Thursday, December 18, 2008

Restaurant reivew: Whist at The Viceroy in Santa Monica

Let me preface this post by first saying that I'm glad I didn't have to pay for this dinner.

At my company, we get one really good dinner a year. And by a series of events beyond my control, Whist was selected (my first choice was Providence on Melrose. I will eat there, someday...).

Valet parking was easy, but it costs $8 with validation. Again, if I was paying, I would say try to find parking on the nearby streets. It's definitely doable. But since I wouldn't be paying for this, heck why not.

Entering the lounge portion, it's really dark. So dark that I barely found my compadres as they were waving at me from their little corner spot. Upon sitting on the white leather-ish wingback chairs, I surveyed the room and found it to be upscale retro elegant. It's like a thrift store gone highbrow, on acid.

Service in the lounge area was quick. I ordered a.... shoot, can't remember the name. But it was made from Skyy vodka, and muddled blackberries and St Germain (elderflower liquer) for $15. It was really fragrant without being overly sweet. My coworker said the taste kinda reminded him of a lychee martini. I think I have to agree with him. But I enjoyed it nonetheless.

Fortunately, the dining room was illumated a bit better. Not by a whole lot, but enough. It's a pretty enough space. Not like breathtaking, but good enough. I'm here to eat, not to be in a pretty room anyways. Surveying the menu, I started to get excited..... salads with black truffle, grilled sweetbreads, a charcuterie selection. Maybe my misgivings were unfounded.

The middle charcuterie section is $15 for 3 items. As we had a big group, we ordered everything down that middle column. It was hit or miss, especially with the cheeses. While some were soft and pungent while others were dry and rubbery. Hard cheeses should not be rubbery. But I did enjoy the portuguese sausage and the candied nuts. Those were good.

For my entree, I decided to order 2 apps instead so I won't get overly stuffed. First up was a salad of brussel sprout leaves, grilled brioche, topped with a poached egg with black truffle shavings ($15). The toast and egg were very yummy, but I could barely make out the truffle flavor. I mean, I could see its shavings on my plate, but I couldn't taste it. My coworkers also tried it and agreed that they couldn't taste the truffle - boo :( Truffles are one of my favorite things to eat and usually a little goes a long way, but I guess not here....

My 2nd app was the grilled sweetbreads ($15). It was served on a bed of braised red cabbage. This was pretty good, but not like "omg, i'm going to be thinking about this all week" good. But no complaints with that one.

The other folks got the steak with duck fat fries (steak was too cold, duck fat fries didn't taste duck fatty enough $25), loup de mer (whole fish was not scaled properly and was really difficult and messy to eat $25). The people who ordered the lobster pasta entree said they liked theirs.

We had serveral bottles of wine which were also hit and miss.

I did enjoy my dessert though. It was a pear cake with malt ice cream. Some people that it was too sweet, but I liked the balance of the warm sweet cake with the cool creamy ice cream. I do wish they skinned the pears though, because the skins got a bit chewy dry when baked.

Service was friendly enough, but I thought the pacing was a bit too slow. Towards the end, I kept following our waiter guy with my eyes hoping and praying that he'd ask if we needed anything else so that bossman could ask for the check.

Yeah, so the food was pretty good, but not great. I think this place does have potential due to their awesome location and interesting food offerings. But there are definitely some kinks that need to be worked out before they can compete with places like Osteria Mozza or Providence or even a Comme Ca. Bossman declared that we're eating at Providence next time. I hope he keeps his word.

Whist Restaurant
1819 Ocean Ave
Inside the Vicery Hotel
Santa Monica, CA 90401
(310) 260-7511

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