After a disastrous dinner sometime ago at Shutters, where the busboys poured the bottled water into the glasses with tap water, and the waiter kept pouring too much of the wrong wine into the wrong glasses, mixing Bordeaux with Burgundy (not really a good blend) the PR people invited me to try their Tapas Tuesdays. They offered to comp me, of course, but I replied that my editor pays me so much for these articles that I can afford to eat anywhere.
I was pleasantly surprised by the experience! I arrived just before 6 p.m., the anointed time. The Spanish guitar player was tuning up. A very professional serveuse (my new word) offered me the tapas menu. Upon request she then brought me a wine list.
The five tapas listed: marinated beets, grilled octopus, smoked almonds, shrimp and grilled squid, each for $7. Also available at $7/glass, a sparkling wine from Sonoma and three red wines. Red wine with seafood tapas on a bright sunny afternoon at the beach did not seem appealing. So I ordered the three seafood tapas, a glass of sparkling wine from South Africa at $10 and a glass of white wine from Spain at $11. I’m a big spender. I asked them to bring everything seriatim.
While waiting I took in the beautiful view of both the beach and the ocean, and the inside view, a lively crowd of business people and vacationers, and plenty of wait staff. The guitarist began, right at 6 p.m., to play some of my favorite pieces.
The grilled octopus came as four nice bite sized pieces on a bed of lemon mashed potato salad. The tender octopus tasted flavorful, and the potato salad flavored with lemon went well with the octopus. There was enough for two to share. I drank the just OK tasting Graham Beck sparkling wine.
Next, three shrimp arrived sporting a grilled onion, and an exceptionally delicious tomato-garlic sauce on the side. This was also a very generous helping. That’s about when I started drinking the Rias Biaxas “Nora” 2007 wine. The dark golden color held the promise of an amazing floral nose, and I was greeted with a mild entry and a smooth mid-palate ending in a dry exotic fruit finish with a slight citric, cleansing aftertaste. It was well worth the $11 price tag for a glass, but would I want to pay $44 for the bottle?
Finally the grilled squid with lemon and chilies arrived. The waiter might have sensed my disappointment as I asked him “where are the chilies?” He looked carefully at the squid rounds and the arugula, and shook his head. In a minute a manager arrived. “You were asking about the chilies,” he said. “The chilies are used in the flavoring of the marinade for the squid.” I offered him a piece of the squid, which was pretty bland and without any sign of chilies, but he declined. I mentioned that normally one doesn’t put the seasonings on the menu, and moved the subject to Naples and Zurich, where his parents come from. We agreed that the Bauer is one of the best restaurants in Zurich, and parted on good terms.
Tapas Tuesday at Shutters is a bargain. The plates for $7 can be shared by two. With tax and a handsome tip, plus a $7 parking charge my total was $60, which means two can have a early evening dinner for $30 each. Wine prices by the glass are reasonable, although marking up the bottle prices to four times cost is too much. It’s not cheap but it’s first class, it’s beautiful, and it’s on the beach!
Shutters on the beach is at the west end of Pico Boulevard, (310) 587-1717. If you’re a fan of champagne, you might want to try out Champagne Wednesdays.
Merv Hecht, the food and wine critic for the Santa Monica Daily Press, is a wine buyer and consultant to a number of national and international food and wine companies. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.