As a child, I heard a lot about California. My mom’s side of the family was scattered throughout the state, and my grandparents became the only members of the family “crazy” enough to move away. Instead of being told bedtime stories, I heard fond memories about times that once were. California was this magical place I only knew from lore, and it became my dream to visit. Since my childhood days, I’ve been lucky enough to have an excuse to visit family, soak in the sun, and, most importantly, experience the culinary wonderland that is the West Coast…
Now that you know my obsession with California, it would sound about right that I had extremely high expectations for Summer House Santa Monica. I went to this restaurant essentially in the middle of a snowstorm, and I was really ready for a taste of sunshine. My visit to Summer House completely exceeded my expectations. It’s extremely rare for theme restaurants to have fantastic food, but Summer House was a wild and phenomenal culinary adventure.
I started my meal with the most darling Ahi Tuna Tostadas, and a beautiful Shaved Vegetable Salad. The miniature tostadas, topped with avocado, ahi tuna, and a garnish of cilantro each, were adorable and packed a punch full of flavor. It was my first bite of the meal, and I immediately felt transported to warmth. The Shaved Vegetable Salad, topped with carrots, watermelon radish, candy-striped beets, and sunflower seeds for crunch, was probably the freshest salad I had ever eaten. Full disclosure, I took some of this home in a to-go box and ate it two days later, and even though I had put dressing all over the greens, the lettuce was still crunchy. Speaking of the dressing, it was fantastic. It had this creamy texture commonly associated with dairy, but was somehow dairy-free. My first course was a home run.
I rarely devote an entire section of a review to side dishes, but Summer House’s proved worthy. I ordered the Roasted Cauliflower and the Caramelized Brussels Sprouts, debatably the two vegetables picky eaters complain about the most, and they were simply divine. The Roasted Cauliflower was served with a jalapeño pesto and candied lemon, which added a zest to the vegetable I had never experienced before. The Brussels Sprouts, served with pancetta and Modena vinegar, were honestly out of this world. I’m probably going to make them like this for the rest of eternity because any other preparation simply won’t do.
The entrees included the Black Rice Bowl, Fennel Sausage Pasta, Mahi Mahi Tacos, and the Spicy Tuna Nigiri. I was irrationally excited to try this Spicy Tuna Nigiri, as they have taken over my Instagram feed as of late. Everyone is eating this crunchy rice topped with spicy tuna and after one bite, I found out why. This stuff is crack. I think it’s because you’re eating fried food and sushi at the same time, which is obviously a combination that can’t be beat.
The pasta dish, made with local gluten-free rotini, fulfilled my everlasting carb craving. The Mahi Mahi tacos were also a hit, and I especially liked the plating, which allowed you to assemble the tacos yourself. Lastly, I had a scoop of the apple cider sorbet, which was extremely flavorful, with a textbook consistency.
To sum it up, the food is fresh, the service is impeccable, and it will transport you to sunny California in an instant.