DOWNTOWN — When Santa Monica Place opens this August, its food court will look dramatically different than its predecessor. Not only will it be located on the third floor and include views of the Pacific Ocean, but the new version will also include six chef-driven restaurants and a wine bar and beer garden.
Officials with Macerich Co. announced Thursday the addition of the Sonoma Wine Garden, a higher-end restaurant that will feature wine by the glass paired with small plates of rustic offerings. Fresh pastas and cheese and charcuterie selections will be on the menu.
“It fits perfectly with our food merchandising concept,” Santa Monica Place Senior Manager Doug Roscoe said. He added that the owner Jeremy Umland “is just the right operator to really add the punch and to showcase that kind of concept.”
Umland is the owner Sonoma Wine Garden, as well as Ozumo, a contemporary Japanese cuisine restaurant to join the five other restaurants on the dining deck. Umland, an ex-Japanese baseball player, has established much of his restaurant success through Ozumo locations in San Francisco and Oakland, with the latter becoming profitable after only three months.
Umland said that while Sonoma Wine Garden will be borrowing some concepts used by Ozumo, there will be a strong wine country flavor to the restaurant.
There will be a “wines by the glass” list as well as red and white wines served on tap. Amongst Umland’s promised eclectic mix of brews will be “really fun craft beers on tap.”
The Sonoma Wine Garden is reflective of the unique theme which Macerich hopes to provide with a revamped food court. The idea is to have a more elegant atmosphere married to the several retail outlets and the Market, which will provide items such as meats, fish, cheese, bread, fruit, flowers and chocolate.
“The dining deck is just so unique. I don’t know a concept like that in the United States,” Roscoe said.
One of the traits featured at the Sonoma Wine Garden and borrowed from Umland’s Ozumo restaurants will be the option of what he calls the “small plate and shared plate style of dining.” A large component of the restaurant is the various choices available to the diner. Umland said that you can come in to order a pizza to enjoy with a party of people, or you can come in to try a cheese plate and discuss its flavors and what pairs best with it.
“We’r’e really excited about doing this. At Ozumo we kind of pioneered the small plate and shared plate style of dining,” Umland said.
But Sonoma Wine Garden will certainly not be limited to small meals. It will also feature a wood-burning oven and live side cooking, where chefs put fish and meat on a live fire. Both of these styles create different flavors that Umland said, “you can’t get in a regular oven.”