Friday, September 17, 2010

Tasting the Revamped Santa Monica Place: La Sandia and Zengo

Do you remember the old Santa Monica Place? The mall at the end of the Third Street Promenade used to be an afterthought. Now it has undergone a massive revamp and face lift that I didn't even recognize it anymore! I went there recently for a media dinner at the two new Richard Sandoval restaurants there, La Sandia and Zengo.

On my way to my first stop, La Sandia, I was so surprised. What used to be an old, dying mall is now a sleek, open-air center.
It's so fancy now!

I was impressed by La Sandia's dining room. The middle area was spacious and airy with a fountain at the center.
Since we're having our media dinner at Zengo, we only sampled some cocktails and tried some appetizers here: enchiladas, taquitos, ceviche. These are dishes you would expect from other Mexican restaurants, and they are done pretty well here.

We sampled four cocktails (sharing the flutes so we don't get too drunk) which were surprisingly well made and interesting.

The Dos Agaves was made with mezcal, agave and rimmed with chapuline salt. Another mezcal drink contained cucumber, pepino, and chile pequin. I enjoyed the passionfruit caipirinha and the hibiscus margarita which uses hibiscus syrup made in house.

La Sandia
395 Santa Monica Place
Santa Monica, CA 90401
(310) 393-3300
La Sandía on Urbanspoon

We then moved to Zengo for dinner (and more cocktails).

Overall we liked the cocktails at Zengo better. I ordered the Prickly Pear Caipirinha ($9) and the Mekhong Pina Horchata made with Mekhong thai rum was an interesting creamy concoction. We also tasted the tamarind margarita and cucumber mojito - all of them were good.

The XO sauce edamame was quite addictive. Do give it a try, unless you're vegetarian since the XO sauce contains dried shrimp and scallops.

Many of the dishes are the familiar asian fusion dishes with a twist like beef and hamachi tiradito, sushi rolls, and a miso black cod with chipotle, but you can also find some unique ones worth trying:

Achiote-hoisin pork arepas (corn masa, avocado crema fresca) - $9
This dish combined the sweetness of hoisin pork with the great texture of fried arepas - chewy with a crunchy texture. The creamy avocado is icing on the cake.

Peking Duck-Daikon Tacos (duck confit, curried apple, orange-coriander sauce) - $12

This was another of my favorite.
It's a lighter and more refreshing take on both peking duck and taco. No tortilla or thin chinese pancake here, just the crisp freshness of daikon radish. Unfortunately the duck confit itself was a little on the dry side. Just a little more moist and juicy and it would be perfect.

Not knowing anything about La Sandia, Zengo, or the food of Richard Sandoval before, I was pleasantly surprised. There were a few dishes that I thought were creative combination of flavors I have not seen before. Now that the new Santa Monica Place definitely has some good food and cocktail options, I wouldn't mind the mall so much.

395 Santa Monica Pl
Santa Monica, CA 90401
(310) 899-1000
Zengo on Urbanspoon

Disclosure: This was an all-blogger dinner hosted by the restaurants' PR.


Exile Kiss

Hi burumun,

Thanks for your thoughts on both places. I passed by the other day and was curious. Beautiful views and from your report the food might be worth checking out also. Thanks! :)

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