Josiah Citrin's Michelin-two-starred Santa Monica restaurant, Mélisse has been one of the top restaurants in the city for years now, so he has turned his attention to a new, casual (though still pricey) restaurant called Caché on Main Street. The new venture takes over the former space of a short-lived restaurant called Hidden, taking advantage of a beautifully lit outdoor patio complete with fire pit lounge, private dining areas and bar, as well as a quieter interior dining room.
The menu is topped with a choice of mason jar rillettes including a savory one with duck confit, and another with smoked salmon and potato salad. Then there are first courses like the wood-fired calamari with parsley, chorizo and Meyer lemon confit; gelatinously rich fire-roasted bone marrow (served in the bone!) to eat with toasted baguette smothered with a wild mushroom tapenade; and shrimp cocktail with tomato gelée and cocktail sauce panna cotta. The heirloom tomato salad comes with contrasting cubes of watermelon, avocado, feta, and mint vinaigrette, while diners not on a diet will enjoy the selection of gourmet flatbreads like the one with duck sausage, artichokes, Niçoise olives and Cantal cheese.
Main courses cover all the bases, with plenty of fish and meat options, as well as two vegetarian pastas including a baked rigatoni with mushroom duxelles and tomato sauce. In the fish category, the loup de mer comes with marinated eggplant, lemon and rosemary; and the Alaskan halibut is a pristinely white piece of tender fish topped with baby artichokes, tomatoes and little bacon chunks. The New York steak is served with sweet Maui onion rings and a chimichurri sauce.
The most memorable dish was actually the multi-colored side of heirloom carrots bathed in a tropical passion fruit, thyme and black pepper glaze. The effect is intoxicatingly fresh and light, whereas the white bean ragout with olives, Meyer lemon and oven-dried tomatoes is simple, hearty, and frankly flavorful.
Desserts are a little more playful, with sweet-sounding names like the dense "chocolate crunch" with peanut butter caramel sauce and chocolate ice cream, or the butter rum cake "Twinkie" with coconut cream and passion fruit sorbet.
The wine list, like the rest of the menu, is priced high (even by mark-up standards)-and in the case of some by-the-glass options, extraordinarily high-but what do you expect with choices like a 2004 Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande Reserve, or Bruno Colin Chassagne-Montrachet from '06?
Address: 3110 Main St.
Neighborhood: Santa Monica, CA
Phone: (310) 399-4800
Hours: Sun-Weds 6:00-10:00pm, Thurs-Sat 6:00-11:00pm, Sat-Sun 11:30am-2:30pm