There's a new kid in Culver City, nestled in snugly on Main Street amid the taverns and restaurants that make up the area's burgeoning food scene. The Wallace was opened over the weekend by husband-and-wife team Michael and Carol Teich: She runs the front of house, he runs the kitchen. Michael and beverage director Holly Zack hail from hospitality company SBE -- and they know how to please a crowd.
Cocktails -- in "shaken" and "stirred" categories -- are well balanced and strong, with interesting combinations like the Early Ace (gin, Earl Grey tea, lemon, egg white, pistachio foam) and Fun Flask (coffee-infused Scotch, cognac, honey, chocolate chili bitters). The wine list is far-reaching and reasonably priced (with a bottle of Spanish Garnacha for $28 and nothing higher than $100), and they have a selection of tap and bottled beers as well as homemade sodas.
The small-plates menu isn't revolutionary, but it is interesting, with a vaguely Mediterranean vibe and fresh California ingredients (the Culver City farmers market sets up on the restaurant's front stoop). Start with something from the Jarred section -- maybe a caponata with ricotta and sea salt, duck rillettes, or the grilled flatbread served with mini jars of bacon marmalade, romesco and wilted greens. The Cheese/Cured selection includes, well, cheese, but also popovers, salt cod fritters and a cured salmon belly served with an artistic smattering of cucumber, beets and horseradish.
There are enough Vegetable options to fill up even non-vegetarians (amazing grilled cauliflower with almond breadcrumbs, sprouting broccoli with tahini and feta, market greens with pumpkin and pomegranate seeds) and the final Sea and Land sections have well-executed standards (grilled Greek octopus, tuna tartare) but also lemonfish crudo, charred lamb leg with farro risotto and an impossibly light short-rib ravioli dish. You'll need a couple of dishes per person to fill up, but everything is affordable -- and dishes are far prettier than their price tags suggest.
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The restaurant is long and airy, with a small patio up front, communal high-tops in the bar area and blessedly well-spaced tables in back. For once, you're not eating dinner in your neighbor's lap. An open kitchen anchors the room, so kick back and enjoy the show.
Oh, and do yourself a favor -- finish up the meal with a round of ricotta fritters. Fried dough and sugar on a chilly L.A. winter's night? Perfection.
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