Dining with Grace: Local Kitchen + Wine Bar

If you haven’t heard of Local Kitchen + Wine Bar you soon will, as this is a genuine find opened a few months ago by Maire Byrne, proprietor of Thyme Café and Market just down the street. The wine-beer-cocktail menu alone will entice you before you even look at the food menu with its listing of engaging dishes each beautifully flavored.

Local is the key word here. Wines are from California: the coastal region, to the Napa Valley, to “high valley” Lake Country, and more. The half dozen beers, too, are from various brewing companies. And the “craft” cocktails sound amazing, each with a different accent.

The setting is outdoor patio with wooden beams, a pleasing open feeling with heaters above for chilly weather, banquette seating and simple tables with a brown-paper table mat. Indoor seating has the same feel along with a bar. And, happily, neighbors have discovered this Local Kitchen & Wine Bar, so that the restaurant is filled with happy diners of every age, from the young on a date to grandparents and groups from an office. My friend and I were surrounded by all three types!

First we were treated to tasty warm olive-oil bread with herbs and a delicious parmesan spuma (a light cream flavored with parmesan), quite perfect for dipping. Next were Monterey calamari with succulent capers, a preserved lemon, radish and chili bread crumb. These were both

rom the “Share” menu, which also features a few salads such as baby tuscan kale with bagna cauda, olive-oil croutons, pear and fresh goat cheese. These shared offerings are priced from $11 to $15.

From the quintet of pastas (priced from $15 to $20) we tried the Pecorino malfatti with black truffle, black pepper, brown butter and sage. The pungent flavor of the Pecorino cheese and the black truffle gave this pasta great taste. Other pastas include an orecchiette (tiny disk-shaped pastas) with a tomato-fennel broth, prawns, bay

scallops, calamari and herbs, as well as a risotto, and a pappardelle with prosciutto, veal Bolognese and parmesan. The pizzas listed include one of my favorites, the simple

Margherita flavored with mozzarella, tomato and basil. However, the idea of a pizza with clams sounded most fascinating, and it was. Small, tender littleneck clams flavored with garlic, tomato, bottarga and fresh little dandelion greens was delicious but far too much food for the moment. The pizzas are all in the $14 to $18 price range.

Main dishes included a grilled branzino ($22), chicken under a brick ($24), smoked duroc bone-in pork chop ($26) and a prime braised short rib ($30). The chicken under a brick was delicious. Barbecued with a balsamic- chile glaze with charred onions, chile and jus, this was outstanding (and once again too much so my friend enjoyed the rest for dinner the next day).

Desserts consist of a variety of gelato, sorbetti and a smoked Meyer lemon granita, to a banana budino, chocolate hazelnut doughnuts, and our choice, chocolate crespelle with brooks cherries and aromatic tarragon. With the thin little crepes, chocolate and the cherries this made a delicious finish to our dinner.

A decaf French press coffee was perfect for me. As a note, you do not see French press coffee any more! Tea lovers will find eight to select from—and after-dinner drink lovers will find ports, scotch, whiskey and tequila.

Hours are 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday and on Friday and Saturday until 10 p.m. On Sunday the restaurant is open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

— GRACE HINEY

Local Kitchen + Wine Bar
1736 Ocean Park Blvd., Santa Monica • (310) 396-9007

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