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The Market at Santa Monica Place

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I just wanted to start a thread since I didn't see one, please point me to one if there is one already.

I stumbled upon this area looking for a bathroom after brunch at Zengo and strolling around the Promenade. Reminds me of the Chelsea Market and San Francisco Ferry Building. I didn't get anything since I was stuffed, but will want to check it out again soon (I'm from OC). Any Chowhound experiences/reports with the different vendors?

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Zengo
395 Santa Monica Place, Santa Monica, CA 90401

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  1. There have been a few comments about it. I think it's a good start...and hear they're adding new vendors soon. I had lunch at the Curious Palate and it was fine. They were a little disorganized, but it was the first week, so I'll cut them some slack. I have become a big fan of Venokado, the wine store. Two sisters own it (and one in West Hollywood) and they have an interesting and well-priced selection of wines.

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    Venokado
    7714 Fountain Ave West, Hollywood, CA

    The Curious Palate
    12034 Venice Boulevard, Mar Vista, CA

    28 Replies
    1. re: perk

      Address correction:

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      The Curious Palate
      395 Santa Monica Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90401

      1. re: perk

        Had lunch today at Primi and it was lovely. My companion and I each had the special Tortellini with shimp. Oh my, was it delicious! The tortellini were freshly made and black, so likely they had squid ink in the dough. They were stuffed with shimp and the sauce was a marinara with a touch of cream. It was very light. Piero Selvaggio of Valentino still can create a magnificent pasta dish.

        1. re: maudies5

          Thanks for the review, maudies5. I've been wanting to try the new Primi al Mercato since it opened recently, if for no reason other than to honor the memory of the old Primi (on Pico), which Selvaggio closed years ago -- my only gripe with him in more than a quarter century of eating at his restaurants. Your report motivates me to get over there immediately. God, I hope he brings back that "soulful duck crespelle." I need to stock up in case I'm stranded on a desert island.

          1. re: maudies5

            I have to say I had lunch there a couple of weeks ago and thought it was awful. I had a meatball sandwich which was on of the blandest things I've ever eaten. My wife had the "Italian Cobb Salad" which was a complete joke; mixed greens, a tablespoon of beans and a barely discernable few shreds of salami. Ridiculous.

            1. re: Bob Brooks

              Bob, were those specials? I don't see either on the menu ( http://primialmercato.com/Menu.pdf ). Did you complain? I hope maudies5 didn't find the ONE good dish (also not on the regular menu, by the way). -Harry

              1. re: Harry Niletti

                So funny! After I had my delicious lunch, I wandered over to the take-out counter to see if there was a good dinner option. As I walked up to the take-out counter, I saw a big tray of meatballs being presented for takeout.
                Sorry, Bob Brooks, that you found your meatball sandwich bland. I had a delicious lunch and decided to take home 6 meatballs"$1.50 per meatball. Those meatballs had a lovely sauce. Also, selected a 1/2 pound of homemade pasta . (Beautiful handmade pasta). Re-heatad the meatballs and cooked some pasta. I highly recommend the meatballs.

              2. re: Bob Brooks

                I ate there with two friends and everything was pretty good. Nothing remotely off. A solid bolognese, a vitello tonnato and I can't remember what the third was.

                And speaking of bland - I tried Fundamental based solely on your recommendation and both myself and my friend thought it was pretty pedestrian. Shockingly so. He had an egg salad sandwich which was simply bland. He was surprised - didn't this chef work at Melisse in some capacity? The house made potato chips were good, but I prefer Lay's Original Kettle chips out of the bag - which I'd say were significantly better. I had a salad which I liked - (a Cobb?) Which came with chick - a boneless thigh done crispy on the side. So you have to add it to your salad. What next? Buy the food and bus your own table? So maybe our tastes differ. Sorry Bob.

                1. re: foodiemahoodie

                  Looks like Bob is not the only one who rates Fundamental highly here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7955...

                  1. re: Servorg

                    And here's another:

                    http://midtownlunch.com/los-angeles/2...

                    1. re: Bob Brooks

                      Thanks for that, Bob. I aim to order the porchetta right off the bat and after that we'll see what the HQ (hunger quotient) is like... ;-D>

                2. re: Bob Brooks

                  I agree about Primi. I also had the Italian Cobb Salad and was shocked when they presented it. Five small shrimp, all lettuce and a spoonful of beans. I told the waiter that they shouldn't really call it a Cobb Salad and he ended up bringing me two very good pieces of blue cheese. It still didn't make up for the unappetizing salad. My son had the open faced lasagna and it was excellent. My daughter had a salad and it was also terrible. I guess you should just stick to the pasta.

