2807 Main Street
Santa Monica, CA 90405
If you are ever on Main Street, few blocks away from Venice Beach, there is no way you can miss Ashland Hill. A bustling beer and wine garten slash gastropub, adorned with tea lights, its the perfect brunch and/or date night venue. I went here a few weekends ago with the fiance, and we left with happy little tummies. The menu was very eclectic and unexpected. I was expecting more of an American food type menu, but was surprised to see items like shawarma and curry rice bowl. So, lets dive right in.
First, we tried a flight of 4 locally brewed beers, one of which was the Belching Beaver, a peanut butter milk stout. I love to try the craziest or most unique item on the menu, and this seemed to fit the bill. Its just fun to get a beer and try to use your senses to get the hint of the flavor they are trying to achieve.
The first appetizer up was the avocado and roasted tomato toast. A plate of 4 little pieces of toast, topped with a creamy avocado sauce, goat cheese, lime, Thai chili, pickled pearl onion, and smoked salt. Cute and probably the fanciest toast I’ve ever had.
Next, we tried the crispy cauliflower – salmoriglio, parmesan, saffron aioli, pickled vegetables espelette. Damn, I had to Wikipedia what salmoriglio and espelette mean. Apparently one form of salmariglio can come as a butter, slightly soft and whipped, containing Dijon mustard, lemon, olive oil, and fresh herbs. Espelette is a crushed red pepper. I LOVE when I can’t recognize ingredients on a menu. The saffron aioli really made the dish come together. Because of the decent size and little pieces of cauliflower, I think this is a good appetizer to order if you are looking to share.
The third appetizer we tried was the Leo’s Loco Moco, a Hawaiian dish that comes in many variations. This one in particular was the gastro-pubby version of a Loco Moco in that the rice was flavored in a way that had me taking bite after bite, trying to dissect each and every single flavor with my tongue. I realized I could just look at the menu to figure out that Leo’s Loco Moco is made with lemongrass pork sausage, kimchi rice, sunny-side up egg, and kecap manis (sweet soy sauce). But where’s the fun in that?
I had to save the best appetizer for last. Of course, that would be my favorite food, mac & cheese. But this one in particular is the charred shishito mac & cheese – charred shishito peppers, pickled cherry peppers, white cheddar, and an herb crust. I mean, just look at this beauty, another must-order on their menu.
Our first entree was the coconut curry rice bowl – chickpeas, brussel sprouts, pickled vegetables, kimchi, sesame, nori and basil. I chose this because I wanted to see how they would bring their creativity to curry. I’m glad I did because this was not your typical curry bowl. Again, there were many unfamiliar flavors that had me savoring every bite. Got a health conscientious person in the group? This would be perfect for them.
For the second entree, I went with their most popular dish, the Ashland Hill burger – red onion bacon jam, sharp white cheddar, paprika, aioli, watercress with a side of herb parmesan fries. It was everything they promised and more. The pattie was so juicy, tender, and you could really taste the paprika. It tasted more like smoked paprika to me. The red onion bacon jam is what makes this burger unduplicatable, and the watercress was a nice variation from typical lettuce. You can tell a lot of effort went into the making of this burger to come up with the perfect complements. I definitely recommend this for any first-timers at Ashland Hill, but after one bite, I’m afraid you will only want to order this on future visits. This burger alone is enough of a reason to make your way over there. Its that good.
For dessert, I went with the market blueberry crumble – oat crumble, whipped white chocolate, and ginger ice cream. I was soooo happy with this because the blueberries were real, whole berries baked underneath a crispy oat crumble, topped with a nice scoop of ice cream. If you are having difficulty deciding and only want to get one dessert, trust me I know food, and this is the one you want to go with.
Ashland Hill is the perfect place to go if you’re looking for a more upscale restaurant than the regular casual places surrounding the venice boardwalk. This place will offer you a foodie experience, with great ambiance, and unique menu options. There is plenty to do and see in the surrounding area, and I would recommend visiting the shops nearby, and ending the day at Ashland Hill for a nice dinner for two and a cold beer to go with it.
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