Tar & Roses opened on Tuesday and we were lucky enough to snag a reservation on Saturday evening. The dimly lit restaurant has an industrial feel with a large wine rack display at the entrance. There is a 10 seat bar in the center for drinking and dining and the kitchen in the back. Andrew Kirschner, chef and owner, formerly of Wilshire Restaurant in Santa Monica, is creating a farmers market ingredient driven menu with mostly small plates in mind.
Chef Kirschner begins with a “Snacks” section, which is meant to give you something to munch on while waiting for other plates to arrive but I must say the options are much greater than just nibbles. For instance, the lamb belly with sauteed apples in a savory meat broth was outstanding and large enough for two to easily nosh on. The spicy popcorn was quite a hit — as I could hear the orders being called from my table across from the kitchen.
The “Small Plates” section of the menu included salads, pastas and other fun seafood. The Charred Gem Lettuce Salad with Burrata and Marinated Anchovy had the perfect balance of acidity and creaminess — it was one of my favorites. I appreicated the fact that the lettuce remained crunchy but still slightly blackened, delicious! The ricotta gnocchi was nicely prepared as well with plump little pieces of pasta paired with broccoli rabe, shaved cheese and crunchy crouton.
As for “Larger Plates” Kirschner offers meat and seafood options that all look mouth watering. Many of the entrees are cooked in the wood burning oven such as Branzino over Lemon Risotto but we opted for the Braised Red Fish with Barlotti Beans and Escarole. This dish was hearty enough without it being too filling and the fish had a nice crunchy skin, which I always appreciate even when braising is involved.
Tar & Roses has an extensive cheese, chartucherie and three-option bruschetta list which looks quite appetizing. The charchuterie is mostly from Creminelli in Utah but I hope Kirschner decides with days to come to prepare some house cures himself. The wine and beer list is vast as well, with some great beers on tap and wines by the glass.
This new Rustic Canyonesque, Tar & Roses, dining spot will be a hard reservation to get as soon as the word is out!
Tar & Roses, 602 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica, (310) 587-0700, www.tarandroses.com