                  I personally don't see the Market making it. I was there on a Saturday afternoon and the place was empty. No one was eating anywhere except Curious Palate. If they don't have business on Saturdays i can't see making it .

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                  The Curious Palate
                  12034 Venice Boulevard, Mar Vista, CA

                  1. re: Sugarsnap

                    I agree. There are lots of reasons why The Market is struggling. The presence of Groundwork sums up my own feelings regarding The Market. The Ferry Building has Blue Bottle--a truly high-end coffee shop with excellent baked goods too. I dream about their shortbread cookies with rosemary, olive oil, and sea salt along with a brilliant cup of coffee. Groundwork is mediocre. The coffee is blah; the baked goods are worse.

                    My thoughts on Primi are above. I went to Rockenwagner once and think it sucks. I was disappointed by L'Artisan du Chocolat. The cheese place has a limited selection, but I won't discount it. The wine shop is okay.

                    I haven't been to The Curious Palate. Will try it soon.

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                    The Curious Palate
                    12034 Venice Boulevard, Mar Vista, CA

                    1. re: sushigirlie

                      I think you hit upon the major issues with this place at The Place. Of the stalls I recognized, I didn't consider them to be strong attractions for people who are drawn to serious consumables. For example, Groundwork used to be in the upper echelon in the early days of better coffee in LA - no more by a mile. I think if the mgmt here would have done their homework and sought out specific sources of really great stuff - like the line-up at the Ferry Building - lines would be forming for parking alone - even longer at the various counters. You can't make folks return to average or above-average offerings at a location like this. If the current businesses there expect any form of serious success, they need to up their games.

                      1. re: bulavinaka

                        bulavinaka I agree with what you said 100%. For me the market is one big disappointment. I dreamed of a Cow Girl Creamery or a Gott's Roadside and didn't get anything close to it.

                        1. re: wienermobile

                          Yea, I'd go anywhere for a Cow Girl Creamery!

                          1. re: wienermobile

                            Sad. Until this place is well-established, I'm unlikely to waste the few hours I get to spend in SM at The Market. Create good food...and they will come! :)

                      2. re: Sugarsnap

                        Strange, we were there yesterday, after brunch, and the whole mall, including The Market, was hopping. Lots of people eating at Rockenwagner, TCP & Primi. As usual, Santa Monica in general was a ZOO on Saturday.

                        1. re: Phurstluv

                          Good to hear. Hard for people to spend more on food quality when nobody's eating there. My experiences have been the same as Sugarsnap's. It's been eerily dead when I've been there. A bartender at Primi told me that business has been disappointing.

                          1. re: sushigirlie

                            I'm not that surprised tho, we are in a recession, even if it doesn't affect the uber-rich, it does limit tourism and the dollars people are willing to spend on things like eating out & purchases. SM's 10+% sales tax is also a deterrent, at least for me.

                            1. re: Phurstluv

                              July was a bad month for local tourism from what I've seen on Abbot Kinney and also from getting feedback from some of the shops. Also, all of that Wash DC huff and puff about the budget tends to have a detrimental effect on spending as well. Conversely, this past weekend seemed to be on the upswing. August is vacation month for a lot of families since the kids will be going back to school soon. I think this month will be a good test for this market. If they don't consistently see better business, then it's time for a Plan B IMHO - time to hire some Chowhounds as consultants...

                              1. re: bulavinaka

                                Since when have Chowhounds been the demand base for this area of Santa Monica? Especially on the third floor of a shopping mall...

                                1. re: sushigirlie

                                  Never - and they never will be at this rate. You've already said it in your post above - I concurred and expanded. If they're going to make a market place, make it worthy enough to draw the right market segment so they are willing to jump through the hoops that it takes to head over there. Mediocre fluff at premium prices is the norm here. You won't create a destination let alone repeat business in this manner. Otherwise, Hot Dog on a Stick, Sbarro's et al should take over the leases and target the LCD as in other malls.

                                  Curious Palate is five minutes from Venice, and I can get Groundwork in Venice. I can get Rockenwagner/3 Square in Venice. I can get Nice Cream in Venice. I can get all three of these within five minutes of each other, and I don't consider them to be top tier - not worth my time or effort on the roof of a mall in the middle of downtown. Beachy Cream and Cookie Guru don't even have enough product to properly display at their awkwardly oversized kiosks - there should be three businesses of comparable size in each of those; i.e., the configuration and size don't match the businesses in each. Cooking school should be integrated product-wise with the other counters, marketing their goods by way of sampling dishes created there, but is there enough to draw from even if they took that route? No produce stall? No fish monger or butcher? Norcino has some very good stuff and nice cheese/charcuterie plates; Venocado has some unique wines but is pushing girly stuff that has nothing to do with wine. The list of issues goes on and was covered in the other thread.

