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Aug 3, 2014 11:56 AM

Saint Martha

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 ( 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.

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  1. ooohhh that tomato dish looks good. i'll have to try it out some time this week.

    1. 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!

      3 Replies
      1. re: namstermonster

        Thanks for the report. I keep meaning to check this place out. Some very interesting dishes for sure.

        How's the atmosphere in there?

        1. re: set0312

          Atmosphere is small, quaintly casual chic - quite cozy.

        2. Do they have parking? Is it in a minimall? The menu looks very intriguing!

          1 Reply
          1. re: annie

            Ample parking as the restaurant is small and the rest of the businesses in the lot close relatively early.

          2. Anybody else been recently? I'm going tonight and would love to hear about the standout dishes.

            1. I went tonight and really liked it.

              The spot prawn tartare was good. But perhaps not my favorite. The melon was an interesting that I don't think I loved. I would have preferred something more citrusy to pair with the salt and prawns.

              I thought the sea urchin avocado mousse seaweed chips were really great. Saltiness of the chips, creaminess of the uni and avocado, plus the spice of a tiny jalapeño ring worked really well together. Almost like an exotic guacamole.

              Next up was the octopus. For me, this was the highlight of the night. Rice cooked to a risotto like finish, octopus slow-cooked for six hours and then seared if i remember correctly. Some of the best, most tender octopus I've had. Couple that with a dash of squid ink and the glutinous rice and we have ourselves a real winner. I'll be back for that dish.

              Beef and oyster tartare was mediocre in my opinion. I think to really love this dish, you need to love oysters because the brininess of the oysters definitely overwhelmed some of the more subtle flavors of the beef tartare. This was served with bone marrow beignets that were among the richest things I've eaten in quite some time. Not dying to have any more of those, but I did finish my girlfriend's bite, so that's saying something.

              The brassicas with poached egg was really good. Super earthy and strong. Type of dish you expect to eat outside some French farmhouse in the dead of the winter. I'm impressed that a place like Saint Martha even has a dish like this. Shows that the chef recognizes the value of good ingredients and doesn't always need to focus on extreme creativity to make something worth eating.

              Last up was the hoisin brisket. Consider myself a fan. For what it's worth, my girlfriend much preferred the brisket here to the brisket she ate earlier today from Guerrilla Tacos. The hoisin was an interesting touch. A bit sweet and a little heavy, but all in all, it worked very well. Flavor profile reminds me a bit of what Roy Choi is doing with Kogi.

              For dessert we had a carrot cake with a carrot sorbet, avocado mousse, and pumpkin seed brittle. It all was tremendous. After the carrot sorbet here and the corn sorbet at Maude, I'm thinking every ice cream place in the city should be making veggie ice creams!

              All in all, this ran about sixty a person. Well worth it IMO. This is a very creative, risky restaurant. There are going to be hits and misses, and I think it is important to acknowledge that. But this is one hundred percent the type of place I want to see succeed in LA. Loud, bold flavors, creative cooking, good prices. In a couple months, as they iron out some dishes, this place could really be something special.

              As a last note, our waitress was fantastic.

              2 Replies
              1. re: set0312

                Great review. I think we will wait a while before we try it.

                1. re: mrsjoujou

                  That might be the right decision. Give them time and hopefully they will only progress.