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Apr 3, 2007 08:43 AM

Ocean and Vine ain't so divine

My SO took me to Ocean and Vine for a b-day dinner, thinking a place that pairs food and wine would be a good fit.

The space is great. Dark woods and a dark wood floor invite you to gaze out the windows at the ocean and pier. The walls have hip art and the center of the eatery is a fire place with soft sofas that invite you to hang out at.

We started at the bar, where the bartender whispered everything. Was this an act? It was a bit annoying and pretentious, but hey this is LA.

When seated, we started with ordering. I had the "Caesar Salad" with butter lettuce. Right off you realized that the midwestern chef had a very earthy palate. The Caesar dressing was a wreck and shouldn't have been called Caesar; it was lacking garlic, anchovy, bitter lemon or even dashes of hot sauce... any ingredient in any Caesar I've ever seen. The white dressing was again, earthy. The lettuce was far too delicate for anything remotely resembling a Caesar and the crutons were hinted at but far too small to be considered anything but crumbs.

We received a complimentary tapanade tart of black truffles. It was earthy and good, but just this side of dirt, lacking any sort of acid to cut the deep earth taste. Good? How about interesting.

Next came a fondue for two. Simple, easy and fondue. Can you really screw up a fondue?

I ordered Baja scallops and a paella, my SO the sea bass. I should have known, with the earthiness of the rest of the dishes that a chef with roots strongly in midwestern flavors would butcher a paella, and he did. The four scallops were amazing. The "paella" was shrimp deep fried (not cooked in the same vessel as the rice or even in the same room, for that matter) and a saffron infused sticky mess of a rice, more of a risotto than anything, and lacking anything resembling sea food, spice, herbs or an item hinting at paella. My SO's sea bass was very good, however.

Desert was a quad of chocolate, two of which were outstanding (the soufle' was a-mazing) and two were boring.

The wine pairings throughout the meal were good, but with the food being that poor does the wine pairing do anything but get you through dinner and pay a $350 bill without becoming a felon?

Ocean and Vine
Inside of the Loews Santa Monica
1700 Ocean Avenue
Santa Monica

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  1. Wow, thanks for the review. Have been seriously considering going here soon - I walked by there once and glanced inside - seemed like too well lit of a place to relax, but thought maybe the food would make up for it. I guess not! I hate places that mess with Caesar salad and still call it Caesar.

    1. My husband took me to Ocean and Vine last night for my birthday. We had been once before a couple of years ago for fondue and really enjoyed it. He checked the menu on their website to make sure they still had fondue (a fav of mine), but when we showed up the entire menu and changed! Guess they forgot to change their website, so we were pretty disappointed.

      Being that it was my birthday, we brushed it off as a chance to try something new. If we could ever order. It took the waiter 10 min just to ask if we wanted sparkling or still water. A runner brought the water but the waiter didn't return for a good 15 minutes! Cocktails? Wine? You think a waiter at a place like this would know that you don't let your guests sit there for 25 min without taking a drink order! When he finally returned, we ordered a mussel app and our drinks. The mussels arrived about in about 10 min, but still no drinks! A runner dropped of the mussels and I said, we're still waiting on our drinks and he said "I'll get your server". Well, we were half way done with our mussels when our cocktails finally arrived and mine was wrong! He dropped them off and tried to run away, my husband had to call after him "hey, we're ready to order dinner"!

      I should say the mussels were very good, although I did get one with a chunk of sand. The broth they were in was delicious.

      I ordered the Hawaiian Mero, my husband ordered the Lamb Chops. By the time the entrees arrived, our cocktails were empty. Another runner dropped off our meals, no server in sight. I should mention the place was not even half full, but it seemed they had twice the staff needed for the crowd. We said to the runner, we would like to order more drinks, he said "I'll get your server". That must be their scripted response. I was half way through my meal, annoyed, and the server never came by to see how it was or see if we wanted more cocktails. Finally I saw a manager that I flagged over. I let him know I was extremely disappointed in the service and as I was talking to him, here comes our server literally running to our table. The manager took our drink order and they arrived a few minutes later- wrong again! Wrong in a different way than the first, but still wrong!

      The entrees were hit and miss. My husband loved his, mine was not so great. The piece of fish itself was nicely cooked, but had no seasoning. Not even basic salt and pepper. It was topped with a sickeningly sweet "chutney" and on a bed of even sweeter lobster risotto. There was nothing to balance the sweetness. It was like eating dessert.

      A funny side note, as we were walking out, we heard another table say to a runner "I need a spoon, and please send the manager over"!

      Needless to say, we won't be going there again and I really can not recommend it.