Herringbone isn't new to California and the west coast as they have locations in La Jolla, West Hollywood and Vegas. That does put them in the chain category, but if the recipe works, I'm open.
Brian Malarkey is the chef behind Herringone. He's a guy who you might have seen on any of the food focused TV shows like Top Chef and The Taste. He explains his concept as "fish meats field," so yeah, expect fresh seafood and meat with seasonal produce - you know the drill. So I was curious to see if they were doing anything unique.
The space if huuuuge. It sits across from Santa Monica's upscale beachfront hotel row, but without the ocean views. The restaurant is light and bright with windows surrounding the long, rectangular building. There's nooks everywhere to take in drinks and bites and a lot of scene. The bar area dominates with cocktails on the furthest wall back, and different couch areas to relax or simply feel like you're in an ad for shabby chic.
Moving north is a communal table, high top tables and a seafood bar. Then you hit actual dining tables with greenery growing up the side of one wall. This must be to put you in the field state of mind. The last section of the restaurant includes indoor and outdoor dining, a giant lobster on the wall, and a large table right in front of the kitchen to watch all the action. There is a lot to take-in, and of course plenty of noise that comes with a space of this size.
Our waiter couldn't have been more helpful. In fact, the only way he could have been more helpful was if he stopped being so present and helpful. He did give us some nice recommendations including the bay scallops in sesame ponzu with flying fish roe. The scallops were creamy and lush and the roe leant a nice bite. It was quite salty, but salt and I are close companions.
Albacore poke was fairly standard with ginger, soy, spicy mayo, nori and avocado, but pleasing nonetheless.
We moved into unique territory with the buffalo ranch octopus. Yes, buffalo like the buffalo flavor you get on finger licking chicken wings. I hadn't see this preparation before with octopus and I dug it, along with the black eyed peas, celery, carrot and herb bed that it sat on.
Also a bit off the beaten path was the Baja stone crab mixed crispy rice with chinese sausage, ginger, cilantro, chilies and peanuts. The different textures were nice and I enjoyed the sweet, spicy and sticky dish.
The fried brussels with candied pecans brought us back to the Los Angeles restaurant menu 101. There are others in LA doing this dish better. It was well charred, but just lacking in a little flavor. The peas, leeks, prosciutto, mint and chilies did make for a different combination, but not particularly noteworthy. These sides were $7 and other small plates were between $12 - $14. A collection of flatbreads runs a little higher and the full on plates are $25 - $45.
If you're in the mood for a catch up with a long lost friend or wanting a spot for a quiet, romantic dinner, then you might want to look elsewhere, or ensure you snag a spot on the quieter outdoor patio. There was DJ equipment set up in the bar area that night I was there, so things may turn into the beach's version of a clubby hot spot with better than chicken tender offerings. Herringbone Santa Monica is also a good place for a large group gathering given the size of the restaurant, and large tables available where it's easy to share some large plates and fresh seafood.
Herringbone Santa Monica
1755 Ocean Avenue, Santa Monica