                                  What Chow-like folks wanted to go to the Ferry Bldg (touristy Fisherman's Wharf area), Oxbow (DT Napa was rundown) or Swift Street (dilapidated ag warehouses/industrial area)? None - until they started offering things THAT ATTRACTED this market segment. "Build it and they will come," means nothing unless the right collection of places that are doing the right things are there to draw the right market segment in. Santa Monica place may have some of the best mall food around, but it's a 3-day old baguette compared to the other named places up north - and I'm sad to say this because I'm a native Westside Angeleno. And for all of these reasons, this is why I'm headed up north for vacation.

                                  1. re: bulavinaka

                                    There was a great line about this in a recent Sunset magazine article comparing the SF food scene to the LA food scene. The take-away was that the L.A. food scene is huge, vibrant, diverse and delicious and that Angelenos think "SF is a nice place to spend a weekend."

                    2. re: maudies5

                      Had a quick dinner there last night. A serviceable caesar salad, my son has the shrimp fra diavalo and I had fusili in a tomatoey pork sauce that was delicious.

                      Good service, reasonable prices and fresh, delicious pasta. What's not to like?

                      Love the free albeit slow valet parking.

                      1. re: bigredd

                        I saw a customer sitting at the bar drinking a glass of wine and eating the Caesar Salad. I remarked to my companion that the salad looked very crisp and was a nice-sized portion. The customer looked very happy. Next time I will split a Caesar and am now really looking forward to the Shrimp Fa Diavalo. BTW, the Tortellini stuffed with shrimp was a special that day. All things considered, I would order that any and every time it is offered. This is a very Venetian dish.

                      2. re: maudies5

                        I went there yesterday. I thought the food was "fine." I wouldn't necessarily recommend it, but I wouldn't dissuade anyone from eating there either. I might go again because I live in the area.

                        The complementary bread was decent. It seemed homemade and fresh, but it was flimsy and not very flavorful.

                        An arugula/radicchio salad with octopus and calamari was good. It was tossed with a light amount of vinaigrette, which didn't obscure the flavor of the greens, and the seafood was tender. This is what I'd expect from a casual, non-touristy restaurant in Italy.

                        My main dish of cavatelli in a lobster-tomato sauce was just okay. The homemade, gluten-free cavatelli pasta was excellent in my opinion, but the lobster-tomato sauce was not so good. The shredded lobster in the sauce didn't taste or feel like lobster; I actually would have preferred the dish without it (though it cost $24).

                        The wine list is limited. I didn't recognize any of the Italian red varietals except for Nero d'Avola. To be fair, Mozza, too, has lots of obscure Italian wines on its list, but their wines are good, whereas the wine I ordered from Primi was not.

                      3. re: perk

                        i love that wine shop. they're super nice. they do a wine tasting that you can get on their little patio. they also do a cheese plate and they're quite generous. great place to stop by when you're there.

                        1. re: perk

                          Great meatloaf sandwich at The Curious Palate although way overpriced. They also do that thing I hate where they charge like another $3.50 for a soda. Pet peeve of mine.

                          Also had the Rockenwagner Ahi tuna sandwich and mac n' cheese souffle. Both mediocre.

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                          The Curious Palate
                          12034 Venice Boulevard, Mar Vista, CA

                        2. Visiting from out of town solo, I stopped at Primi and had an amazing $5 meal. I got the eggplant in the case and it was outstanding. Layers of eggplant with good sauce and minimal cheese.

                          I am going back to try the Curious Palate and Venokado tomorrow

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                          Venokado
                          7714 Fountain Ave West, Hollywood, CA

                          The Curious Palate
                          12034 Venice Boulevard, Mar Vista, CA

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: lvhkitty

                            Went by Primi last week and they are out of business. The whole place was like a ghost town except for Curious Palate.

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                            The Curious Palate
                            395 Santa Monica Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90401

                            1. re: Sugarsnap

                              Wow. What day of the week was that? I haven't been back in months....guess noone else has either.

                              1. re: perk

                                Last Thursday. Any evidence of the restaurant is gone.

                                1. re: Sugarsnap

                                  Yeah, restaurants are dropping like flies in the marketplace.

                                  1. re: kevin

                                    The vendors there were sold a bill of goods. I feel bad for them. They were of the mind it would be like the Ferry building, but in fact it isn't. No fishmonger, butcher or vegetables. You can't go shopping for a full meal there, only some of your meal. What's the point?