The new Belcampo in Santa Monica is not a steakhouse — the bartender will remind you — although there is a 32-ounce shell steak for two on the menu, served with potato gratin and a classic blue cheese wedge salad ($140). No, it is a restaurant that serves meat.
Regardless of what you call it, the Grand Central Market stall's new flagship L.A. restaurant — with an ever-changing menu including goat, pigeon, chicken, pork and beef — serves meat that is organic from animals that were humanely raised, farmed, processed and butchered by Belcampo Meat Co. in Shasta Valley.
The Wilshire Boulevard restaurant, and the butcher shop that fronts it, officially opened Sunday. It's Belcampo’s second location in Los Angeles, and there's a third in the works on West Third Street.
Unlike the butcher shop and counter-service food stall at Grand Central, the Westside location is a proper restaurant, with a complex cocktail list (the BBQ Old-Fashioned involves a flamed barbecue tincture and barbecue bitters and is garnished with Belcampo beef jerky) by Josh Goldman of the Soigné Group and a wine list from David Lynch of San Francisco’s St. Vincent. The napkins are cloth, and the plates are works of art.
The high-ceilinged space has no windows but gets natural light from skylights. As that light fades, candles behind the sizable bar and on tables create a soft ambiance. The buttery leather banquette seating is made from Belcampo steer hides and plays off the light blue and white walls. The look of the 87-seat restaurant is meant to evoke the 1930s art deco architecture of Santa Monica.
An opening menu by head chef Maiki Lee (Josie Restaurant) is a carnivore’s delight. In addition to the more common beef tartar ($17), there’s a lamb ($15) or goat option ($17), the latter of which arrives as a deep red, almost purple mound, served with a lightly dressed salad and thinly sliced toast.
Small bites shamelessly appeal to baser instincts and include the little French dip ($8), chicken wings ($9) and house-made potato chips ($8) cooked in tallow and served with a creamy Taleggio dipping sauce. Small plates are substantial and include a mutton chop served with English peas, pomegranate molasses and mint chutney ($15) and a quail salad ($22), with the meaty legs, coated in a spicy lemongrass sauce, placed atop a buttermilk-dressed salad of gem lettuce and mint.
It’s not a lengthy menu — only six entrees were listed opening week — but it’s a hearty one. The famous Belcampo cheeseburger ($18) is there, as is a grilled pork sausage plate ($24) that comes with mashed Yukon potatoes and sautéed spring onions, fava beans and mustard greens.
Vegetarians have some recourse in a kale salad ($14) and vegetable sides, although one night the Brussels sprouts came with house chorizo and cauliflower was topped with anchovy breadcrumbs. Fries are tallow-fried.
Belcampo Butcher Shop & Restaurant, 1026 Wilshire Boulevard, Santa Monica; 424-744-8008; belcampomeatco.com
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