCarty opened it in 1979, followed by his sister restaurant in Midtown Manhattan in 1989). The experience was definitely DeathbedFood level, firing on all burners: service, ambiance, and, of course, the food.
SERVICE. Our waiter, Joey Dee, has been there since 1997 and obviously embraces everything about hospitality. Since I’ve been dabbling in trying to be gluten-free this month, I asked him what was gluten-free on the menu. He whipped out his handy tiny notebook filled with tons of his handwritten notes from his talks with the chef about the menu, apparently knowing every detail about which items were gluten-free, dairy free, vegan. I mean this man was on top of it. BTW, I was pleased to see that almost everything on Michael’s Spring menu was gluten-free … and, if it wasn’t, could easily be modified to be so. Very impressive.
AMBIANCE. This was my first time sitting on the famous outdoor patio there for a meal as prior I’d only visited the bar area and lounge. We were seated at a table in the corner which is the best since you can view the entire scene (I’d tell you which, but then I’d have to kill you). I love the traditional feel of the seating. Rather than cramming guests in so close that they can hear the other party’s conversation more than their own, Michael’s allows you to actually hear your dinner companion without straining. The music is at a relaxing level as well … all told, I’m making their patio dining a tradition going forward.
First, let’s get down to business. By far, without question, the DeathbedFood dish of the night was the Loup de Mer.
Our waiter Joey mentioned there was a table the other night filled with French people who told him they can get Loup de Mer from the Mediterranean any day of the week. Apparently, after Joey’s persuasion, they each ordered it, with each being totally blown away. I’m glad I also took Joey’s word for it. And, yes, it was worth going off my gluten-free experiment for that seriously insane pasta.
Besides the Loup de Mer, we tried to sample a few things from all areas of the menu beginning with wine. I really appreciate Michael’s wine list. Not only is it comprehensive, but it’s easy to read as it’s on an iPad so it glows in the dark and you can blow up the print (AWESOME for those of us who are too vain to whip out our readers).
Based on what we were ordering, we decided to go Italian with a Barbera d’Alba, “Cannubi Muscatel,” Brezza 2006 that really opened up amazingly during the meal.
The House-Cured Gravlox, which we were told is the only original menu item remaining on the current list, was a lovely start …
The White Corn Soup surpassed my already high expectations. I adore corn soups and this version with lime aioli and parmigian-reggiano chip was stunning …
One reason I’m a Chef Groupie is that I so admire their ability to turn something like this …
… into this Giant Green and White Asparagus with Egg (a special that night) …
Along with the Loup de Mer, the other main entree we tried was the Alaskan Wild Red King Salmon with roasted garlic potato puree, chive oil and pistachio pesto. Pleeeeaaaase. Do I need to even say how good this was?
All told, I can see why Michael’s has not only lasted but flourished in Santa Monica over the last 33 years. Ambiance + True Hospitality + Amazing Food = DeathbedFood.
Next up? I’ll be doing the May Monthly Market Meet-Up where Michael and Chef Kuramoto lead a tour of the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market to introduce guests to their favorite farmers and pick the best ingredients of the season. Guests then head back to the restaurant and enjoy dishes specially created by the Chef featuring the monthly ingredient, as well as wine pairings and recipes to take home.
If you’d like to go to the next Market Meet-Up, you may call the restaurant at 310.451.0843 to sign up ($75 per person). Hope to see you there!