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Whist: Reviewed

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I haven't seen a review of Whist lately, and I've eaten there in 4 very different circumstances, so I figured this might be a good time to leave my first restaurant review on Chowhound...

Whist is the restaurant at the Viceroy Hotel in Santa Monica. The first thing you'll notice when you walk through the door will either be the doorman hitting on you or the setting. The setting is gorgeous (although the obnoxious doorman was not). The interior is simultaneously hip and antique. The patio, with oversized chairs, cabanas, and a pool, feels surreal.

As beautiful as the restaurant is, the rest of the Whist experience is mightily underwhelming. The food, in fact, is downright bad. My takeway from these 4 experiences...I will never again consume food at Whist, but I will return on occasion for drinks and people-watching.

Experience 1: Tasting menu with a group of 7 - We were seated at the cabana and received our drinks, but it took the waiter more than 30 minutes to come back for our dinner orders. When he did, we all ordered the tasting menu. Unfortunately, this occurred too long ago to remember the specifics, but most of the dishes were cold, everything took forever, and nothing was good. I remember some kind of lobster or crawfish dish that was bland.

Experience 2: Dinner with Mollyomormon - The service this time was wonderful, and we loved our key-lime martinis (garnished with a graham cracker crust!). The food, however, simply sucked. There were no specials, so we just ordered from the menu. We received an amuse bouche (the highlight of the meal) of artichoke puree with what tasted like some kind of cheese. We loved it. For an appetizer, we shared the pork belly. It came out cold and overcooked. We had to send it back, something we hate to do, because it was just too gross to eat. The replacement arrived hot and moist, but the flavor was still only average. As entrees, I ordered the duck polenta and my friend had the scallops. The duck polenta was reasonably tasty, although there was far too much sauce. I have to wonder if they were trying to mask something. My friend's scallops were overcooked and too salty (and she loves salt!). The meal was definitely overpriced. Neither of us mind paying top dollar for good food, but it was very clear that we were paying only for the "ambiance."

Experience 3: Corporate event - My only good experience at Whist was when I was invited to a private event on the patio for about 30 people. There were complimentary cocktails and an appetizer/dessert spread. Of course I loved mingling by the pool because, again, the decor is spectacular. The drinks were great, and I enjoyed the appetizers and desserts (probably because they were free and I was drinking). I especially enjoyed the chocolate-dipped strawberries, but especially disliked the tuna tartar, which tasted like it had been sitting out for too long.

Experience 4: Happy hour - My office brouht some colleagues and me to the bar for a happy hour. We sat indoors this time. The setting was great, as were the drinks. The food, again, was the low point. I sampled the truffle-oil grilled cheese and the Kobe beef burger. The grilled cheese was far too greasy and the truffle oil tasted artificial. I didn't mind the burger, but it too was grease-heavy.

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  1. I share your sentiments about Whist. I love having cocktails there but the food has never failed to disappoint me. I too have no issue with paying a lot for a great meal but I've never found it worthy of the price point.

    Thanks for a great (and thorough) review!

    1. I was said friend from experience number 2 and this dinner made me sad. The setting at Whist is so lovely that it's really a little tragic to me when the food at such places really underwhelms. This was PlatypusJ's first introduction to pork belly and it was kind of a shock to have our $15 little piece of pork come to the table cold and cooked to the point where it had the mouthfeel of sawdust. Luckily, our waiter was really gracious about bringing a new piece. The whole time, though, I was thinking wistfully (maybe appropriate for this place) of the pork belly down the street at Musha which is always hot and melty and only costs something like $8. I had to go the next night to get it just to make myself feel better.

      1 Reply
      1. re: mollyomormon

        I thoroughly enjoyed reading this review. It seems fair and even-handed, especially considering you braved this place 4 times, which is more times than I'll go to a place before I write it off.

        Thanks.

      2. and to boot, the drinks are $15 a pop. ugh.

        6 Replies
        1. re: wilafur

          $15? When? I'm always charged $18 a drink (perhaps because I name the brand), whether mixed or a glass of wine.

          But guys - how about the chicken and waffles? To me, it's the perfect late-night bar food.

          1. re: yogachik

            I think the $15 price applies to pretty much all the drinks from their specialty drink menu.

            I know I'll be back for the setting, so I'll definitely have to try the chicken and waffles based on your rec!

            1. re: yogachik

              my drink of choice is ketel soda or jack n coke. always $15 a pop.

              not sure why you are paying $18 per though....thats a bummer.

              1. re: wilafur

                Wow. I didn't realize the regular old drinks were that much too! Maybe I'll be back to try the chicken and waffles with my flask...

                1. re: mollyomormon

                  ooh, good idea!

                  "yes, i would like a carafe of soda water"

                  *pours the contents (ketel babee) of my flask into said carafe*

                  yay!

                2. re: wilafur

                  I think they upcharge for a martini, like the SBE bars. I drink Ketel Gimlets, up. My friend always drinks Margarita's on the rocks - also $18. Chardonnay last week was $17

                  I thought of another thing - the bar inside and the bar outside seem to charge different prices, and I tend to order from the outside bar. Am I the only one who's noticed this?

            2. I don't know if it's still on the menu, but a remember having a drink there a couple years ago with some SPECTACULAR artichoke chips. I had just come back from Spain and it reminded me of ones that I had had in Barcelona. Based on these reviews, I won't plan to have dinner there, but I would love to get back for those chips!