Restaurant: The Rooster
Location: 2301 Santa Monica Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90404. (310) 264-0999
Date: January 31, 2020
Cuisine: Wood-fire grill and California / pseudo-Italian
Rating: Tasty, but too pricey for its vibe
Continuing our streak of family dinners during my mom’s 75th birthday week, the gang of us headed off to the Rooster.
Bruce Marder, The Rooster’s chef/ restaurateur, lists Capo, The Brentwood, Cora’s Coffee Shop, and Marvin as his current successes. Renowned for his world class cuisine, his skills encompass a deep appreciation for international flavors that he unabashedly blends into an American style menu that celebrates our cultural diversity.
Bruce Marder’s latest addition to the Santa Monica scene features dishes kissed by almond-wood flames including tender, grilled meats served up family style, to pizzas and flatbreads baked in the wood fire oven.
The finest of ingredients, sourced from the farmers’ market, our personal garden, and highly regarded local ranchers, are the foundation of a cuisine that exemplifies the purity of the flavors without unnecessary adulteration.
Big, colder, more casual dining room and wood-fire grill.
I’ve always been a fan of Capo, despite a bit of attitude there, and have been at least 40 times, so I was interested to see what they did here in this larger more casual space.
From my cellar: 2013 Chartogne-Taillet Champagne Beaux Sens. 93 points. This is 100% Pinot Meunier. One of the few vineyards where the wines have not been grafted. Mostly because it comes from a vineyard of purely sandy soil. There’s spice and sunflower seeds and a very nice balance to the wine. Soft bubbles. Very well done.
Fried bread and eggplant spread
Artichokes. Lemon, horseradish. These were nice wood-fired artichokes.
Eggplant. Rocca reggiano, tomato sauce. Basically a kind of skillet eggplant parm, this was quite delicious.
Warm seafood salad. Beurre blanc sauce. Incredible sauce. Really tender seafood. Seafood was grilled. I’m not normally a huge fan of the warm seafood salad, but this one was fantastic. Big hunks of very tender and flavorful seafood, and then the beurre blanc was perfect. Same one basically that’s on the crab torta I love at Capo. They even threw in the bread to sop it up.
From my cellar: 2004 Tenuta Corte Pavone Brunello di Montalcino. 93 points. The 2004 Brunello di Montalcino is a fresh, vibrant offering bursting with dark cherries, violets, underbrush, minerals and sweet toasted oak on a medium-bodied frame. The wine reveals terrific balance in an energetic, focused style, with firm yet ripe tannins. The finish is long, clean and refreshing. This is a gorgeous effort from Loacker. (Drink between 2013-2019)
Spicy pepperoni pizza. Solid wood-fired pizza, although nothing stunningly original.
Cacio e pepe. Nice, but a touch disappointing. Maybe not creamy enough, or peppery enough. I’m not sure.
From my cellar: 1999 Paitin di Pasquero-Elia Barbaresco Vecchie Vigne Sorì Paitin. 94 points. The 1999 Barbaresco Sorì Paitin Vecchie Vigne is dark, powerful and opulent, with more than enough stuffing to age well for the better part of the next decade. Smoke, menthol, tar, black fruit and French oak blossom in the glass as this resonant, exuberant Barbaresco show off its unique, totally compelling personality. The French oak is present, but well balanced at the same time. (Drink between 2014-2022)
Loup de Mer.
Babyback ribs. Very tasty with lots of meat. Not super sauced or anything.
Lamb chops. Excellent lamb.
I don’t usually show the bill, but I thought I would tonight to make a point. We had 6 people (eating). So basically $100. Not crazy, but we didn’t order drinks or dessert. They charge for bread/butter. Corkage was a perfectly fine 3X$35. I have no problem with that. I had expected the Capo deal of high corkage, 1 or 2 bottle limits, and vetting to make sure one’s bottle was not “on their list.” I did see any of that and they just let me open my 3 bottles. This may have changed because Erick said that when he went months ago they had the limits. Limits suck, but for this 1/31/20 dinner and my experience, corkage was totally fine.
Food is actually quite good, if a bit too much emphasis on the wood-fire. Now I like wood grills, but (almost) everything is a touch much. The space feels loud, colder, and not “cozy” like Capo. Menu is more limited (but with some pizza).
Service was very friendly, but our server was a touch good-naturedly confused. 4 of us guys shared dishes and she brought them out in the weirdest order. I had to send a thing or two back (for a bit) because it made no sense. I’ve presented it here in the post in the order it SHOULD have come in. But they brought the pizza, pasta, and eggplant all right away, then thought to bring the artichokes as a “side” with the meat? Strange. The 20% service fee is also included and mandatory. I always tip 20% anyway and so this feels a bit weird.
It was Friday night and they were half empty. I don’t think the feel of the place warrants the pretty high prices. Capo is very expensive, but manages to make it feel LA swanky in this way that works. I suspect the Rooster will have trouble and at the very least change format a bit.