A great thing about dining with a bunch of people – as in holiday lunch with colleagues – is that you get to check out a wide array of dishes the restaurant offers. The not-so-wonderful part is that the dish you order never looks as good as your friends’, and you end up regretting your choice the entire time. It’s a terrible feeling!
I’m usually content with what I order expect this day at Michael’s Restaurant in Santa Monica, where everything I selected seemed wrong and everyone else’s seemed right.
For a starter, I ordered a Dungeness and Blue Crab Salad because I was in the mood for wonderful pieces of crab on top of green salad. But what I got was a mixture of crab meat, diced apples and Japanese cucumbers in rich mayonnaise-based dressing. The dish was beautiful and flavorful but it unfortunately didn’t satisfy my need for greens (yes, I should have read the menu carefully). The image of the grilled shrimp salad that I passed over was flashing through my mind the entire time I was eating my dish. Boo.
Dungeness and Blue Crab Salad: Organic Market Apples, Japanese Cucumber, Petit Greens, Cider Gastrique
Other starters that made it to our tables were:
Seasonal Oysters, on the Half Shell, Banyuls Mignonette
Sashimi of Yellowtail, Pickled Vegetables, Baby Cilantro, Black Bean Oil
Cauliflower Soup, Lemon Brown Butter, Crispy
For lunch, I ordered the Alaskan Hook and Line King Salmon with asparagus and mushroom risotto. The dish was delightful – with perfectly cooked Arborio rice and tender piece of fish – but I didn’t feel that it was seasoned well. Everything was more on the bland side, and I had to add some salt and pepper to season the dish, which I usually don’t prefer to do. The hanger steak that others ordered looked so good, that I was wishing that I ordered it instead!
Alaskan Hook & Line King Salmon, Asparagus & Wild Mushroom Risotto, Black Truffle Jus
Seared Hanger Steak, Red Bliss Potatoes, Wilted Spinach, Bordelaise Sauce
Seared Tuna Salad, Romaine Hearts, Fingerling Potatoes, Hard-Cooked Egg, Blue Lake Beans
Alaskan Halibut, Hen of the Woods Mushrooms, Soybeans, Sweet and Gold Potato Puree, Mushroom Vinaigrette
The dessert, however, was perhaps the best part of lunch. I ordered the Apple Pie Souffle Tart, which had the combination of flaky, chewy, tart and sweet, all in one. But again, the Chocolate Fondant Cake looked more delightful than anything else.
Apple Pie Soufflé Tart, Salted Caramel Sauce, Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
Panettone French Toast, Maple Panna Cotta, Poached Seckle Pear, Cranberry Sorbet
Michael’s was, to me, one of those “perfect on paper” restaurants. The menu was sophisticated, food was good and the ambience was pleasant, but it wasn’t … excellent. There was something missing from making it a divine experience, although I cannot pinpoint exactly what that would be. Maybe it I tried it again and order different dishes, I may be able to figure out that missing piece of the culinary puzzle.
1147 Third Street, Santa Monica, CA 90403