PRICE RANGE: $$$$
LOCATION: 602 Santa Monica Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90401
RESERVATIONS: Book here
RECOMMENDED DISHES: Oxtail dumplings ($12), Chicken liver mousse ($16), King Trumpet mushrooms ($12), Branzino ($31)
Ok guys. You NEED to go to Tar & Roses, aka my absolute favorite restaurant in Santa Monica. There’s a reason why there’s been a line out Tar & Roses’ door since they first opened in 2011. And that reason is because the food here is hands-down, no-debates, incredible. A tapas-esque New American restaurant by Andrew Kirschner, Tar & Roses exudes an air of excitement from both the waitstaff and the customers because the food is that damn good. Almost every dish passes through the giant wood-burning stove that you can glimpse in the open kitchen. Make a reservation ASAP as it’s a relatively hard restaurant to get into.
With a chic, modern, and dimly lit interior, Tar & Roses is the perfect restaurant for a romantic date night. Wine here is a must – the first indication of this is the very name “Tar & Roses”, the scents that wine geeks look for in Barolo. They have a great wine selection, or you can bring your own bottle for a $30 corkage fee!
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the restaurant is found on the bottom of their menu, where they list four different suppers, each with three full courses, that you must order seven days in advance. Of course, most people opt for the main dinner menu, but we tried to order in advance the wood fired goat with moroccan accompaniments ($63 a person) off the supper menu. By a very rare coincidence, another party had already reserved the wood fired goat for that evening! But don’t worry, we already have plans to try the wood fired goat again and will keep you all updated.
My girlfriend and I first stumbled across this restaurant in December 2018, and we’ve been dedicated customers ever since. Having gone 3 times more since then, I’ve compiled a list of every menu item we’ve had thus far, and will continue to update.
Bruschetta Charcuterie & Cheese (8.5/10)
While I wouldn’t say that this is the best charcuterie I’ve ever had in my life, Tar & Roses’ definitely holds it own. Based on what’s listed as today’s offerings, you can mix and match with 3 items costing $23, 5 items costing $31, and 7 items costing $38. The charcuterie board also comes with a jar of assorted seasonal pickles, dried cherry mustard, nuts, and membrillo. I believe they have around 20 different meat and cheese options, but I would definitely recommend the duck rillette if they have it that night.
Chicken Liver Mousse (10/10)
Chicken liver mousse with pickled blackberry, arugula, and toast ($16)
I am a sucker for chicken liver mousse, and Tar & Roses does it best. The plating is stunning, with one half mousse with blackberries and arugula, and the other half grilled bread and honeycomb. The mousse is so rich and creamy. Combine it with the acidity of the pickled blackberries, the sweetness of the honeycomb, and the delicious crunch of the bread, and wow. Absolutely mind-blowing. Are you allowed to make something this delicious?!
Oxtail Dumplings (10/10)
Oxtail dumplings with san bai su, chili, and green onion ($12)
The oxtail dumplings have been a staple on the Tar & Roses menu for years now, and it’s one of the best. There’s only four dumplings per order, but they are so rich and flavorful that that I’m left satisfied after one order. Actually, who am I kidding, I could totally eat 20 of these if you’d let me. One of the main reasons why we keep returning to Tar & Roses is because of this very dish. Every time we’ve dined here, I have yet to see one table not order the oxtail dumplings.
Bone Marrow (10/10)
Bone marrow with red onion marmalade, sea salt, and sourdough ($17)
Remember how I said that most dishes pass through the wood-burning stove? The bone marrow absorbs the smoke beautifully and has such an intense and rich flavor. Be sure to add some red onion marmalade on top – it really makes this dish sing. Every time we go, my girlfriend and I practically fight over the last melted deliciousness of bone marrow. Sometimes I’m nice and let her have the last bite.
Beef “Pho-paccio” (7/10)
Beef “Pho-paccio” with bean sprouts, thai basil, cilantro, and chili ($17)
Honestly, beef carpaccio is pretty meh to me – I’ve found it hard to find restaurants that prepare this simple dish with notable originality. Tar & Roses’ take on this dish is what they describe as “pho without the broth.” While this was definitely one of the more interesting carpaccio I’ve tried, it still wasn’t that impressive to me. Maybe it’s just because I’ve yet to convince myself that I don’t really like beef carpaccio. Either way, Tar & Roses has way more delicious small or snack menu items, so unless you’ve already taken a trip around their menu, I would hold off on ordering this one.
