Native in Santa Monica Worth a Try

Just wanted to give a little love to a local, neighborhood place that has opened recently.
I got tipped off to Native when a super sweet fellow shopper held out a plate of mandarin samples for my daughter to reach while she was on my shoulders. Turns out it was Nyesha Arrington. We chatted a bit and I made a note to head to her new endeavor, Native, soon.

The space was welcoming. They managed to turn the old La Botte dungeon into a fairly open and airy space.

Service was very attentive and informed to an encyclopedic level. I bristled a bit when my wife asked the server about a fairly obscure cocktail ingredient since I’ve been feeling out on cocktails lore for about 15 years. Thing is, out server nailed it. She was knowledgeable about each ingredient and prep throughout the menu. Good stuff.

The mandarins Nyesha Arrington and I happened to be buying turned up in a nice scallop crudo. The zest was used to make a take on yuzu kosho, too, which was an inventive touch. Light, briny, sweet, fragrant. This was a well thought out dish.

Also had the rabbit sugo with collards and semolina spaetzle and sauce diable. The sauce was enriched with rabbit liver. I love the added richness and funk. It took me a moment to appreciate the dish, though, as all the components are more of an ensemble. I thought the spaetzle would be the star, but the really wasn’t one. The flavor of that sauce, though, tied all the ingredients together and I am craving that dish.

Also tried the chestnut spaghetti, which was really tasty. The pasta had depth of flavor from the chestnut and yet still had some bite. This is not a pasta restaurant, but they pull this dish off. They use burrata in the dish, but I’d prefer something with a bit more tartness or bite. A goat cheese or even like an air-dried lebneh “cheese” could brighten this up. But we cleaned this plate, too, so that’s obviously a quibble.

Also tried the crushed rutabaga. This is a lowly, humble dish at its heart, but the house made creme fraiche and injera crumble elevated the whole thing.

Went with cocktails exclusively that night because . . . they just looked too good to pass up. And they were.
Had the Circle of Friends, Grain of Sand on the Beach, and The Long of the Short of it. All excellent and extremely complex.

I had a great time here just dropping in for a quick, early dinner before a movie down the street. It felt special precisely because it feels so neighborhoody. Its not destination dining, but if this is the kind of place you can go to for an easy night out then that’s a hell of a thing. I’m excited to try the rest of the menu, especially the desert items which we needed to skip to make our show.

And don’t be fooled by the short menu. The are daily specials that sound as thoughtful as the rest of the menu items.


Nice read.
Also, fuck. Because that reservation is about to get a whole lot tougher to get.

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Closing on Sunday:

That space seems cursed for restaurants.

I ate there once, food was mediocre. I am not surprised. SMYC before that in that space was not that great either. La Botte was pretty good in its day. Wonder what happens to that space now?

The space is great - arguably no better or worse than Cassia’s location. The problem was the menu. It simply wasn’t inviting. Every time I tried to get someone to go there, they’d go online to look at the menu and then say that there was nothing there they’d eat.

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I think they did as well as they could with that space (not location, that’s different). They converted what was dungeon dining in sunny Santa Monica to something more airy.

I hear you on the menu, but I actually liked it. I differ with @beam in that I found the food interesting and tasty.