1119 Wilshire Blvd
Santa Monica, CA 90401
Dining date: 6/2/13
When Jeremy Fox was named Executive Chef of Rustic Canyon a few months ago, a return visit quickly shot up my list of places to eat. Fox, who garnered a Michelin star cooking vegetarian at Ubuntu in Napa, has been hard to catch up with since moving to LA a couple years ago. He’s held a number of quick consulting chef engagements and pop-ups around town (Freddie Smalls, Paper or Plastik, Barnyard, Old Soul @ Square One), departing each before I could find the time to go (or even before the restaurant opened). I’ve even missed his guest stints at last year’s 5×5 Collaborative Dinner @ Providence and Test Kitchen @ Bestia due to being out of the country. Needless to say, I was glad to finally be able to track down his cooking here in Santa Monica.
I’ve been to Rustic Canyon a few times; while probably best known for its burger, I’ve always felt the restaurant was pretty solid all-around. The burger is no longer on the menu, replaced with Fox’s own creations. It’s largely centered on seasonal small plates with a few larger entree-sized items. Similar to sister restaurants Huckleberry, Sweet Rose Creamery, and Milo & Olive, desserts are from the mind of co-owner Zoe Nathan.
The restaurant just got its full liquor license relatively recently; the lone cocktail we tried was fantastic.
Maple Berry Smash johnny drum green label bourbon, fresh lemon, fresh mint, maple syrup, early summer berries
Brouwerij West Tripel
Every meal at Rustic Canyon begins with a plate of olives, garnished with fresh thyme.
Between the two of us, we ordered one ‘snack,’ three small plates and one large plate. It ended up being just the right amount of food.
potato croquettes romesco & aioli
These potato croquettes came out hot and creamy on the inside, with a delicately crispy crust outside. I loved the textural contrast, as well as the pairing of creamy potato with the full-flavored romesco. A bit of aioli added extra richness and creaminess.
california prawns, scampi style calabrian chili butter, grilled lemon
A zesty tomato flavor was paired with plump, sweet shrimp. Combined with the subtle chili flavor and a sprinkle of lemon, these made for some great bites of shrimp. Warm, crusty bread was a great vehicle for the leftover sauce.
clam & mussel pozole rancho gordo hominy, green garlic, tortilla
Clams and mussels sat in a light, herbaceous broth. I found it to be well balanced, flavor-wise, with the natural sweetness of the shellfish going well with the subtly earthy broth. A little bit Latin, a little bit Asian. I liked the texture of the fried tortilla; don’t even bother trying to scoop these long strands up with a spoon.
ricotta gnocchi short rib, strawberry soffrito, pine nut, wild fennel
Soft, pillowy gnocchi sat in a rich short rib ragu. The shredded chunks of beef were very tender…delicious, while grated cheese added some extra richness. I didn’t really get any of the strawberry flavor but I didn’t mind. I thoroughly enjoyed this dish.
roasted chicken young carrots, french curry, ‘delfino’ cilantro
This was the lone ‘big plate’ we ordered. The deboned half-chicken (particularly the dark meat) was relatively moist, with a nice crispy skin. A subtle french curry sauce added a good depth of flavor without being overpowering, while sweet carrots added a fresh bite.
We were craving salted caramel ice cream and, while Rustic Canyon has some in the form of a beer float, we decided to go straight to the source.
salted caramel and coffee ice creams sprinkled sea salt
It’s no secret that sister restaurant Sweet Rose Creamery produces some great ice cream. As far as salted caramel ice cream goes, I think their example is the best I’ve had in Los Angeles. It’s got just the right balance of salt and caramel flavors, creamy with a super-luscious mouthfeel. Sprinkled with a little bit of sea salt, it’s an ideal simple dessert or snack on a warm day. The coffee ice cream, while good, wasn’t particularly special.
I enjoyed this meal at Rustic Canyon; I thought it met fairly high expectations (though I wouldn’t say it exceeded them). Jeremy Fox’s cooking is well-executed and full-flavored, while still showing a lot of restraint. Given his past, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Fox moving on to something else in the near future. I’m curious what’s next.