In my last column I expressed how we adapt other cultures into our food. This week I‚Äôm excited about how people from other lands can come to Santa Monica and open up an American-style restaurant with nice ambiance and great American food!
The Courtyard Kitchen is owned by chef Ari Selimovic from Bosnia, and his daughter Mila waits tables and generally runs the place. It‚Äôs in a real courtyard in the heart of Santa Monica; nothing fancy, just outside tables sheltered with umbrellas with a brick floor, but great food for such a casual place.
Six salads, six appetizers, six sandwiches, four main dishes, great macaroons (even if misspelled on the menu) and kids‚Äô plates. And even more on the breakfast menu! And six kinds of tea. Prices are quite reasonable.
My eggplant parmesan was a good choice, made just the way I like it. A tuna salad sandwich and a BLT were both wonderful. The BLT was served on an especially flavorful bread from the Corner Bakery and spread with a spicy mayonnaise that added to the combination of flavors. And the plates came with organic mixed greens, which I found went really well with the sandwiches.
By and large the food is prepared in a healthy way, like we try to eat at home. A lot of the products are organic and locally sourced. The only beef I saw on the menu was a steak salad with blue cheese and balsamic vinegar. Otherwise it was all chicken, tuna, shrimp, salmon and lots of vegetables.
The kids‚Äô menu looks great, just what every kid wants: pizza, grilled cheese sandwich, and peanut butter and jelly. Now is that American or what?
So far I‚Äôve missed out on what looks like the best they have to offer. The breakfast menu looks fantastic, but I haven‚Äôt had a chance to get there yet for breakfast.
Lox and bagel, eggs, oatmeal, omelets and frittata, French toast and pancakes and, my all time favorite, eggs Benedict. I‚Äôll get there soon, but I don‚Äôt go out often for breakfast, so I decided to write this review before I had breakfast there.
Don‚Äôt leave without trying one or two macaroons.¬† The salted caramel with a chocolate center and the raspberry with a fruit filling were the best I‚Äôve ever had ‚Äî even better than in France! No beer, wine or espresso yet, but they are coming.
The restaurant seems to be open every day from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., and the brunch is all day Saturdays and Sundays. They have take-out and do catering. If you overeat, you can walk into the dance studio at the back of the patio and work it off.
For breakfast, lunch, or just a stop-in for one of their six teas (with a macaroon), this is just a really nice place run by really nice people. That shows up on the Internet, where both the food and the service get ratings as good as any place in town.
An extra helping¬†
I stopped by the new Spago Beverly Hills this week and sat at the bar next to the drink station. It‚Äôs true, the menu is half Japanese!
I started with a little box of sashimi; two pieces each of tuna, hamachi and uni with a flavored rice ball. I washed it down with a small bottle of sake.¬† Delicious! Then I had the sliced veal chop (so good I gnawed on the bone for several minutes after I had eaten all the slices and dipped them into the rich dollops of sauce on the plate). I also enjoyed a generous 4-ounce pour of Malbec in a proper glass.
Amir, sitting next to me, gave me a bite of his ravioli in carbonara sauce, and one bite was enough. It was so rich. When I didn‚Äôt order dessert, Amir ordered two with an extra spoon, and I had a couple bites of two extraordinary desserts, served in just the small portions I like.
OK, I spent my whole week‚Äôs allowance on that one meal, but it was worth it. And watching the mixologists shaking and mixing was better than most of the movies I see.
If you go
1211 Montana Ave.
Santa Monica, Calif.
Spago Beverly Hills
176 N. Canon Dr.
Beverly Hills, Calif.
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.