Chinois on Main – Santa Monica
The continuation of the birthday celebration occurred with darling friends, Becky and Max at Chinois on Main in Santa Monica. Beautiful, charming people — the camaraderie outshining the food, which was fabulous. We started with what was probably my favorite dish of the evening, soft shell crab with fried greens and a green sauce. Beats me what the green sauce was, but these had to be the largest, freshest, and most stunning example of a soft shell crab I have ever experienced. Perfectly fried with a nary a touch of grease, all future crabs will be compared with these. We paired this with d’Herbert Champagne, Blanc de Blanc Brut (all wines brought by the generous Max!)
Next was a sashimi of fluke and tuna tartare with sevruga caviar served with a light ponzu sauce. I am such a sucker for great crudo and the combination of fluke served alongside the tuna with its avocado smear works exceptionally well.
We next opened a 1999 Verget Puligny-Montrachet “Les Enseignères” which had a lovely creamy entry, with a touch of pear and apple in the complex, engaging mouth feel. With this we ate the tempura ahi tuna sashimi with fresh uni sauce. This is a large round of tuna which has a thin tempura coating; just enough to entice without being overbearing and the redolently rich uni sauce. The brightness of the wine was emphasized by the thick, rich texture of the uni sauce and cleanness of the tuna.
Next came a platter of sizzling calamari and rock shrimp salad served in a won ton cup with Chinese chili paste. Of the entire evening’s offerings, this was the least successful. The calamari was slightly on the chewy side and it was mostly comprised of a bunch of fried fish on plain greens. The sauce did not bring the two major components together as one would have thought.
Max then had opened a La Croix Blance Vosne-Romanée (silly me, I didn’t get the vintage). This was a rich, elegant red which we paired with the roasted Cantonese duck with fresh plum sauce and steamed bao stuffed with pickled greens and shiitake mushrooms. The duck was perfectly prepared with a delightful crispy exterior. We picked apart the duck meat to stuff in our bao, scooping up the plum sauce. Getting full, the order of fried rice was packed up to-go before it ever got to the table.
However, despite bulging bellies, a miniature dessert platter was brought out which contained some molten chocolate cake with fudge sauce, crème brûlée, chocolate pot de crème, fresh fruit, and vanilla ice cream with a single scoop of mango sorbet. A perfect amount of small sweet bites to satisfy. The service was stellar as always, despite the crowd (lots of graduation parties). Wolfgang even made a brief appearance which surprised me; I hadn’t seen him at one of his own restaurants in over a decade (not that I frequent his restaurants…) In all, a fabulous birthday meal which was only surpassed by the love and friendship of my dining companions. Thanks B&M!
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Tags: Ahi, bao, calamari, Cantonese duck, chili paste, Chinese, chocolate cake, crème brûlée, crudo, d'Herbert Champagne, fluke, fried greens, fried rice, fruit, fudge sauce, ice cream, La Croix Blance Vosne-Romanée, mango, Mushrooms, pickled greens, plum sauce, ponzu, pot de crème, rock shrimp, salad, Santa Monica, Sashimi, sevruga caviar, shiitake, shitake, soft shell crab, sorbet, tempura, tuna, tuna tartare, Uni, vanilla, Verget Puligny-Montrachet, won ton