The lamb kefta meatballs with orange and crushed pistachio, is just one of the many eclectic dishes you will find at Viceroy’s Whist. (Photo by Michael Ryan.)

Suffocated between busy streets and shrouded by walls of high-standing shrubbery, the Viceroy Hotel does not do much in the way of standing out. Converted from an old Holiday Inn, the structure is not exactly an architectural marvel either. You wouldn’t even know it was there unless you were looking for it.
But once you’re inside, there’s no better place for contemporary luxury one block from the beach.
Whether it’s a rich family’s vacation getaway, or a hush-hush rendezvous of lovers in the night, these walls have seen it all. The Viceroy is obviously a premier seaside destination for the well-to-do traveler, but there’s something here for locals looking for a night on the town as well.
Whist restaurant at Viceroy Santa Monica takes the hotel’s luxe living mantra and follows suit with fanciful dining. I’m sure Executive Chef Tony Disalvo wasn’t worried whether his crispy pork terrine was along the same standard of the bed sheets and their 1000-plus thread count, but there is a good synergy between Viceroy and Whist sometimes not found in other hotels and the restaurants they house. Indoor seating sprawls seamlessly to the outside pool/cabana area, affording diners an appetizer of people watching and a vibrant dining scene.
Whist’s menu, on the other hand, is less about harmony and more about assortment. Dishes range from chili-fried chicken, summer vegetable kimchi, to potato gnocchi, asparagus with morels, to wild black sea bass, artichoke and chorizo. It’s a pot luck of worldly flavors hard pressed to label.
By doing away with traditional full entrees, the smaller dishes encourage sampling, sharing and exploring the menu. Variety is the spice of life, but it also caters to the eater with taste buds suffering from Attention Deficit Disorder. Offerings dished out by the multitude produced some personal favorites indeed.
The roasted corn shined figuratively and literally in melted miso butter. Bacon, chilies, scallion and a splash of lime livened everything up. The lamb kefta meatballs was another dish to note. Succulence in ball form, accented with orange and crushed pistachio, mellowed by yogurt, redefined this traditional Middle Eastern street food. And the broiled halibut, smoked potato-miso puree, asparagus and ginger was damn well amazing just because.
Overall, the presentation was exquisite and everything was cooked to perfection (except the grilled octopus was a bit charred, but that’s a tough one because some people like it like that). The flavors were vibrant and thoughtfully fused together. As stated on the menu, all produce was sourced from the Third Street Farmers’ Market. Any obnoxious food snob will tell you anything less than sourcing from local growers is a major faux pas, where then they should be slapped for being a know it all.
The service at Whist is outstanding. They were accommodating without bordering on overbearing or phony. Our server Patrick was very knowledgeable of each dish presented, as well as an expert of the wines on the Whist list. I was politely nodding in agreement of his wine descriptions, but was truthfully lost in a bevy of sub regions and grape varietals. He had me at Merlot.
Pitted up against other seaside mainstays like Casa del Mar, Shutters on the Beach, and Loews, the Viceroy is in crowded company of fancy hotels and fine dining at the end of Pico Boulevard. But the contemporary atmosphere and eclectic menu at Whist sets itself apart from the rest. Whether you want to live it up a little or perhaps that’s just how you roll, either which way, good times are happening at Viceroy’s Whist.

MICHAEL can be seen riding around town on his bike burning calories so he can eat more food, or on CityTV hosting his own show, “Tour de Feast.” To reach him visit his website at tourde-feast.net or follow him on Twitter @TourDeFeastSM.