JJ Brewsky’s Restaurant & Bar keeps stomachs perpetually satisfied with its lunch and dinner menus, which are fit to bust with savory burgers, sandwiches, and pizzas made with local ingredients whenever possible. Silence subterranean hunger grumbles with a handmade pizza ($8.95+) or the taste-bud-tickling trinity of a Brewsky’s Combo—a union of buffalo wings, JJ’s bruschetta, and potato skins ($12.95). The Kobe burger bounds from the kitchen like a condiment-covered ballerina, showcasing a sizzling American Kobe-beef patty nestled beneath melted blue-cheese crumbles and chipotle mayo ($14), and the Frisco burger trumpets a half-pound Angus patty covered with pepperjack cheese, grilled red onions, and 1000 island dressing ($11.95). All burgers and sandwiches come with either coleslaw or a choice of fries, including regular, seasoned, sweet, or sentient.
Al fresco paintings and beds of red riding hoods, lilies, and roses decorate Secret Garden Restaurant’s outdoor patio, whose retractable awning allows feasts to unfold beneath cloudless blue or starry night skies. Spotlighted on USA Today’s list of romantic restaurants in Ventura County, the patio’s charming gardens and gazebo frequently double as a wedding venue. While sun- and moonlight help illuminate outdoor meals, iridescent chandeliers and candles wedged into silver candelabras light a Victorian-style dining room filled with 100-year-old English tables and chairs.
Lest the scenery completely dominate his diners’ attention, Chef Michel Bardavid’s meticulous presentations draw eyes to his plates of French cuisine. The French native uses seasonal ingredients to create dishes such as quail stuffed with mushroom and sausage, duck confit and cippolini onions tossed with fettuccini, and lobster bisque spiked with a hint of cognac. A bottle from the generous wine menu enhances the chef’s creations, just as a talking dog enhances any undercover police investigations.
Le Sanglier first opened its doors more than 40 years ago, and, according to Gayot, it still stands as "a delightful remnant from an era when French cuisine was strictly for special occasions." The low-lit, lodge-like environment is home to equally rustic yet refined French classics, which are artistically plated and delivered to gourmands during dinner hours along with pours of a traditional French beverage, wine. The chefs spend their evenings searing wild-boar chops, spooning balsamic-vinegar sauce over free-range chicken, and filling pastry shells with savory blends of saut?ed mushrooms.
Some restaurants have that uncanny ability to transport diners to another place or time. Taking a sip of Lavazza espresso or a bottomless mimosa out on Blue Daisy's patio has that kind of power; thoughts of an Italian street corner or European capital may come to mind. But the many things Blue Daisy's kitchen is good at don't end with drinks. The chefs specialize in crepes, including a savory breakfast variety with mushrooms, spinach, white cheddar, feta, and egg. Others have sweet fillings, such as Nutella or lemon ricotta cheese and lemon sauce.
It's no surprise that it was also the crepes that first helped Blue Daisy grow in popularity and size. Since opening in 2011, the restaurant has moved to a bigger location where the team experiments with organic dishes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The chefs make everything from scratch, right down to the champagne vinegar and the walnut oil dressing in their salads. And at dinner, beer and wine pair with fresh-ground hamburgers and creamy fettuccine with chicken and spinach.
Josiah Citrin is one of the country’s premier chefs, a startling accomplishment for someone who never even went to culinary school. After graduating from Santa Monica High School, Josiah took off for Paris instead, where he spent the next three years working in the kitchens at Vivarois and La Poste. Upon returning to LA, he snagged a spot at Wolfgang Puck’s Chinois, and later worked beside Joachim Splichal at Patina. In 1996, Josiah returned to Santa Monica to open his first restaurant, JiRaffe, a California-French bistro, to great success. But his longtime desire to open a fine-dining establishment inspired him to sell JiRaffe and start afresh with Melisse. Josiah opened Melisse shortly after being named one of the world’s Best New Chefs by Food & Wine Magazine, and since then, his restaurant has maintained a highly distinguished standing. In addition to boasting two Michelin stars, Melisse is regularly awarded inclusion on lists such as The Elite Traveler’s Top 100 Restaurants in the World. Josiah brings his stellar talents to the kitchen each day, personally guiding his chefs and taking trips to the Santa Monica farmer’s market for seasonal produce. Melisse is named for an herb indigenous to the Mediterranean, which speaks to the menu’s seasonality, contemporary French inspirations, and strong swimming abilities. Everything is prix-fixe: the standard menu has featured dishes such as Wagyu beef tartare and wild king salmon with stinging nettles, while the vegetarian tasting menu might have broccoli with egg yolk and braised yuba. Guests, particularly those dining in the two private rooms, can also go carte blanche, trusting the kitchen to surprise them with elegant dishes such as soft poached egg with caviar and lemon crème fraîche.
Few know Santa Monica’s shores as well as Raphael Lunetta. He spent most of his youth padding across them atop a surfboard, frequently launching into the sea to catch each looming wave. Raphael even toured on the pro surfing circuit. But as he matured, so did his interests, and eventually his love of surfing combined with another passion: food. Never one to give up on a passion, Raphael became “The Surfing Chef” and opened JiRaffe. There, the décor may skew toward the upscale—crystal chandeliers, white linens, dark woods—but the Californian-French fusion food honors Raphael’s first love, the ocean. Seafood risotto Milanaise, almond-crusted rainbow trout, and Scottish salmon are just a few examples of the menu's emphasis on local produce and seafood. Sometimes, diners may even catch a glimpse of Raphael at the Santa Monica Farmers Market foraging for the night's ingredients.