Maru (Santa Monica, CA)

Maru
12400 Wilshire Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90025
Dining date: 8/15/13

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Maru opened a couple months ago in Santa Monica (on the border of Brentwood), a relocation of a restaurant in Valencia. The man behind the food is chef Jason Park, who mixes the Japanese/Korean influences of his childhood into his classically trained cooking background. A wide variety of sushi and sashimi is offered (which the restaurant self-describes as ‘world-class’), as well as an extensive menu of his Asian-influenced Californian cooking. Desserts are a big part of the menu as well and could stand on their own (as Park’s recent opening of dessert shop Ramekin in Los Feliz earlier this year is proving).

I’d heard good things about the restaurant early on and was invited in for a tasting. On the menu on this evening was a small sample of sushi and sashimi, as well as a good glimpse into Park’s cooking.

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Farmshop (Santa Monica, CA)

Farmshop
225 26th St. Ste 25
Santa Monica, CA 90402
Dining date: 6/30/13

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My previous visit to Farmshop yielded one of my favorite singular dishes in Los Angeles – their fried chicken. Golden brown and crispy on the outside, while juicy and moist on the inside, it’s the best fried chicken I’ve had in this city. It’s been a while, but when recently pondering the choice of best spot for a fried chicken meal, a re-visit to Farmshop was in order.

Farmshop typically serves a seasonal/local a la carte dinner menu, but Sundays are reserved for a family style feast centered around the fried bird. The ever-changing three courses are $48, making this one of the steeper fried chicken meals you can get around here. Surrounding the main dish are typically lighter salads and sides which showcase the season’s produce.

Since my last visit, Farmshop has expanded to include a small marketplace full of artisan goods. Unfortunately it closed before our dinner ended, but my brief glimpses revealed some top-notch meats, cheeses, and a variety of other items a home cook would love.

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Fried Chicken @ Farmshop (Santa Monica, CA)

Farmshop
225 26th St
Santa Monica, CA 90402
Dining date: 9/17/11

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I always hear about Farmshop in discussions about the best brunches in LA. I’ve wanted to try it for some time, but given its Brentwood location I haven’t made it out there yet. However, the restaurant just began dinner service, something that clearly expedited my first visit.

Chef/owner Jeff Cerciello left Thomas Keller’s side last year to pursue his own project. Cerciello had a hand in all of Keller’s projects, but Ad Hoc seems to be the one that struck him most…at least for dinner service. The concept for the dinners seems truly to be inspired by Ad Hoc’s. Dinners are market-driven 3-4 courses served family-style ($40-$60), continually rotating. I’ve known that Farmshop was planning to serve dinner (and an Ad Hoc-like fried chicken) for a while now, so when it was announced that this past Sunday would be the first fried chicken night I had to drop by.

Heirloom Tomato Salad reed avocado, pickled red onion & opal basil

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An appetizer duo came out first. The salad was light and refreshing; I thought the meaty chunks of avocado went really well with the sweet acidity of the tomatoes and pickled red onion, while the fresh basil added some depth.

House-made Ricotta & Pistachio Salsa Verde

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The whipped fresh ricotta was a little more interesting and pretty tasty. The consistency was like a light whipped cream with some citrus (lime juice?). The flatbread was a little thicker than expected; combined with the pistachios I thought it was sort of a textural overload.

Herbed Fried Chicken

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Next came what we’d been waiting for…the chicken. The crust was richly and uniformly browned, topped with an assortment of herbs. Upon my first bite (into white meat), I was impressed with the juiciness of the bird. It was full of flavor and displayed a lemon-herb essence from the brine. Expectantly, the dark meat was moist as well with a wonderful depth of flavor. A little bit of the crunchy crust in every bite made for some great fried chicken.

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The comparison to Ad Hoc’s chicken is unavoidable. They’re pretty similar actually, but I thought this chicken was more moist than the Ad Hoc chicken served at Bouchon Beverly Hills, and maybe even more than I remember at Ad Hoc (maybe – I need to return soon). There’s more of a lemon flavor coming through in the meat too, which I liked.

Two sides came with the fried chicken.

Cabbage, Fennel, Cucumber & Poppy Seed Slaw

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Sweet Corn & Peppers

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Both of these had just a few carefully chosen ingredients. I thought both dishes made good companions to the chicken, mainly for the sweetness of the peppers and corn and the crisp, cool acidity of the slaw.

Poached Peaches frog hollow farm peaches, lemon curd & oatmeal cookies

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The peaches were delicious and sweet, while the curd added a countering tartness. The oatmeal cookies were pretty good too, adding the textural element. Would’ve preferred them warm, but still good. I appreciated ending with something rather light, showcasing some “farm-fresh” ingredients (notably, the peaches).

Within the same complex that houses Farmshop is Sweet Rose Creamery, a shop I see on ‘top ice cream’ lists over and over. This would be the perfect opportunity for me to finally visit.

Sweet Rose
225 26th St
Santa Monica, CA 90402

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A number of flavors are available each night (some permanent, some rotating), as well as some sweet treats like ice cream sandwiches, bon bons, milkshakes, floats and sundaes. Given it was our first time (and we were already kind of full), we kept it simple.

Toasted almond and chocolate hazelnut

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Salted caramel, chocolate waffle cone

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Coffee and chocolate hazelnut

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The ice cream was pretty money. While none of us liked the almond (it was too grainy), everything else was very good. I really liked the coffee (made using Verve coffee beans) – it had a really deep, rich coffee flavor. Felt like it was gonna keep me up all night. The salted caramel was top notch too, and probably the best I’ve had in the city (even over Carmela).

Overall, I was pretty impressed with Farmshop’s meal. The food was rather simple and well-executed, showcasing some great ingredients. Most importantly on this night, the fried chicken was delicious and has to be some of the best gourmet fried chicken in the city right now. I’ll be curious to see what else is being offered for dinner and would try them out too.

The atmosphere/decor is pretty casual, but somewhat uncomfortable. Even though we had reservations, we were seated at a center communal table with benches. I understand the casual atmosphere, but unless I’m in a bar/lounge or quick-serve restaurant, I’d really appreciate an actual chair as my back starts to hurt after a couple courses.