Rustic Canyon in Santa Monica provides the fodder for this week's restaurant review. We highly recommend reading the full review, but if you're strapped for time check out the condensed version below, which also includes a few extra tidbits.
Chef: Rustic Canyon's new chef Jeremy Fox gained a fair amount of national attention a few years back for his work at Ubuntu in Napa Valley, which became the country's most celebrated vegetarian restaurant. Fox left Ubuntu in 2010, and since then has done some consulting, as well as being attached to a couple of projects, though none of them worked out. ("I'm a temperamental jerk," he admits/jokes. "It's completely my fault.") After years of a friendly relationship with Rustic Canyon owners Josh Loeb and Zoe Nathan, Fox came on board at Rustic Canyon early this year when they were in need of a new chef. "It's exactly where I need to be at this point in my life," he says.
Food: Fox has taken all that was good about Rustic Canyon and tweaked it to fit his lighter, more vegetable-driven approach. From the review: "Rustic Canyon has always showcased exactly what's so fantastic about this part of the world: the produce, the wine, the slow, harmonious, beachy way of life. Under Fox, the restaurant continues to honor all those things. That said, there is less of an Italian undertone than in the days when [Evan] Funke was chef, fewer pasta dishes and more food that's Californian first and foremost. Fox has lightened the menu and simplified it. He's also brought his own aesthetic, one that, not surprisingly, focuses on subtle and stunning roles for the fruits and vegetables on the plate."
Drinks: Rustic Canyon is known for its wine list, and for good reason. There's a mix of domestic, Italian and French with a heavy focus on chardonnay (both from California and Burgundy) and pinot noir, as well as some Spanish, Oregonian and other regions represented. It's not a cheap list -- I wish there were a few more affordable options -- but it's obviously well-curated. There's also a classy cocktail list, with some great classics and classic-inspired originals.
Service: Professional: casual without being lackadaisical, friendly and knowledgeable without being overbearing.
Takeaway: 3 stars (very good). Rustic Canyon is demonstrating everything that's great about California dining: fantastic produce, subtle creativity, a classy but casual atmosphere.