Local Kitchen, located in Santa Monica, elevates casual dining with its poise. It takes on a modern ambience with its combined bar and table seating, low hanging light fixtures, and a completely glass storefront. While Local Kitchen’s vibe is simple and transparent, their food is anything but. Local executes the basic dishes well, but also brings a spark of creativity to the menu. The Margherita pizza hits all of the traditional points, with its sharp blend of cheeses, and fresh and surprisingly sweet tomato sauce. The bubbles of char on the crust added a nice crunch, and brought in a touch of bitterness to compliment the sauce. However, the pizza was a little heavy on the oil, and could have benefitted from more basil, as there were only a few sparse leaves on the whole pie.
A dish that surprised me with its innovation was the grilled then chilled Delta asparagus. The asparagus had the perfect crunch, and the light citrus dressing on top completed the dish. The hazelnuts and the hard boiled egg on the side were a nice touch, and added richness. Adding to the already colorful ensemble was a sprinkle of deep orange “smoky powder,” a mix of paprika and chili powder. Although this definitely made the dish appealing to the eye, the powder was indelicate and did not fit into the flavor profile of the plate.
Certainly the most delicious entrée I had was the grilled Branzino. The outside of the fish had a beautiful char, while the meat inside was fluffy and delicate. It was served with a mint verde sauce, and panzanella (essentially a Tuscan salad with bread). The verde sauce was a vibrant green color, and the salad added acidity, while the savory croutons completed the texture profile with their airy crunch. The dish was thoughtfully composed, and every ingredient found its place.
Not as exciting were the wood-roasted spiced carrots. Although the freshness of the carrots carried the flavor of the dish, the dill sauce on the side fell flat, and ruined the impression the carrots had on me. Fitting with the loosely Italian concept of the restaurant was the pecorino malfatti pasta with black truffle, drizzled with sage-infused brown butter. Malfatti, in Italian, translates to “badly made,” but Local Kitchen’s execution of the dish disproved its name. Malfatti are ricotta and pecorino dumplings, with a similar feel to gnocchi. The delicate pillows of pasta kept the focus on the cheese, and the beautiful truffle shaving on top left me wanting more.
Dessert is an integral part of any meal, and Local Kitchen certainly recognizes this. You often remember best what you eat last, and their chocolate hazelnut doughnuts were certainly memorable. The bouncy cake texture of the doughnuts absorbed the light vanilla sauce that was hidden inside the doughnut, almost a reward for cutting into the beautiful dish. The doughnuts were finished with a warm chocolate fondue sauce, that wasn’t too sweet as to steal the spotlight from the doughnuts. The balance of the dish was key; neither the sweetness nor the chocolate flavors overwhelmed the dish, and every aspect had an appropriate consistency and texture.
Local Kitchen is the perfect spot for a casual yet sophisticated dinner. Hopefully you will leave, as I did, feeling excited about the possibilities of elevating classic cuisine, and creating new culinary experiences from old dishes.