Redwood Grille serves upscale American food in an elegant setting above Third Street Promenade
By Richard Foss (Richard(at)RichardFoss.com)
I like going out on Monday nights because you can generally get a table anywhere — at least anywhere that stays open on the slowest night of the week. There are drawbacks, though; there is something sad about a place that will seat 200 but has 15 people in it.
That was the situation when we arrived at Redwood Grille atop the Santa Monica Place shopping center , having passed several other restaurants on the dining deck that were similarly forlorn. The greeting at the door was warm, and we were offered our choice of environments — a clubby bar, more formal restaurant space and an outdoor section with a view of the Third Street Promenade, all of it designed by accomplished Marina del Rey-based architect Stephen Francis Jones. The artistically lit patio was prettiest and is probably fantastic at lunch and on temperate evenings, but we elected to stay warm inside.
Unlike some of the other restaurants in the area, Redwood Grille is a locally owned restaurant serving upscale and updated American food. The menu has the expected list of steaks, seafood and side dishes, plus some interesting items — I was intrigued by a salmon salad with spinach, strawberries and capers, but had a different reaction to a beet salad with maple vinaigrette. We had a choice of both the regular and Dine LA week menus, and my wife decided on the prix fixe while I chose from standard items.
Both meals started very well, mine with green bean and potato soup, hers with a perfectly grilled boneless quail. The soup had spinach and onion along with the beans in a chicken stock, all ingredients well blended and harmonized. The quail was surprisingly moist and tender, a good sign since the small, lean birds go directly from raw to jerky in the wrong hands. Her quail was accompanied by pleasingly moist jalapeno cornbread with bourbon butter and a sprinkling of herbs.
We had arrived before 7 p.m. so decided to take advantage of the happy hour drinks, but couldn’t at first because no drink menu was at the table. When one arrived, it described the cocktails but not the wines; when I asked the server what wines were offered, he replied “chardonnay and cabernet.” He seemed bemused by a request for the names of the producers and made no move to find out. We decided to start with cocktails, a nicely made ginger martini and a Manhattan, and I ordered a mystery Chardonnay to accompany the entree.
My wife had ordered a smoked pork chop with a blueberry sauce, while I picked grilled local halibut. The menu is terse, and I apparently misunderstood my server because I thought it came with both vegetables and a side — I had picked “Mediterranean quinoa salad.” The fish was tasty and moist, and I received a large serving of the salad, but the plate was otherwise bare. The pork also came with nothing but garlic mashed potatoes — there was obviously no thought of balance, either nutritional or chromatic. We both would have preferred a smaller amount of starch and some kind of vegetable, which would have made the plates more attractive as well as nutritious.
We had ordered the thick-cut pork chop with the sauce on the side after an unfortunate incident at another restaurant where the sauce was sweet and liberally applied. This one had a pleasant berry tartness, but we were glad it was separate because the brined and smoked pork was pleasant by itself. We alternated between dabbing bits in the sauce and having it unadorned. The potatoes could have used a dash of gravy or butter; however well they’re made, big pieces of pork and big lumps of potato just don’t offer much contrast.
We finished with rum raisin bread pudding that came with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream and a drizzle of salted caramel. Try as I might, I couldn’t detect any rum flavor, though the cakelike pastry with apples, cinnamon and nutmeg was good on its own terms. The caramel was lightly salted and contributed to the flavor, which we appreciated since salted caramel is a fad that is sometimes taken to extremes.
We departed with the sense that this place is still developing; they’ve only been open for a few months and may still be working out the details. Dining in this area carries a premium, and even taking advantage of the Dine LA promotion and happy hour drinks we spent $80 for dinner, two cocktails and one glass of wine. That’s not unreasonable for a place a few blocks from the beach and with a fine view, and if they can get a bit more excitement and variety in the main courses, they’ll deserve it.
Redwood Grille, on the top floor at Santa Monica Place, is open from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. There is a full bar, $15 corkage and some vegetarian and vegan items. Wheelchair access is good. Park in the attached garage.
Redwood Grille at Santa Monica Place, 395 Santa Monica Blvd. (310) 576-0600 redwoodgrille.com