73: Wood-Roasted English Peas at Tar & Roses.
Andrew Kirchner's Santa Monica restaurant excels at small bites -- which is saying a lot during time in which most new restaurants have a section called "small bites." Tar & Roses also excels at smoky wood-fired cooking, which you could probably discern from the menu's description of what variety of wood the oven is burning that day.
The best dishes, of course, occur at the point at which the two characteristics meet. Balsamic-glazed ribs sticky with chili and garlic. Chicken "oysters" -- moist sections cut from the thigh -- basted with tamarind paste. At any point during the year there are at least three dishes with the prefix "wood-roasted" on the menu. From late spring to the last days of June, the dish in high style was a wooden bowl of roasted English peas, the tiniest bit of brown char marking their stringy tips, tossed with olive, rough sea salt, and a bit of chopped mint. It was a messier than the edamame you'd find at the yakitori restaurant down the street, but the fragrance of smoke and mint that enveloped your senses when you popped the earthy-sweet peas from their pods was enough to inspire fits.
English pea season is now over, unfortunately. You'll have to make due with something like the roasted corn with goat cheese, lime and Basque peppers, which isn't the worst fate in the world. And besides, if Kirchner was the kind of chef who deemed it kosher to serve an out-of-season vegetable, Tar & Roses would probably be a much less exciting place.