Tallula's Restaurant is the latest addition to the group behind Rustic Canyon and Huckleberry. They're serving elevated Mexican fare in a beachy, breezy location in Santa Monica.
The new Mexican restaurant Tallula's in Santa Monica has a lot going for it. First, it was birthed from some really good parents. Its siblings include westside hits like Rustic Canyon, Cassia, Esters, Huckleberry and Milo and Olive.
Tallula's also inherited a plum location in Santa Monica, across from the beach. While you won't have ocean views, you will feel ocean breezes.
So knowing Tallula's has good parents and a good location, I went to see if the newest addition would fit in with the well-regarded family.
Tallula's is in the old Marix Tex Mex space on Entrada, at the northern edge of Santa Monica. They cleaned the place up inside since its Marix days with bright beachy blue and pink walls, colorful wall hangings and lush green hanging plants.
The bar is festive with high-top tables and stools and dozens of hanging, mismatched lanterns. Then there's the dining room. I was perplexed by the tables and chairs that looks like they could be on loan from Denny's. I get they wanted to go with a casual, laissez faire scene, but I think the dining room furniture went a bit too laissez for their high quality fare.
This Mexican food isn't El Cholo or greasy dive cuisine. It's elevated Mexican with strong, well-sourced ingredients. Natch. So you might see market vegetables with a fiery pumpkin seed chipotle sauce. If you do see this dish, you should absolutely get it, and ask for a spatula to get every last lick of that fabulous sauce.
Of course there are chips with guacamole and salsa ($11), but you know what that tastes like. Instead, order the sweet summer corn that's all pre-shucked for you, and layered with lemongrass, chile, queso fresco and pea tendril. You won't find that on the El Cholo menu.
There's a sugar snap pea salad, yellowtail ceviche and vegetarian mushroom and ricotta enchiladas. The enchiladas have a bold guajillo ancho sauce with sherry walnut crema. The taste lingers in your mouth, in the best possible way.
The Mexican white shrimp dish is another interesting diversion on Tallula's menu. Shrimp is combined with Chinese broccoli, purple long beans and sweet Italian peppers in a zesty salsa de mama. Again, the flavors are all pronounced. There's no subtlety going on here, and that's a good thing.
The unique touches carry over to the drink menu. Sure you can choose from some tasty looking margaritas, beer or wine, or you could switch things up with the Westsider, filled with reposado tequila, elderflower, fresh lime, mint, cucumber and jalapeno. It reminded me of my spicy cucumber mint margarita. Also worth an order is Tallula's Medicina del Abuelo with flavor of the moment Mezcal, fresh ginger, lemon, honey and firewater bitters.
Tallula's doesn't have El Cholo pricing with most of their small plate menu items in the mid to high teens and large plates $29 - 32, but the ingredients, sourcing and flavor are all miles above the rest. If you can overlook a more casual dining room, then you're in for an elevated Mexican meal.
118 Entrada Drive, Santa Monica