I went to Saint Martha a couple of nights ago with a group of six and was surprised to find no mention of it on this board. Between us, we made it through most of the menu (http://www.saintmartharestaurant.com/...). The dinner was fantastic.
First, the location is unexpected. Its in a strip mall in Koreatown a few blocks south of Wilshire on Western. A simple sign giving the restaurants name sits above a heavy looking wooden door. Once through the door, it is a lovely space. Very small and intimate.
After an amuse whose ingredients I can't remember with the exception of goat cheese, we started with items from the Snacks and Rawesome categories. Chicken liver moose was a huge portion for $8 and had a great flavor. The octupus served over Koshikari rice with squid ink was good, but was outshone by many of the other dishes. For a few in my party, the sea urchin tataki with avocado mousse and "doroitos" made from seaweed was the first exposure to uni. It was another great dish. I really wanted to try the spot prawn tartare served over a block of Himalayan salt, but our server reported that they did not have spot prawns available that night because they are caught and shipped in daily, but the waters were too rough off Santa Barbara earlier for the fishermen to go out.
Oysters are found in several places on the menu. The steak and oyster tartare with champagne sabayon and bone marrow beignets was another unexpected winner. The oyster complimented the steak very well. We also had two rounds of oysters on the half shell. While a little expensive ($14 for three), I can't think of a time I have had a better oyster. They were served in a large bowl filled with polished stones. Accouterments included caviar, cucumber, and horseradish. They were divine.
We next tried 3 out of 4 of the vegetable dishes. Asparagus was served with deviled egg puree and fried oyster. The puree was an interesting take on the typical asparagus and egg dish. The asparagus was outshone through, by the brassicas with poached egg, brewer's yeast and mushroom and the summer corn served with avocado, whitefish roe, chicken skin, and watermelon radish.
After sharing the above smaller plates, we each ordered our own entree, with the addition of the sardines for the table. The entrees were all very generous portions considering the prices and quality of cooking. The sardines, despite being a lovely plate of two larger speciimens of fish, were by fall the weakest dish of the evening and lacked flavor with a mushy texture. The other entrees we tried, through, were far more successful. Scallops were cooked slightly rare. Pork belly was good, but not the best rendition I've had. 3 of our group went for the brisket. Amazingly tender and a huge portion with a bold flavor. My entree was the dug leg confit with beets, laveder granola, and parsnip milk. For $22 I was expecting one duck leg, but the dish actually came with two large legs and was plated resembling a massacre in a way that reminded me of a dish you would see at a Wolvesmouth dinner. The lavender granola certainly had a very strong lavender flavor and added a nice crunch.
Three deserts were available that night and we had one of each. Forgive me for not having access to the desert menu and not being able to provide a full list of ingredients. First was a peanut butter and jelly dessert with pound cake, grilled grapes, peanut butter ice cream, and grape granache (or something like that). I don't like peanut butter, but others liked the dish. Next was a chocolate and beet desert that I don't remember much about. Finally was a grilled peach dessert with some sort of cake, honey ice cream, and a couple of other items. Get this last one. Seriously one of my new favorite desserts. The meal ended with complimentary cubes of grape gelee.
Pictures of the duck and sardines are below. Pictures of most of the dishes are available on yelp.
The wine list (which I believe changes frequently) is a decent size. All of the wines are available in four serving sizes (taste, glass, pinche, and bottle). The list is heavily French, but does include others. Our sever was very knowledgeable about the wine and made some great pairing suggestions. Service was fantastic.
As I wasn't paying, I'm not sure exactly what the bill came out too, but on a per dish basis, I though the prices were very reasonable. I assume Saint Martha pays a lot less in rent given its location than most similar restaurants.
Went last night and had the following dishes:
- chicken liver mousse w/mushroom, hazelnut praline, pickled blueberries & toast
- sea urchin “tataki” with avocado mousse, hearts of palm and seaweed doritos
- octopus with koshihikari rice, sauce nero, lardo and espelette
- steak and oyster tartare with champagne sabayon and bone marrow beignets
- brassicas with toasted brewer’s yeast, mushroom and egg
- tomato with raw milk panna cotta, summer vegetables and tomato dashi
- diver scallop with black trumpet mushrooms, endive, white yam puree and smoked dulse
-braised Niman Ranch pork belly with mustard, red cabbage gazpacho and gherkins
- peanut butter ganache (pb glazed poundcake, pb ice cream, grilled grapes, choco-covered grapes)
- carrot cake w/carrot sorbetto, coconut jerky, almond brittle, avocado mousse, marshmallow cream
Overall it was a great dinner. The steak+oyster tartar was the table favorite w/the highlight being the bone marrow beignets, natch. My party thought the seaweed doritos in the urchin tataki dish were stale... I'm not sure if they were stale or if they were intentionally made chewy. Nobody, myself included, cared for the carrot cake dessert, although I did like a few of the elements on their own such as the coconut jerky (I was alone on this but I enjoyed the spiced ginger flavor) and the marshmallow cream.
Everything we tried was interesting but not overly so like some places that are blatantly trying too hard to make every dish an unusual standout. Will definitely make a return visit. Fresh new vibe in the heart of ktown!