My family and I are big fans of chef-owner Andrew Kirschner’s highly acclaimed restaurant Tar & Roses—I’ve reviewed it twice on this blog. Last month, when my parents were in town, we had to find a place for dinner, and my wife suggested T&R. She hadn’t heard that a fire had shut down the restaurant earlier this summer, with no set reopening date as repairs have taken longer than expected.
Undeterred, I suggested Santa Monica Yacht Club, T&R’s seafood-centric sister restaurant on the same block in Santa Monica. I used the Reserve app to request a table for six for right when the restaurant opens, and Reserve got us in with just a day’s notice. Unfortunately, my wife ended up not feeling well that evening and missed out on a wonderful meal.
Santa Monica Yacht Club, SMYC for short, is a bright, airy restaurant, with a nautical theme, a big change from the wine-cellar-like atmosphere of the previous occupant, Italian restaurant La Botte. We were seated at a large table by the entrance, and I really appreciated the abundance of natural lighting for my photographs!
We ordered an assortment of dishes ranging from raw oysters to grilled whole mackerel to skirt steak, and even a classic T&R dish on loan to SMYC: lamb kabobs with banana raita and harissa. We liked nearly everything that we had, as I would expect from past experience with Tar & Roses. Of course, there were some definite standouts…
The first highlight of the meal was a raw yellowtail dish. While nearly ubiquitous at popular restaurants, the pristine hamachi in combination with the tart, creamy, fragrant elements in the dish really made this stand out from most of the other crudi and carpaccios around town.
Sea urchin is another easy find on menus in Los Angeles, particularly served on toast! SMYC didn’t try to reinvent the wheel with its rendition, but, as with the yellowtail, the quality of the uni was superb and paired well with the frisée and avocado.
Octopus is perhaps not quite as commonplace in restaurants, but it’s definitely gaining in popularity, much to my delight. The tentacle here had a light, crisp outer layer, while the meat of the, well, octopus meat was quite tender. I don’t know why, but I particularly liked the potato in this dish.
Getting into slightly more specialized territory, I don’t generally encounter a spaghetti with bottarga (salted/cured mullet roe) dish outside Italian restaurants. As a fiend for karasumi, the Japanese version of this delicacy, I was very happy with this dish! Most of the table liked it right away, including, after a bit of coaxing to get her to try it, my younger daughter!
The barbecue eel lunch box is another dish not generally found outside its culinary enclave, in this case Korean restaurants. The dosirak was presented to us already looking good enough to eat, with glistening sauce over the eel, and a raw egg yolk begging to be mixed in.
And as one would at a Korean restaurant, the dosirak was lidded tightly and shaken like a cocktail before the contents were re-revealed. What was once a pretty picture is now a delicious mess, but admittedly still a pretty picture. This was actually my first dosirak, so I can’t compare it to other shaken lunch boxes, but I can say it was just as delicious as any Japanese unaju or unadon (eel and rice dishes) I’ve had!
We finished our meal with one dessert, the lime s’mores, which is a twist both on s’mores—everything but the chocolate—and on key lime pie, which for some reason is often served at seafood restaurants. I guess seafood and Florida go together in people’s minds. I didn’t get to try it, but from the empty bowl and the smiles on my kids’ faces, I’d bet it was good!
While it may not seem like SMYC is breaking as much new ground as T&R did, there’s something to be said for putting fresh ingredients together in simple but well thought out dishes and then executing those dishes at a high level. I hope Tar & Roses reopens soon, but in the mean time Santa Monica Yacht Club is definitely not just holding down the fort! If you’re a fan of seafood, or of T&R, or just of great food, be sure to check out SMYC!
My thanks again to Reserve for getting us a table. I’ve used the app several times this year, to get into places like Bestia, Republique, Rustic Canyon, and Tar & Roses! Download Reserve (iOS or Android) and enter promo code E18KGX in-app to receive a $10 credit.
To see every dish we had at SMYC, check out #offalosmyc on Instagram!
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Santa Monica Yacht Club
620 Santa Monica Blvd
Santa Monica, CA 90401