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Catherine An (right) of the Tiato Market Garden Cafe. (photo by John Blanchette)

It’s fun for a restaurant reviewer to find something special, that few people know about. Tiato Market Garden Café is one of those places.

Hidden away in an office building on Colorado Avenue, it’s not your typical restaurant. It offers a beautiful outside patio, it’s hidden from the street and there’s little or no signage. There’s also no street parking, but they validate in the building’s parking lot.

The An family of Crustacean fame has created a menu that features global flavors, with foods that are rich in antioxidants and organic immune-boosting ingredients.

The main room is divided by a wall made from glass jugs, and there is a small private room on the north side. It was quite busy on a Monday lunch, but there was available seating both inside and on the spacious patio. An adjacent room has a very nice selection of take-out foods.

The Asian-influenced menu is quite extensive. The day I was there, they were serving a very good asparagus soup available by the cup or the bowl, four salad entrees and a half dozen “starters,” including rolls, pizza and dim sum.

From among the seven sandwiches on the menu, I picked the smoked pulled pork that had a nice marinated flavor, but was a bit short on sauce, and the bun was thicker than I like, but it was good. And there was a nice salad on the plate.

From the dozen entrees one could find a few Vietnamese dishes, including pho (the ubiquitous Vietnamese soup), Dover sole, Coca-Cola marinated, slow roasted BBQ brisket (that sounds good), hanger steak and a more healthier dishes. The stand-bys such as Jidori chicken and salmon are also on the menu.

Everything is reasonably priced, such as $2.50 for espresso, and $2 for a chocolate chip cookie, with appetizers and main courses between $7 and $15, and there is a nice beer and sake list.

Tiato caters to the local entertainment trade inside the large building in which it is situated, so it is not open on weekends except for Sunday brunch, which is new. The combination of the spacious outdoor patio, American and Asian food choices at reasonable prices, and the extensive menu make this a wonderful choice for lunch or dinner.

If You Go

Tiato Market Garden Café

2700 Colorado Ave., Suite 190

Santa Monica, 90404

(310) 866-5228

www.tiato.com

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 mervynhecht@yahoo.com.

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