Fish: The new restaurant is located at 1303 Montana Ave and is open from 12 to 4 p.m. Jakob Layman

Chef Dan Smulovitz has prepared countless complicated dishes at some of the highest end restaurants in Los Angeles, but at his new Santa Monica restaurant simplicity is on the menu.

Located in the former Sushi Sho space on Montana Avenue, Savida is an intimate raw seafood restaurant with an ocean to table driven menu. Most dishes consist of around four ingredients and are anchored by the highest quality fish that Smulovitz prepares by hand daily in his tiny kitchen space—which, at just 80 square feet, fits neither an oven nor a stove. 

For some chefs, this constraint would be a cause of great stress, but for Smulovitz it has become a source of inner peace as he pivoted his restaurant concept to an entirely raw menu. 

“The way that I approach food and approach life is I try to simplify everything,” said Smulovitz.

Smulovitz had planned on serving cooked fish as he did in the first iteration of Savida, a seafood restaurant in the coastal city of Acre, Israel where he prepared the catch of the day over a hot charcoal grill. Yet, once Smulovitz found the space on Montana Avenue he was sold and decided to do whatever it took to make the restaurant work.

“Actually, I love it. It makes my day; the food is simpler and I don’t come home all sweaty from the kitchen,” said Smulovitz. “I started eating raw food and actually I discovered that it is really good for my health. It doesn’t take a lot of energy to digest and it makes you feel amazing.”

Despite what people may assume when they see a raw seafood restaurant helmed by an Israeli chef, Savida is neither a sushi bar nor an Israeli restaurant. 

“It’s got inspiration from the Mediterranean, it’s got inspiration from Japan, inspiration from Greece. It’s my take on how I would like to eat raw seafood basically, so it’s a personal cuisine,” said Smulovitz.

The menu features around twelve dishes that include a creative mix of ceviches, salads, and oysters. Examples of current offerings include an octopus tostada served with harissa, preserved lemon, kalamata olives and tzatziki and a cured Spanish mackerel served with crème fraîche, dill and chives. Other highlights are the lobster bisque, tuna tacos and the burrata and nectarine salad.

Smulovitz hopes to create a unique dining experience that blends inspiration from many cultures and creates an immersive experience for diners. This is reflected in his curated restaurant playlist that mixes songs from countries across Europe, the Mediterranean and the Middle East.

“The experience that I want is that people come here and they feel like they went to a different country and they’re not in LA, they’re not in Santa Monica, they’re not in the States, it’s like the Republic of Savida,” said Smulovitz. 

Smulovitz has long had a love for international communities and cuisines. He originally hails from Nothern Israel, where he grew up on a kibbutz called Lohamei Hagetaot, which was founded by families escaping the Holocaust. Smulovitz said the kibbutz did not have a foodie orientation, but he got an early start in the restaurant business working as a dishwasher when he was 16.

When he turned 23 he moved to Los Angeles to start up a mobile espresso bar business and later went to train at Le Cordon Bleu in Pasadena. He then worked his way through the restaurant worlds of Los Angeles and Carmel, cooking in the kitchens at Malibu’s Saddle Peak Lodge, Tom Colicchio’s Craft, the Hungry Cat in Hollywood, and Bernardus Lodge in Carmel.

Eventually he moved back to Israel, seeking to be closer to friends and family, and opened the first Savida. Smulovitz thought his California days were behind him, but when conflict broke out in May 2021 he had a change of heart. 

“A year ago another war started in Israel and I was living in the mixed city of Jaffa and missiles are flying above me and riots are in the streets and right away I decided that I’m not going to stay there and I’m not going to raise my daughter in this situation,” said Smulovitz.

Smulovitz decided to take up an offer from a patron of the former Savida restaurant to open a restaurant together in Los Angeles. Smulovitz and his business partner Liron Oren joined forces this year and opened the Montana Ave Savida in late May.

Currently, the restaurant is open for lunch only as Smulovitz awaits approval of his beer and wine license, but he looks forward to expanding into dinner hours. 

“I think the experience at nighttime would be amazing and I think Montana is missing a place where you can drink your glass of wine, have some oysters, have some raw seafood until the late hours,” said Smulovitz, adding that he also plans on launching a weekend brunch menu. 

Savida is located at 1303 Montana Avenue and is currently open from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. 

Clara@smdp.com