Location: 1810 Ocean Ave, Santa Monica, Ca. 310-394-5550
Date: August 5, 2011
Cuisine: Italian with Cal influences
Rating: The food here is really very very good.
Capo is an occasional favorite of mine and I’ve reviewed it before HERE and HERE. They have a particular high end (but not formal) blend of California style (Farmer’s Market ingredients) and Italian tradition. But it’s not a strictly traditional Italian, more interpreted through a vaguely Tuscan / California vibe.
They have very good bread at Capo, particularly the crispy things.
Capo always puts out this little humus-like spread. I suspect it’s fava beans. It’s addictive though.
We settle down to examine the MENU, which is big, and always a difficult decision because there is so much great stuff on it. They have an odd menu format, in which each item is identified by only it’s principle ingredient, forcing you to guess or ask how it’s actually prepared. Plus they have “fill in the blanks” on the menu which are filled in by a separate sheet of daily specials. No big deal, but it’s kind of bizare. Doesn’t matter though, as the food is great.
From my cellar: 2010 Borgo del Tiglio (Nicola Manferrari) Collio Friulano Ronco della Chiesa. VM 94. Borgo del Tiglio’s 2010 Ronco della Chiesa shows what this hillside site in Cormons can do in cooler vintages. Still bright, focused and intensely saline, the 2010 bursts from the glass with grapefruit, lime, mint and crushed rocks. The 2010 will probably be appreciated most by readers who like tense, vibrant whites. Next to some of the other vintages, the 2010 lacks a little mid-palate pliancy, but it is quite beautiful just the same. I especially like the way the 2010 opens up nicely in the glass over time.
An amuse of tomato covered bread with salami. Yum!
Burrata black truffle bruschetta. Besides the shaved vegetables and the bread underneath this is a big blob of burrata, fresh truffles, and a whole poached egg! It was pretty good, but decidedly rich. In some ways similar to my special eggs, in some ways like the famous Melisse truffle egg.
Woodfire grilled octopus. Nice octopus. I think Brera’s was better, but this was very good. Strong char flavor from the grill.
Sweet corn and white truffle ravioli. Can we say buttery awesome? Nice truffle/butter/corn flavor. Super soft pasta. What’s not to love? (perhaps the price)
Dungeness crab risotto. A very nice mildly crabby risotto. Good texture.
Grilled branzino. Cooked on the wood fire. Strong char flavors but the meat inside was very moist and flavorful.
From my cellar: 1997 Gaja Langhe Nebbiolo Conteisa. VM 92-94. Good full ruby. Deeply pitched aromas of plum, currant, espresso, bitter chocolate and mint. Very intensely flavored and firmly built; not as dense as the Sori Tildin or San Lorenzo but sweet, vibrant and sharply delineated. Quite penetrating and solidly structured. Finishes very long, with rich but firm tannins.
Spaghetti Carbonara. Egg, cheese, pork cheeks, peas. A very nice (and rich) pasta.
This is buccatini with lamb ragu, and it’s one of the best pastas I’ve ever had. I’ve come back a dozen times for it. I love a good ragu, and the buccatini (spagetti with a tiny hole in the middle) is perfect. The dish is rich and meaty, divine. I always order it.
Aspen NY steak, medium rare. I’m not a steak guy, but this was some fine beef, seared black on the outside and red/pink on the inside.
Bread pudding. With a creme brûlée caramelized top! Oh boy!
And this. This was to die for. Meyer lemon semifreddo, with a blueberry or blackberry sauce. Everything about this was spectacular, one of my all time favorite deserts. The cold-soft texture, the bright lemon flavor, and the tart sweetness of the berries. OMFG!
A nice plate of little petit fours, not so usual at American Italians, more french. In Italy sometimes you’ll get treated to little almond cookies and shots of grappa or sambuca.
So to conclude, Capo is hands down delicious. The food is VERY VERY GOOD, and the service is top notch. The intimate little atmosphere is great also. It’s just very expensive — definitely not a good value — perfect if someone else is paying :-).
Three other Capo meals HERE and HERE and HERE.
For more LA dining reviews click here.