25 intrepid eaters joined the first Food GPS progressive dinner, which was designed to spotlight three Santa Monica restaurants participating in dineLA Restaurant Week.
We started at the Viceroy, on Whist‘s poolside patio, where the restaurant honored the occasion with a surprise cocktail, The GPS. It was an unusually warm and muggy night in Santa Monica, and the mix of Grapefruit juice, P rosecco and St. Germain was especially refreshing.
To prepare for the arrival of our food, we filled two cabanas and a long table, all white and all lit by candlelight. A couple people on the tour said Kelly Wearstler’s design reminded them of “Alice in Wonderland.” Newly installed executive chef Tony DiSalvo most-recently ran Jack’s La Jolla, a multi-faceted restaurant complex named for his father. The CIA grad previously logged time in high-profile kitchens at Jean Georges and Gramercy Tavern.
The affable chef walked from table-to-table to introduce himself and to explained the dish, a Roasted Beet Salad with baby lettuces, truffle panna cotta and hazelnuts.
DiSalvo also described his approach for Restaurant Week. He plans to serve full portions of regularly available dishes, since that’s most indicative of a typical meal. He’s been in the Whist kitchen for the past three weeks and estimates the menu is 60% to his liking.
Our next stop on the walking tour was at The Dining Room at Hotel Shangri-La, a recently revamped property along Ocean Avenue. Dakota Weiss lavished guests with a crisp-skinned Arctic Char that she plated with cauliflower puree and golden raisin compote.
Weiss said she’s still locking down the menu for Restaurant Week, but doesn’t want to commit quite yet because her menu is so market-driven. She relies on market finds for 70% of her menu at the Shangri-La.
Unfortunately we didn’t have time to check out the hotel’s rooftop bar, which is already gaining acclaim for its ocean views.
We ended the night on the mezzanine at Anisette Brasserie, overlooking the zinc bar, towering shelves of alcohol and a late-night Promenade crowd.
The MYSTERY DESSERT turned out to be a sampling of almost every dessert on the menu, including chocolate gateaus, lemon tarts dotted with torched meringue and a tower of profiteroles.
After people started devouring desserts like kids on Halloween, chef de cuisine Josh Smith said hello. He’s been working for executive chef Alain Giraud since three months after the restaurant opened. Before that, he spent four years working for the Michael Mina Group at Seablue in Vegas, which is one of my favorite Vegas restaurants.
The group absolutely laid waste to the dessert table, and nobody left hungry. Better yet, almost everybody said they’d sign up for another progressive dinner.