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Jun 1, 2012 02:32 AM

Tar & Roses

A fun and interesting new restaurant in Santa Monica. Very accomodating and friendly service.

The food. The popcorn - caramel corn with bacon and a little chili. Kind of a must-order item. So far I get it every time. And it always get finished whether I'm solo or sharing.

Love the charcuturie plate - combos of various bruschettas, meats and cheeses. This might be my favorite. I get the iberica jamon everytime is short. Fill it with ham.

The lamb belly was quite good, and I enjoyed it but I didn't really taste the lamb. I wouldn't say I was disappointed, just a different expectation. Would I get it again? Probably, but I might try something else first.

The duck skewers in tamarind were met with the same expecation missed. Tasted like chicken, not duck, but still tasty and well-executed. I see the menu says chicken skewers so either I had a very rare acid flashback and mis-read the menu (not the typical acid flashback where my cat flies around the room chasing giant mosquitos) - or they changed the menu. I think there was a change. And I got the chicken (since so many things taste like chicken - rattlesnake, squirrel, rabbit. Who knows?

Crispy pig's ears - strings of know what fried to a chewy crisp. My date - a self-avowed food had never tried such a thing and was a little intimidated, but she gave it ago after a little prodding and didn't dislike them. I liked them - especially with the saffron aioli (which came a little late - wait for it - definitely upshifts to a better experience.

The roasted english peas - roasted right in their little pods with mint, salt and I think butter/olive oil? When they came I was hungry and engaged in my dates story about her sordid past. Butter? Uh...Oil? And then what did you do after he got out of prison? They are messy and worth it. Just dive it, you have to break eggs to make an omelette and you have to get your fingers dirty eating T & R's roasted Endlish peas. There might bve a way to eat them with fork and knife. As a challenge. But then you can't cram as many into your mouth as fast - you're forced to go into a subtly slower savor the moment mode.

The grilled asparagus was very good, but to be honest, I've been playing with a similar dish using sous vide egg yolks, a black truffle salt and pancetta, smoked pancetta, Farmer John's Bacon, and guanciale. With big fat asparagus from the SM Farmer's Market - and poached the veg in butter, sugar and salt. I prefer mine, but really, when you're out - there is very good.

Lastly - the charred Ocotopus. Had the first time, had it the second, looking forward to my third, and fourth. and so on.

I like this place a lot! My pseudo-foodie date was delighted and impressed. And I made her venture a little out of her comfort zone and eat a little pig's ear. Why were smooching like teenagers while waiting for the car. A good date all around!

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  1. We had dinner at Tar and Roses in Santa Monica on Saturday night. The food was delicious and memorable! Also, our service was attentive and fine.

    My favorite dish was the lamb belly...I left wanting more! Unlike the original poster here, for us it was very much about that lamb flavor. I even poured the remaining juice onto some of my other items! The chicken oysters on a skewer was another winner for me; the mint-y dipping sauce was so delicious and fresh! The eggplant was good, although I might not order that again. The popcorn -- as mentioned by the original poster here -- was fun and not at all greasy as might be expected with the bacon. The bacon in the popcorn was almost like a jerky: dry and richly concentrated in flavor. The gnocchi was also memorable; each piece was cloud-like in pillowy soft...a melt-in-your-mouth experience.

    This is a destination dinner and I would return.

    15 Replies
    1. re: liu

      Sounds like a place we need to try. What's the noise level like (were you there at prime dinner hour)? Saturday night is usually the best test of how noisy a place is going to be. What was your per person cost before tip? TIA for any and all guidance.

        1. re: Ciao Bob

          "Very, Very LOUD"

          That probably means a Monday or Tuesday night dinner for me...otherwise I'll need to brush up on my lip reading.

          1. re: Servorg

            For me, I didn't think the noise level was remarkable one way or another. It was a Saturday night, 6:00pm'ish, so it was not outside my expectations.

            However, the tables along the wall opposite the bar, are close together. This means that as the evening goes, the bar noise level probably increases. The table next to us was never filled during our dinner. If it had been, we would probably be in conversation with our dining neighbors. Moreover, the surfaces are hard, so the noise is not absorbed into carpet or drapes.

            Servorg, to answer your other question about per person cost before tip, we were about $25/pp. Our check for two was just under $50, but we did not have any beverages other than water. We also did not have dessert. We ordered probably 5 items. In great contrast, we had brunch that same day at Baco Mercat downtown. That bill was over $55 for a MUCH less enjoyable meal:


            I think Tar and Roses is a worthwhile destination for the food! Baco Mercat is not.

