When you take Pico Blvd west, and you arrive at the very end, just on the sand, you’ll find someplace magical and wonderful – Shutters on the Beach. Tucked into the first floor is the flagship restaurant that overlooks the beach, the boardwalk and presents the perfect environment for either a raucous group of friends to celebrate over an impressive menu, or have a romantic evening before you propose marriage as the sun sets over the Santa Monica Pier.
Executive Chef David Almany has curated a menu with elements from several different types of cuisines that are indicative of the multi-cultural aspects of the hotel’s clientele and the visitors to the city of Santa Monica. I was invited in to sample the new menu for the summer season and had a wondrous meal served with supreme attention by our main waiter Jonathon and his supporting team.
The room itself is an open ceiling, beachy casual design that allows for the sound to deaden and makes the experience much more enjoyable as it is not a noisy and overpowering environment. The whitewashed walls and ceilings evoke a freshness to remind you of the casual joys of summer. To my liking, the music was a nice selection of instrumentals that were playing softly enough to be spoken over easily but could be enjoyed during the natural lulls in conversation.
I brought along my friend Anne so that she could reminisce about when her husband would take her there in their early dating life. We started the meal off with what was surely the biggest disappointment of the evening – the breadbasket. To begin with, it wasn’t a basket; it was four pieces of boring bread with little distinction between them on a plate. At a $9.00 price point, I would have been upset had I been paying for it.
Luckily, that was the low point of the evening. We proceeded to have an appetizer round of Clams Casino and Hamachi Tartar. The clams were served on a bed of rock salt and roasted star anise. The presentation was beautiful and the clams were baked to perfection with a well-balanced ratio of breadcrumbs and a red bell pepper cube. I found the clams to be cooked through while still maintaining their moisture and delightful taste of the sea. The Hamachi was served atop an avocado mousse that was guacamole-esque. The chile lime vinaigrette on the Hamachi was fresh and light and accented the texture of the fish.
The pasta course was a Mafaldine linguine with guanciale, peas, and ramps. Guanciale is a pork product from the jowls; similar to the streaky bacon we are most used to. Again the balance of ingredients was what set this dish apart. I was very happy with the proportions of peas and guanciale, the ramps (which are a type of spring greens) were pleasant but not a strong component of the dish. Pasta needs to be done to perfection for me, and this was definitely al dente the way my brother used to make it. Paired with the pasta course was a grilled broccolini over a spicy cherry tomato ragu with feta on top of the broccolini for salt and tang. I am not sure which I loved more, the slightly charred broccolini that added a bit of smoky sweetness to the freshness of the greens or the spicy tomato jam that would have been lovely over some of the crusty bread from the bread (non) basket.
As an entrée, we opted for the lamb chops, which must be served pink to raw in the middle, for my liking. In this case, the grill master did a superb job of creating a crust on the exterior of the chop while keeping the interior a delightful rare. Accompanying the chops were smashed fingerling potatoes of no real note, but there was a side of cavalo nero that had been sautéed with garlic and was robust and meaty, but not tough. Cavalo nero is a type of kale and part of the cabbage family. This type of green can be difficult and gross, but the chef has mastered it.
No tasting menu is complete without an amazing dessert and 1 Pico didn’t disappoint. We ordered the Pavlova and the sundae. A Pavlova is basically a light dessert for those who don’t like dessert. It’s macerated berries over a meringue base. It’s basic, hard to screw up or make exceptional, and here it was a decidedly well done, but still a basic dessert. The sundae on the other hand – well this was a masterpiece of desserty in my opinion. It started with salted caramel ice cream, then add in caramel covered popcorn, chunks of homemade brownies, add in a fudge sauce and top with real homemade whipped cream and nuts. This dessert has smooth, creamy, crunchy, salty, chocolatey, gooey goodness and is most definitely the star of the dessert menu. Jonathon recommended it, and he was right.
If you need a beautiful location to have a marvelous dinner overlooking the water and the pier, I suggest 1 Pico for parties of 2 or 20.
1 Pico deserves 4 stars out of 5. Prices range from $18-24 for small plates, $18-23 for second-course items, dinner mains are $32-58. There is valet parking.
1 Pico Blvd
Santa Monica, CA 90401