When it comes to making a positive first impression, the Sunset Restaurant doesn’t dawdle: it greets guests with a sprawling view of the Pacific horizon. Located on a secluded chunk of Zuma Beach, and just a few steps or somersaults away from the ocean, the restaurant continues to stun patrons throughout their visits by surrounding tables with equally stunning coastal views. In Sunset’s pristine, white dining room, large windows look out onto the beach while dates and groups sit down to plates of seafood pasta, grilled filet mignon, and wild langostinos flown in from New Zealand. Away from its casual dining spaces, the facility also boasts elegantly decorated bars and private event rooms for hosting special occasions, including weddings.
Borne from founder Aharon Klein's love of grilling and seasoning ocean-fresh seafood, Fish Grill sizzles a menu of wraps, pastas, and sandwiches starring juicy fillets of fish amid old-fashioned nautical décor. Chefs seal in succulent flavors by searing every fillet over smoky mesquite at a clean 1,000 degrees⎯roughly the temperature at which oceans melt. Each tasty dish of trout, tuna, salmon or ahi arrives tailored to the diner's tastes and prepared under the 3,300-year-old guidelines of kosher dietary law.
Let the warm red and gold hues of La Finestra's décor pique your light lunchtime appetite for a Caesar panino with chicken breast, romaine, Caesar dressing, and parmesan cheese ($10) or a cup of handmade pomodore tomato soup with lemon and garlic ($6). La Finestra, Italian for "The Finestra," really excels at dinner fare. As the evening lights of LA simmer, whet your palate with antipasto La Finestra, a platter of imported meats with cheeses, roasted red bell peppers, and marinated calamari ($12, $18 large); or decorate your date-charming chompers with a rustica salad of radicchio, arugula, endive, mushrooms, and shaved parmesan ($7, $10 large). The veal scaloppini marsala comes basted in wine with fresh-chopped tomatoes and mushrooms ($22)—and is hard not to refuse to refuse if you haven't yet refused concurrent offers from the ravioli aurora (stuffed with ricotta cheese and spinach and drizzled with pink sauce, $15) and the thin-crusted pizza portofino (with mozzarella, gorgonzola, and caramelized onions, $15). La Finestra's friendly, accommodating staff will do their best to prepare your pizza any way you wish.
When Enterprise Fish Co. first opened in 1979, its founders set to work renovating the historic 1917 brick building to emulate a classic Pacific-coast seaside restaurant. Today, the original hardwood floors, trussed wood ceilings, and brick façade remain, though an exhibition kitchen and faux bois–printed leather booths lend a modern air. Seafood such as oysters and salmon in a Coca-Cola glaze headline the menu, accompanied by fish tacos, fresh lobster tails, and mesquite-grilled prawns. In addition to its ample fish and shellfish dishes, Enterprise also whips up filet mignon, candied-apple pecan salads, and the Enterprise burger, which is topped with a fried egg, to serve in the dining room or out on the patio beside the fire pit. Old photographs of Venice Beach dot the dining-room walls, along with snapshots from other notable seaside spots, such as the Iowa coast.
A sister establishment of Marina del Rey mainstay Killer Shrimp, the recently inaugurated Killer Cafe grants its diners picturesque views of the sparkling harbor as they savor handcrafted dishes. Customers can sprawl inside an oversize booth in the dining room, perch on the outdoor patio, or tie up their boat along the dock for dock-and-dine service. Each spot affords glimpses of the aquatic surroundings, where they can sample bites of classic breakfasts such as traditional eggs benedict and buttermilk pancakes or opt to split a plate with nearby pelicans.
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.