Santa Monica Restaurant Week embraces the citrus fruit’s unique flavors in 37 ways

By Kellie Chudzinski

Michael’s Santa Monica highlights kumquat by rendering it into a light chile sauce over Baja-style wild yellowtail
Photo by Jakob Layman

Over the last eight years Santa Monica Restaurant Week has challenged local chefs and restaurants to develop new dishes based on unsung or unusual ingredients. In years past, produce such as radishes and persimmons have taken center stage. This year, the kumquat reigns supreme.

From Jan. 6 to Jan. 12, each of the 37 eateries participating in Santa Monica Restaurant Week will feature at least one kumquat dish on its menu. Native to China, the citrus fruit can be consumed with or without its thick, sweet rind. It pairs well with savory meats such as duck, chicken or pork, as well as sweeter flavors such as chocolate, vanilla or mint.

Harvested from November through April, the fruit was chosen in consultation with the city’s farmers markets for its versatility as well as its in-season availability. (Santa Monica’s culinary scene is, after all, known for the unique kinship that’s developed between its farmers markets and local restaurants.)

From full-on dinner entrees to refreshing cocktails and fruity desserts, Santa Monica restaurants are showing the kumquat in a whole new light. Here are a few highlights:

Get Things Started @ Little Prince

Cozy up at Little Prince for a twist on a simple bread plate. The petit restaurant just two blocks from the ocean is offering a light and balanced pumpkin toast served with a pumpkin puree. Sliced kumquats, sprouts, burrata and pumpkin seed crumble top the puree, packing this toast with even more textures and the bounties of farmers’ harvests.

Fresh Baja Flavor @ Michael’s Santa Monica

For a dish full of flavor, be sure to try the Baja-style wild yellowtail at Michael’s Santa Monica. Diced inada (young yellowtail) is perfectly paired in a light kumquat sauce with a variety of market chiles. Plated with sliced radishes, kumquats and cilantro, the dish is a standout on the week’s menu. Escape the city on the restaurant’s tropical patio.

Get in First @ Socalo

Newly opened Socalo is the latest venture of Border Grill chefs Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken (read more on page 10). The salmon poke in a kumquat ponzu sauce is a taste of Japanese fusion on the Mexican pub’s menu. Served with cucumber, rice, fennel and sesame seeds, the Asian roots of the dish really stand out. Try one of 11 Mexican beers on tap to pair with the dish.

Rooftop Views @ Calabra

The rooftop restaurant, bar and lounge atop Santa Monica’s Proper Hotel offers 360-degree views of the city, craft drinks and seafood-forward dishes (read more on page 12). But for restaurant week, Calabra will be serving a koji fried California quail dish marinated for two weeks in kumquats and Calabrian chile. Topped with sliced kumquats, the meat is tender with the slightest tang.

More Choices

Diners can also head to Chinois on Main, El Cholo, Elephante, Fia, Lunetta, Margo’s and Rosti Tuscan Kitchen for more kumquat-driven dishes. And those looking for cocktails with a new taste can find a kumquat kombucha margarita at Seaside on the Pier, a kumquat Hot Toddy at Red O Taste of Mexico, a kumquat mojito at Obica, or a spiced kumquat whiskey smash at The Independence. Scoops Ice Cream is serving up a kumquat caramel date creation, and The Lobster is offering a kumquat upside-down cake. Or top it all off with a scoop of Dolcenero Gelato’s kumquat sorbet.

Visit for a full list of dishes and participating restaurants.