            1. re: liu

              These days $25 pp is a bargain verging on the impossible to obtain most of the time, so that is great news. T&R is definitely close enough to us to be put into the rotation. Downtown meals are generally when we have to deliver for my wife's business because someone lives there or maybe in Pasadena and we are forced to go. Normally we stay in the greater west side area with an occasional foray into the near (Sherman Oaks/Encino) SFV.

              1. re: Servorg

                Yes, $25/pp is a bargain, but we had only beverages or dessert.

                The portions are small...oooh, I wanted the lamb all to myself! If you go, I would suggest at least 3 or 4 dishes per person...and then add on if you are still hungry.

                1. re: Servorg

                  $25/pp before tax and tip is indeed good.
                  when we ate at MB Post a couple of days ago, the tab came to about $50/pp before tax, tip, and any beverages.

                  1. re: westsidegal

                    Remember before you rush forward, westsidegal, that we had no drinks. Still, we were completely satisfied.

                    That Saturday morning, for brunch we ate at Baco Mercat downtown and spent much more for a much less satisfying meal.

                    1. re: liu

                      our $50/pp tab didn't include any drinks nor any dessert.
                      just vegetables, the naan, and one main per person.

                2. re: liu

                  5 dishes at $5 each?? That's stunning.

                  1. re: demitasse04

                    Might want to redo the math. That's $5 dishes at $10/each, for a total of $50, assuming divide by 2, that's $25/pp ++.

                    FWIW, last time we had 1beer + shared dessert + a few small plates, and it was $45/pp tax/tip included. Cheap, this is not. But I am absolutely gung ho on the pickled herring which hasn't been mentioned, and the dining companion went apeshit for the roasted baby carrots (which came recommended by Chef Kirschner). The bacony popcorn here is far palatable than Black Hogg's popcorned bacon.

                    If you order the bigger plates, pricing would be comparable to MB Post. In fact, Tar & Roses is essentially SM Post, down to the color of the website/menu.

            2. re: Servorg

              If you can get a table in the back patio, it is somewhat quieter.

              1. re: New Trial

                That's a good tip and one I'll try to implement. Thanks.

              2. re: Servorg

                Best way to beat the noise is to request seating on the patio when you reserve - it is MUCH quieter.

                We have become regulars and love all the food. The new Thai fish for 2 is incredible.

                1. re: dgusanz

                  I'll try that. I usually get the host/hostess reply of "We can't promise you the patio but I'll note it here" and when we get to the restaurant I then hear "It will be an hour wait for the patio."

            3. We went on opening week a few months back. We even took our children. Staff was very accomodating, taking back a dish my youngest ordered, then decided he didn't care for it. I'd say it was about average for noise level, we went on a Saturday, IIRC. but these dmeans average does mean pretty loud. But I've been to louder places, so the noise wouldn't deter me from going again. Great space, everything we had was very tasty & well prepared. My children loved the roast chicken dish. Great addition to the neighborhood.

              1. Noise. I don't mind a somewhat noisy restaurant. But if I can't hear and have to lean forward all the time - it hurts my back (I have back issues) and at that point the experience gets uncomfortable. I'd say, as another poster said, average noisy. But not as noisy as Red Medicine (which I'd go back to - but I would ask for the least-noisy part of the room), or Bottega Louie - which made me feel like I was a scene out of The Sunshine Boys constantly saying "What?!"

                1 Reply
                1. re: foodiemahoodie

                  Yeah, enjoyed a meal a couple weeks back, in fact. Everything (cauliflower, fried snapper, marrow, lamb belly, beets) was done right. Busboys kept grabbing our food before we were finished, and that's annoying as hell.
                  But the noise is an issue. They'd turn down the music when we asked them to and fifteen minutes later it would be back up.
                  The table was private enough, up front. But:

                  so aggravating that this noise is now the norm, and it is next to impossible to have a fine, quiet meal. I don't know if I can go back, for this reason.

                2. OK, I'll bite (no pun intended): Why is it named Tar & Roses?

                  Why not Sap and Jacarandas? I even went to the official website and read up on the place and the owner's background, but no indication of a witty play on words.

                  Do the robot overlords now generate our titles? Or is this a literary/cinematic/musical reference that I am too dense to recognize, Like Bread & Chocolate?

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: silence9

                    From Eater LA: Tar & Roses, "a phrase often used to describe intense reds like Barolo and Nebbiolo."

                    1. re: Servorg

                      Thank you for the clear and vivid explanation.

                  2. LOL psuedo-foodie! I say the same snobby sh*t about some of my friends. I don't mean to be so pretentious about it, but let's face it, there are lots of psuedo foodies out there :) And I prefer their company to non-foodies any day of the week!