Location: 108 W. Channel Rd.(PCH), Santa Monica, CA90402. 310-230-9100
Date: January 17, 2012
Cuisine: Cal French International
Rating: Stellar food and unparalleled service.
Sam’s by the Beach is one of our favorite local places. Normally, Chef/Owner/Host Sam serves up a modern French fare with tastes of the middle east and Asia. He’s a native of Damascus and his mother comes to town once a year to cook a traditional Syrian dinner. I love really well done traditional food so I was excited to try this out.
Our wine. Parker 93. “The 2006 Brunello di Montalcino is a beguiling wine laced with all sorts of black cherries, minerals, spices, licorice and menthol. All of the aromas and flavors are layered together through to the exquisite, refined finish. The 2006 shows a level of richness and density this bottling has lacked in some previous vintages. Today the tannins remain a touch austere, but another few years in bottle should do the trick. Anticipated maturity: 2014-2026.”
To start, “Shorba Bi Addes. Split Red Lentil in Vegetable Broth.” This is a typical “rustic” or homemade soup. Variant bean soups can be found the world over. But I like lentils and this was nicely done with subtle tastes of the east.
The red stuff in front is “Habra Bi Bandora. Ground Beef Patty Syrian Style.” These are basically meat balls in an onion, tomato, garlic sauce. I ate like three portions! They had a nice spicey kefta type thing going on.
On the left, “Salata Bi Sileck. French Swiss-Chard with Pomegranate Seeds, Walnut and Lemon Dressing.” A darn good green vegetable, something I’m normally not a big consumer of. On the right “Angynar Bi Jazzar. Braised Artichoke with Carrots and Leeks in Olive Oil.” Very nice marinated vegetables.
Finished the earlier wine. Moved on to this stellar 97 point Pomerol. “A sensational effort, and one of the two finest Clinets made before the 2008, this prodigious wine made by the late Jean-Michel Arcaute has always been a sprinter out of the gate. Even at age 19, it continues to strut its stuff. A dense blue/garnet/purple hue exhibits slight lightening at the edge, and the gorgeous nose offers up aromas of sweet blueberries, licorice, smoke, acacia flowers, and camphor. Full-bodied with silky tannins, low acidity, and terrific purity, this 1990 has hit its plateau of full maturity where it should remain for another decade.”
For the main. “Maqloupah. Layers of Roasted Eggplant, Ground Lamb and Rice served with Fresh Cucumber and Yogurt Sauce.” This had a very nice middle eastern flavor. The eggplant, lamb, and tomato thing with yogurt was something I had a lot in Turkey. The execution was spot on.
“Mouhalabiha Bi Dibus. Milk custard with Rose Water and Grape Syrup topped with Toasted Sesame Seeds and Almonds.” A sort of Syrian panna cotta, this has a lovely soft texture (might be gelatinous for some) and a subtle rose water thing going on. I love rose water.
Sam’s Mom didn’t disappoint. This wasn’t wasn’t a super formal meal cuisine wise, but more an example of really well executed home cooking from his homeland.