Belcampo Santa Monica
Belcampo Meat Co. in Santa Monica finally (re)opened last month, a year after its “pop-up” last May. The butcher shop, selling products from their organic farm up in Larkspur, CA, takes up a small portion of their store front, while the entrance to the restaurant is to the left. The restaurant menu has a few items from before, like the Fried Quail Salad and, of course, the eponymous Belcampo Cheeseburger. What caught my eye was the Tartare Menu, with a selection of three to choose from. My elder daughter also loves tartare, so I brought her along to be my dining assistant.
Lacto-Fermented Strawberry and Pineapple House-Crafted Sodas: Belcampo has an extensive drinks menu, but to keep it light I stuck with a soft drink. My choice was the Lacto-Fermented Strawberry, a tangy, kefir-meets-kombucha concoction that was right up my alley. My daughter chose the Bartender’s Choice, and I was a little disappointed that she was served their straight Pineapple soda rather than a more interesting mocktail. The cardboard straws were colorful and fun at the beginning, but if you let your drinks linger, they start going limp and become less effective as straws. [$5/drink]
Beef Tartare: The raw beef, with smoked oysters, cornichons, shallot, and a “Belcampo yolk” (presumably a chicken egg yolk from their farm) was quite delicious, both on its own and with the yolk mixed in. Despite having all these different strong ingredients, the flavors all meshed well and highlighted the freshness of the meat. [$17]
Lamb Tartare: Unlike the beef, I believe the raw lamb was prepared “neat”, without any other ingredients in the “quenelle” of meat. Served with it was some minced cucumber, turmeric oil, and papadum. Again, the meat was incredibly fresh, but it was just a bit overshadowed by the beef and goat tartares. [$15]
Goat Tartare: Unfortunately, I did not get a good shot of this dish, and it was probably my favorite of the three. Mixed with ancho chile, lime, hoja santa, and served with a peppery mizuna salad that would have been too salty on its own but went perfectly with the goat. The flavors of this dish all really popped for me! [$17]
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French Dip Eclair: Since one cannot live on tartare alone, we ordered this from Belcampo’s “Snack” menu, starting with this twist on a classic French dip. Cold, sliced roast beef, topped with a horseradish sauce is served, not on a bread roll, but rather a “profite-roll” as I dubbed it. The pate a choux was very light and delicate, and in fact one half of the eclair was shattered by the time it got to our table. The contrast of hot pastry and cold meat was interesting, and the sandwich was good, but the portion was definitely “snack” size. [$8]
Grilled Asparagus: Needing a little vegetation, we were torn between getting this dish and the Roasted Brussels Sprouts with the house chorizo. The burrata in this dish won out! Some excellent, slightly charred, wonderfully snappy asparagus came out topped with colorful heirloom tomatoes and a nice dollop of cream-filled burrata. I’ve never had burrata paired with asparagus, but it was definitely a winner! [$11]
Grilled Beef Heart: At the pop-up last year, I tried their beef heart skewers, also served with a salsa verde or chimichurri, and I thought the pieces of heart were overcooked. Not so in this dish. The slices of heart was perfectly seared while remaining vividly crimson inside. The salsa verde, roasted fennel, and mizuna, which should get just as much love as the more popular arugula, were a great accompaniment for the heart. [$14]
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Tarragon Yogurt Panna Cotta: Having saved room for dessert, I opted for the panna cotta, generally one of my favorite desserts. I wasn’t sure at first about ordering this, as I didn’t know if I’d like the tarragon, but the waiter said it was very mild. Served as a half sphere with a ring of cassis puree surrounding it, and a vanilla cracked pepper tuile bisecting it from above, I couldn’t really taste much tarragon at all. The yogurt’s tang really came through though, and I felt it needed to be a little sweeter to counterbalance that. Loved the cracked pepper in the tuile, though! [$9]
Banana Cream Pie: Not your typical banana cream pie, the square of banana custard rested on spiced pecan shortbread, and was topped with butterscotch Bavarian, bruleed bananas, butterscotch sauce. The flavors really packed a punch, especially compared to the panna cotta. I’m not a huge caramel/butterscotch guy, but I really liked this dessert! [$12]
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I had mentioned the Reserve app previously, in my posts on Tar & Roses and on Republique earlier this year. I’ve used it to get into Bestia before, and I used it to get our table at Belcampo. Though the restaurant was not packed that night, it was still really great to just have, at the end of the meal, a card presented stating “The Check is Paid” without having to pull out a credit card, have the server run it, figure out tip, and sign the receipt. And I hear that Belcampo does get packed on the weekends, so that’s probably the best time to take advantage of the app. If you want to try it out, download it from the iOS App Store or Google Play and use Promo Code E18KGX for a $10 credit. It costs nothing to make a reservation, and only a $5 fee after you dine.
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I left Belcampo somewhat conflicted. I appreciate what it’s doing as a company, raising organic and sustainable meat, selling it to consumers, and serving it at their establishments. The food is undeniably delicious, but it is relatively expensive, with small-ish portions.
There’s also some oddities to their menu, for a company that raises sustainable beef. At open, they only had one steak dish, and it was a dish for two that was priced at $115 at opening and is now “AQ” (but presumably still in the triple-digit range). They now have a Roast Beef Banquet that’s sliced sirloin tip for $32, but their current menu (not yet updated on their site) does not have another “real” steak dish. Also, while they had a Duck Terrine dish previously, I was disappointed to find no terrines or rillettes on the current menu, despite having several for sale in the butcher shop. I’m hoping they go back on the menu soon!
Lastly, and this is just my personal preference, since sustainability is a goal of theirs, they could serve more offal dishes, to utilize more of the animal, though I’m sure some of those parts go into those terrines and rillettes in the butcher shop.
Bottom line, they’ve only been open for little over a month, so I am going to keep an eye on the menu to see how it evolves. I do want to go back to try some of their larger plate dishes, and I definitely want to check out the butcher shop.
Belcampo Meat Co.
1026 Wilshire Blvd
Santa Monica, CA 90401