Real estate people say that value is location, location and location. Restaurant people say that value is in food and service. How about a restaurant that has no chef, and no experienced manager, but serves great food with good service in a great location! That’s Shangri-La on Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica.

The old hotel has been updated, but hasn’t lost the 1930s art deco look. The lunch room is spacious and attractive. There’s a nice view of the Pacific Ocean. And there’s a terrific patio where you can eat outside when the weather permits.

I’ve only had lunch there, but the food was very good. First we shared the charcuterie plate — plenty for two — and enjoyed both of the spreads (“rillettes”) and the sliced salamis.

Then my friend Mike had the steak and frites, and the quality of the steak was as good as anywhere. If anything, the portion was more than necessary, so I ate some of it for him because I’m very helpful when it comes to food.

I had the soft shell crab sandwich, and it too was nicely prepared.

When we asked the name of the chef we were told that the original chef left, so there was no chef for the moment but the sous-chefs were following the old recipes. Then I asked to meet the manager, and I was told there is no one particular manager, but Katy, who is doing a training program from her university in France, was doing the job well.

We looked at the pool/patio area and were impressed by the comfort, spaciousness, and overall beauty of the setting.

What more is there to say? They have the location, the food, and the service. Who needs a fancy chef and expensive manager?


1301 Ocean Ave.

Santa Monica

(310) 394-2791.

Restaurant Snapshot: Fuji Wok & Sushi<p>

GENERAL COMMENT: Sometimes I eat in an ordinary restaurant but find an extraordinary dish. That’s the case with the lobster roll at the Fuji Wok & Sushi. It’s a perfectly good Chinese restaurant with a sushi bar, run by a “master chef” from Hong Kong. But the one reason to go here is for the lobster roll. It’s like no other I know of. First of all, it’s wrapped in soy paper instead of seaweed paper. Second, it has real lobster inside, with avocado. But the star quality is the sauce on top. The chef won’t tell me the secret recipe, but it’s worth the trip.

WHERE: 3905 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Culver City, Calif. 90230. Telephone: (310) 391-6848 or (310) 390-2158. You can also order off the Web. Talk about full service!

WHEN: Seven days a week, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., 10:30 on Friday and Saturday nights.

BEST DISHES: There are plenty of good Chinese dishes, and the sushi is fine. The yellowtail was particularly fresh.

BEST FEATURE: Nice open space, very full menu, free delivery and the lobster roll.

WORST FEATURE: If it’s crowded it can take a while to get served.

WHAT TO DRINK: I had a beer.

PRICES: Don’t even worry about it. I think the lobster roll, enough for two, at $12.95 might be the most expensive thing in the house.

BOTTOM LINE: Another great ethnic restaurant. Isn’t Los Angeles wonderful?

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

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