Dear Mr. Gold:
I have a group of my best friends flying in from Alabama, and we're all staying in Santa Monica. I never go to the Westside for anything, so I am looking for some dinner recommendations for Friday night. Any cuisine is fine, I would like to take them somewhere a little trendy and scene-y, not terribly expensive and, of course, good food.
Dear Ms. H.:
Welcome to the land of the ingredient fetish, where even the singles joints tend to have farmers-market inclinations, and where the best bartenders spend as much time haggling over herbs with Romeo Coleman as the best chefs. I could recommend Rustic Canyon for your night out, a wine bar-style restaurant where Evan Funke's market-centered cooking is fresh and delicious, but the place might be a little staid -- on weekends, it tends to attract kind of a once-divorced crowd, if you know what I mean.
You could always go to Gjelina down on Abbot Kinney, which is loud, cheerful, boozy and known for both its extremely good-looking customers (a lot of young actors tend to show up here late) and Travis Lett's decent organic-fetish Italian food, especially the wood-charred pizza. The scene may be slightly too crunchy, but it's Abbot Kinney. People have been saying nice things about the cooking of Jamie Lauren, the new chef at Beechwood down the street, although it may be more of a bar with food than a restaurant.
Do I talk too much about the Tasting Kitchen, also on Abbot Kinney? I do talk too much about the Tasting Kitchen. Because it is a restaurant that can make plain bread and butter seem like the most desirable dish in the world, where they don't serve G&Ts unless somebody remembered to make the tonic water, and where the world's fowl go to die happy, happy deaths. The all-Italian wine list is obscure even by the standards of an area raised on the Terodelgos and Salento Biancos from Wine Expo. But the music is great, lots of hot-buttered soul and West Coast hip-hop; it's lit by more candles than surround all the hot tubs in Venice; and the bar -- stupendous cocktails -- magically expands as midnight approaches.