Seaside Santa Monica is a haven for fresh and sustainable seafood, but Savida stands out as an Israeli concept that lands courtesy of chef Dan Smulovitz, who marries flavors from the California and Mediterranean coast in dishes like a crispy Octopus Tostada that’s smeared with zesty tzatziki and harissa sauces, and a Squid and Sea Asparagus salad that’s dotted with pine nuts. The intimate space offers a small selection of seating on the interior where you can watch as chef Smulovitz lends his final innovations to dishes before they’re sent out to guests, as well as sidewalk seating with a pleasant view of pedestrian-friendly Montana Ave. Savida just launched dinner service, with a wine menu to follow soon.
Los Angeles is head over heels in its current love affair with the Iberian peninsula—home to Spain and Portugal, with plenty of North African and Mediterranean influence. Landing next to Fia Steak and Fia, chef Brendan Collins is also behind Dono, which serves as a celebration of all things Spanish, with a sun-washed dining room that features a custom stained glass window in honor of St. Sebastian and a partitioned patio deck with heaters to stave off the evening wind. The menu is heavy on tapas like Sweet and Spicy Marcona Almonds, Spanish Olives, Croquetas Jamon, and plenty of conservas, plus large-format dishes like Spatchcock Piri Piri Chicken and Whole Grilled Sea Bass, in addition to a sizzling seafood paella, as well as a vegan version. Don’t disregard the dessert menu either, which presents Churros, Pastel de Nata, and Burnt Basque Cheesecake as worthwhile options. The cocktail menu is gin- and sherry-driven, with a trio of specialty sangrias on order. With a subtly smiling mural of Anthony Bourdain on its outside wall, Dono is definitely the sort of place that the late chef would have appreciated.
From husband and wife chef duo Ray Hayashi and Cynthia Hetlinger, Ryla offers a menu inspired by Hayashi’s background growing up in his parent’s Japanese restaurants in the South Bay and Hetlinger’s upbringing in Taipei, featuring fresh California ingredients sourced from the nearby Santa Monica Farmers Market. Highlights include a New Zealand Tai Snapper that floats in an effervescent lime coconut broth with mussels, daikon, and Fresno chile, but don’t skip the plush Hokkaido Milkbread with tobiko nori spread at the start of your meal. Sake and wine are offered by the glass, along with a selection of craft cocktails, like the Sichuan Opera, a sour with Sichuan peppercorn-infused mezcal, Falernum bitters, Grenadine, and pomegranate. The interior is lush with stone and dark wood details, plus a Japanese-inspired mural that dominates the back wall and private dining area. With a menu that runs the gamut from Hot Chicken Karaage to Tonkotsu Miso Ramen—plus weekend brunch!—Ryla is the sort of place you’ll find yourself returning to again and again.
Helmed by Los Angeles native Avish Naran, who wanted to create a local Indian food scene to rival San Francisco and NYC, Pijja Palace took over a former podiatrist’s office on Sunset Blvd and transformed it into an inviting, terracotta- and jade-hued den that slings Indian-inflected pizzas, pastas, and wings, with flat screens blaring LA sports teams in the background. Somehow this amalgamation of vibes works, in no small part because of the attention given to flavors and ingredients—the Tandoori Spaghetti belies your usual definition with smoked chili, garlic, charred lime, and breadcrumbs, while the Green Chutney Pijja features a spotted, cracker-thin crust doused with a vibrant green chile chutney, mozzarella, and crunchy masala. The drink menu is worth its own separate visit, with Indian whiskey, gin, and rum featured heavily throughout, though the natty wine selection also pairs well with the aromatic dishes. Go with a group so you can order a bit of everything and definitely save room for the Cookies and Cardamom and Malted Chai soft serves for dessert.
Landing in the former Farmer’s Daughter space is this worldly bistro from chef Ricardo Zarate (Rosaline, Picca, Paiche) that’s set in a stunning hotel courtyard and gives way to an open-air bar and dining room with hanging disco ball plant fixtures, navy banquettes, and Barbie pink walls.The Lomo Saltado is a must-order, with skirt steak and marble potatoes that are drenched in a Peruvian soy glaze and topped with a sunny egg, as are the Moroccan-spiced lamb chops with saffron Israeli couscous and cinnamon yogurt, plus plenty of shareables like Ceviche Clasico, Baby Artichokes, and Spanish Octopus. Cocktails skew refreshing and bright, with a Pisco Sour and White Sangria on offer, plus a Cantaloupe Basil Margarita with mezcal, and a few beers and wines by the glass.
How to book: Reservations can be made online. Walk-ins welcome.
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