The Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica may have the most restaurants per square feet than any other street around, but I still struggle to find a good place to eat there. There are a ton of chains and I wonder how they can all possibly stay in business, but many do in fact turnover regularly. I am a fan of the food and ambiance of Misfit, but it's super loud, and not conducive to any sort of conversation that doesn't include a megaphone. I also like the healthy, but delicious choices at True Food Kitchen, though there's not much atmosphere for an evening out. So I was excited to hear about a new tapas and paella restaurant just opened on 2nd Street called Taberna Aroos y Vi.
Taberna has been open 3 months now and comes to us from Lazy Ox owner Michael Cardenas. I dined there on a Wednesday night around 8pm and there were only about a half dozen people in the fairly spacious, 2 room, softly lit, wooded spot.
Service was warm and friendly with several people asking if we were ok and in need of anything. There was an interesting selection of Sangria and we tried the tart Burgundy Sangria with strawberry and arugula, but I recommend keeping the arugula on your plate, and staying away from this drink. The Beer Sangria was much better and very refreshing. I just wish there was more in the glass. I guess that means I liked it.
There are several paella and main dishes on the menu like lamb, squid ink pasta and fish stew, but we came for tapas, and sampled several. The summer salad indeed looked like summer with bright greens, edible flowers, fresh corn, carrots, cucumber and beets. While fairly basic in flavor and light in dressing, it was beautiful on the plate.
The croquettes with chorizo were crisp on the outside and slightly bland on the inside, but were spiced up with a warm harissa aioli.
The tuna crudo included nice cuts of fresh fish with slivers of artichoke around the perimeter and a pool of olive oil. If they stopped there (or maybe halfway through pouring the olive oil), the dish may have been a winner, but I struggled to find the complement to the olive tapenade served on top.
Rabbit rillette was a welcome addition to the table. It was well made and slightly sweet, served with toasted bread, but then again, we all need my French bias.
The last plate down was the maitake mushroom blossom, which was a big surprise and delight. A whole head of mushrooms was cooked, and served with an osso bucco marmalade and chunks of tangy Moody blue cheese. I had never seen all these ingredients on the same plate before, and for some inexplicable reason, it worked. I really liked it.
So while this may not be included in my go-to Promenade restaurants, it could be worth stopping in to enjoy some sangria and rillettes, and a much better substitute for the bloomin' onion.