The shopping mall. Aside from airports, this is the final frontier when it comes to quality dining. There have already been inroads at California venues like South Coast Plaza and the Westfield San Francisco Centre and if the August 3 preview of the Santa Monica Place dining deck was any indication, L.A. may soon see similar elevation.
We met on the third floor deck of the 550,000-square-foot mall, which offered views of the Pacific, palm trees and pier. It’s a Santa Monica triple threat. We received 12 minutes at each chef-driven restaurant, which one of our guides described as “Top Chef meets speed dating.”
STOP #1: Sonoma Wine Garden
Wine Director Aaron Elliott met us near the restaurant’s twin Enomatics. He touted “a blend of food friendly wine, international thought process and local ingredients.” He offers 200 global wines by the glass, including wines from Slovenia, Greece, Australia and the Southern Hemisphere.
Chef Roman Petry, who’s also the executive chef of Ozumo, set out a massive platter of Fanny Bay oysters on the half shell, which were spoon-able with whole grain mustard aioli, champagne vinaigrette or cocktail sauce. He also made Liptauer, an Austrian cheese product incorporating cream cheese, paprika, shallots, herbs, white wine and Hefeweizen.
STOP #2: Ozumo
Owner Jeremy Umland lived in Japan for 15 years, returned to the States in 1994 and worked in investment banking. He missed Japanese cuisine, so opened the first Ozumo in 2001, combining robata, sushi and sake.
Sake sommelier Jess Furui shared pours of Mt. Fui Ban Ryu sake, which has been brewed since 1778 in Yamagata prefecture. She explained that Ozumo will feature 60 sakes from Japan, including five “samplings” of high end, beginning and sparkling varietals.
The Ozumo bar area was fine, with a DJ deck and hip vibe, but the dining room was stunning, with wood tiles, shelf upon shelf of tea cups and more. In back, Ozumo features multiple private rooms, some visible, others secretive. Japanese designer Yasumichi Morita, better known as Glamorous, orchestrated the space.