Santa Monica Restaurant Week is returning to the city Monday, Jan. 7 through Sunday, Jan. 13 and more than 30 restaurants will be crafting dishes around this year’s signature ingredient, the persimmon.
The nutrient-rich persimmon is in season at Santa Monica’s four weekly farmers markets from late October through early January. It’s a sweet, orange fruit that comes in two distinct varieties: the more common fuyu, which is slightly crunchy and sweet enough to eat like an apple, and the hachiya, which takes on a honeyed taste only after it becomes very ripe.
Diners who visit the restaurants creating persimmon-centric dishes will have the chance to win a $500 dining certificate by sharing photos on social media using the hashtag #SMRestaurantWeek.
Chefs are creating a wide selection of dishes that experiment with the ingredient, including salsas, salads and desserts. Most chefs are sourcing their persimmons from the Santa Monica Farmers Markets.
Pacific Park on the Santa Monica Pier is putting a unique twist on the funnel cake by infusing the batter with persimmon and drizzling it with sweetened compote made from the fruit.
Nick Shipp of Upper West, a New American restaurant in the Pico neighborhood, has created a roasted persimmon tartine.
“I wanted to highlight the persimmon in a different light. Most of the time, people throw it in a salad or a sauce and we wanted to taking a different approach by roasting it and bringing out its natural sweetness,” Shipp said. “A tartine is also a good canvass for sharing – people can pass it around and each take a slice.”
Mark Cannon, the owner and chef of the downtown restaurant The Curious Palate, also went for a dessert because he typically sees persimmons used in salads and salsas. His restaurant will offer a persimmon apple upside-down cake sundae using the less common hachiya persimmon.
“It’s terrible in it’s crispy state, so what you have to do is allow them to sit on a shelf until they’ve turned very soft,” Cannon said. “At that point, it’s nice and sweet and you can create a puree out of it.”
Cannon said one can use the puree like a tomato sauce or braise meats in it, but he opted to flavor a cake and an accompanying scoop of ice cream with the puree.
“I hope diners take away a new knowledge of the persimmon and that there are two distinct varieties, and maybe if they’re curious enough can ask us about how to use both kinds,” he said.
Massilia, a downtown French, Italian and Spanish restaurant, is providing a lighter option in the form of a crunchy kale and persimmon salad. Chef Griet Vanbrabant wanted to create a dish that worked as a standalone meal for lunch or a sharing plate for dinner.
“Our menu is inspired by the flavours of Marseille, a melting pot of different cultures and this is what inspired us for the salad,” Vanbrabant said. “We have the Comté cheese from France, the vinaigrette made with sherry vinegar from Jerez de la Frontera, Spain and the inspiration of flavours of an Italian fennel salad.”
Chefs say Restaurant Week is an opportunity for creative inspiration and to celebrate Santa Monica’s locavore culinary scene.
“Santa Monica is a culinary star of the Los Angeles area,” Vanbrabant said. “Restaurant Week is the perfect way to improve visibility to residents and tourists alike.”