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Best place to eat in Santa Monica? Will travel for great food!

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My husband and I will be spending two nights in LA (last trip pre-first baby) at Casa Del Mar. We are huge foodies from Chicago. We are looking for excellent food, either : Japanese, Spanish, Vietnamese (no Italian French orAmerican, please). Also looking for excellent ambeince...maybe something outdoors or romantic or jsut plain cool. Last time in town (years ago) we went to Crustacean and Les Deux. We were thinking about The Bazaar...any thoughts? We are adventurous...want something upscale but not stuffy! thanks so much!

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  1. Santa Monica is filled with fantastic restaurants - no need to travel all the way to Bazaar, but you won't find anything like it elsewhere, so worth going. Look into:

    The Wilshire
    Musha
    Gjelina
    Joe's
    Bar Pinxto

    And then there are all the great Japanese and Korean restaurants on Sawtelle...

    6 Replies
    1. re: yogachik

      yogachik steered me to Wilshire and she was right on.

      1. re: lizziee

        Totally agree with Wilshire and make sure to reserve for the patio, which is both beautiful and romantic, so you can enjoy our gorgeous weather.

        I also think the Bazaar is a great choice both for the great ambiance as well as the food. If you're drinking, definitely be sure to check out one of their signature cocktails.

        Musha has a really fun, celebratory atmosphere and I think would be a great option for Japanese, especially since I don't think there's much in the way of izakayas in Chicago. Another option might be Bar Hayama in west LA which has a really cool fire pit and might be more in line with what you're seeking for ambiance.

        1. re: mollyomormon

          Also, on the patio at Wilshire, there's a corner table that's especially romantic and beautiful.

      2. re: yogachik

        i just went to bar pinxto - while its not a bad place - I wouldn't go out of my way. Gjelina on the other.... #1- its wonderful.
        Wilshire also a great call. and if you are looking for a comfy french style bistro for breakfast - annisette on santa monica was pleasant.

        1. re: yogachik

          I know I'm in the minority, but apart from the patio, I'm not crazy about Wilshire. I'd go to Fraiche instead.
          I do agree with the Musha, Bar Pinxto and Gjelina recs and add Cora's for breakfast and lunch.

          1. re: whatsfordinner

            I was alone inside Wilshire and had a FANTASTIC experience, can't wait to go back.

            (They had an unbelievably priced prix fixe, just $30+)

            1. re: aventinus

              Urth Cafe as the best place in Santa Monica? IMHO - not even in the top 25. And that might be generous.

              Catch, the restaurant in the Del Mar is actually pretty good (and way, way, way better than Urth) - leans toward the Japanese. Mori Sushi for Japanese - get the omakase. Casual, but not a lot of ambience. I've tried Wilshire twice - once in it's earlier incarnation where it had more pretense that content - but it was reshaped. I had lunch and got sick. So I'm reluctant to go back. But if Yogachik and Liziee have good things to say - then I suspect I had a uniquely bad experience. Let us know what you think!

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                1. Skip Catch (the restaurant in the hotel). There's no good Japanese nearby. With the possible exception of Bar Pintxo, which I thought was decent on my one short visit, there's no good Spanish nearby. I personally enjoy China Beach for Vietnamese but I won't recommend it because I think it simply suits my peculiar tastes. Hope that helps! (I guess the takeaway is that the area around Casa Del Mar has myriad restaurants, few of which offer anything remarkable.)

                  I do recommend Urth Caffe for breakfast -- in part for the food, in part for the experience (quintessentially upper-class LA). All the food and coffee is good quality, at least, though I suspect most chowhounds would find it bland, too healthy, overpriced, and lame. You can walk there.

                  I recommend a drive out of Santa Monica for Japanese -- something LA excels at.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: sillygoosedown

                    I disagree - Catch is always very good. However, they've changed their menu and done away with the sushi bar this week, I'm not sure how the new menu is, post-renovation.