Wood Baby Carrots (9/10)
Wood baby carrots with currants and chermoula creme fraiche ($11)
These carrots are incredibly crunchy, not mushy, and paired with a delicious side of creamy chermoula creme fraiche. Definitely the perfect side to your order of meat from the “Large” menu. My only quarrel is that there aren’t that many carrots, so maybe order two if you’re with a group larger than 3. Definitely order if you plan on getting steak that night!
King Trumpet Mushrooms (10/10)
King Trumpet mushrooms with soft egg and rosemary ($12)
Two words: egg porn. Not only are these mushrooms packed with flavor and absolutely delicious, but they have a soft egg on top that’s perfect for your Instagram story. The egg melts like butter over the mushrooms, giving them an additional creamy and silky sauce. I’d recommend pairing this side with the branzino – you won’t be disappointed.
Shellfish Pot (9/10)
Shellfish pot with scallops, clams, mussels, shrimp, maitake, and curry ($32)
The shellfish pot comes with a generous portion of fresh seafood and a side of bread so you can really soak up the delicious curry-based broth. I practically wanted to drink the broth straight. It definitely has a little bit of a kick to it, but the flavors are incredible. Giant shrimp, meaty scallops, and delicious mussels and clams, if you’re a seafood enthusiast you’re guaranteed to love this dish.
Hanger Steak (8.5/10)
Hanger steak with cannellini bean, kale and tomato ragout, and ramps ($33)
It wouldn’t be a dinner with me if I didn’t order at least two mains of meat! The hanger steak sits on a bed of sautéed kale and overall is pretty delicious. I think the sides we ordered along with it (the wood baby carrots and the King Trumpet mushrooms) also helped bring out the flavors of the steak. I just wish that they had charred our steak a little bit more to add some more flavor.
Dry Aged Ribeye (8/10)
24 oz dry aged ribeye with arugula and parmesan salad ($75)
The ribeye is definitely one of the most expensive items on their menu, so I was expecting absolute mind-blowing deliciousness. While the arugula and parmesan salad on the side was very tasty, you can find much better ribeye in Los Angeles for around the same price (meatlovers, you must try Chi Spacca). But even though I wasn’t that impressed with the ribeye, the rest of the menu at Tar & Roses is absolutely exceptional, so I’ll give them a pass on this one.
Branzino with lemon risotto, wood roasted pea tendrils, and salsa verde ($31)
Tar & Roses by far prepares the best branzino I’ve had in LA. The fish is cooked to perfection, and the sauce ribboned on top brings out the flavor spectacularly. The perfectly cooked, creamy lemon risotto is THE addition to this dish. Don’t forget to order a side of the King Trumpet mushrooms for the branzino! I absolutely love this dish, and I never go to Tar & Roses without ordering it.
Strawberry Ricotta Crostata (10/10)
Strawberry ricotta crostata with honeycomb ice cream ($12)
The strawberry crostata is out of this world. Are you incredibly full beforehand? Yes. But do you still push through and devour the entire crostata? Hell yes. The crostata tastes like the softest croissant you’ll ever put in your mouth. Add the ricotta and some fresh strawberries to balance it out and bam. Heaven. Oh, I almost forgot to add. It’s filled with honeycomb ice cream. Mindblown x2. Congratulations, Tar & Roses. You have created the best dessert of all time.
So if it wasn’t clear, I am a die-hard fan for Tar & Roses. If I ever find myself in Santa Monica, that is where I’ll be for dinner that night. Hell, I’ve even sat in hour-long traffic just to come here. Every time we’ve went, we’ve left incredibly impressed by their dishes, which is why we’ve come back so many times! Whether or not it’s for a date night or a business dinner, Tar & Roses is the hippest, coolest, yummiest place to go in Santa Monica and I guarantee that you will not be disappointed.