Sunday, October 16, 2011

Wilshire is a delight

Wilshire Restaurant is a standard bearer for New American cuisine in Santa Monica.  The restaurant which is known for its beautiful back patio has also been known for the talent in the kitchen.  Longtime executive chef Andrew Kirschner left earlier this year and was replaced by rising star Nyesha Arrington, who had been the Executive Chef at Caché.  Previously she had worked with Josiah Citrin at Melisse and at Joël Robuchon in Las Vegas.  Arrington is becoming known to a wider audience through her participation on the current season of Top Chef, now airing on Bravo and the formal announcement of her position as Executive Chef coincided with the announcement of this season's cast of cheftestants.

I recently had dinner at Wilshire with a friend in the restaurant business and we shared much of the menu.  Several of the highlights are pictured below.  Overall the food was approachable and tasted good.  This was not tweezer food, although it was attractively plated.

The Heirloom Tomato Salad with burrata was served with aged balsamic.  The combination of fresh heirloom tomatoes with burrata can be a cliche, but if it is executed well, like at Wilshire, it can remind you of why it is so popular.  Arrington lets the quality of the ingredients shine through; my dining companion and I fought for the last forkful of cheese.

Maggie's Farm Caesar Salad is another take on a classic, with large crisps of toast standing in for the croutons and with white anchovy.  The parmesan gave it a pleasant salty tang.

Cool pate with preserves and warm toast fresh out of the oven is always welcome on my table.  The pate was creamy and unctuous and the fruit provided a pleasant acidity as a counterpoint.

Whole fishes are a favorite of mine and the Whole Grilled Branzino was no exception.  The light fish was served with a fennel salad and typical of Arrington's style was prepared simply and well executed.  A squeeze of lemon and we happily devoured the whole fish, including the cheeks.

The Ribeye with tempura onion rings was a fitting end to our meal.  The beef was nicely rosy, medium rare as asked, and deep in flavor.  The crunch of the onion ring was quite good and this onion ring had none of the grease that is so often found in versions of the dish.

Sitting in the back patio at Wilshire is a real pleasure, especially as the food matches or exceeds the setting.  There can sometimes be a scene in the front bar lounge area, but when you step outside onto the patio, it is like leaving Los Angeles behind.  Arrington stopped by our table and she mentioned that she has brought on many new purveyors and farmers whom she had relationships with from her prior experience working at Citrin's restaurants.  I look forward to seeing the menu continue to develop.  I have a feeling that Arrington's profile will grow in this town, mostly from her cooking but also from her television appearances where her genuineness comes through.

So request a table on the patio and have a leisurely dinner.  Relax, you will be in good hands.

Our meal was hosted.

Wilshire Restaurant: 2454 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica.  Phone: (310) 586-1707.  Website:

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