Happy Birthday Month (to me)!! and Top Chef dining in Santa Monica

Happy February!  And for me, that means it’s Birthday Month… and it also means LOTS of Birthday Dinners!

This year to jump start the celebrating I flew down to SoCal.  My sister lives in Santa Monica and being that I am a huge fan of Bravo’s Top Chef, I had to go visit two of the current Top Cheftestant’s restaurants.  (I have previously blogged about other Top Chef dining experiences here)

Nyesha Arrington: Executive Chef at Wilshire Restaurant (2454 Wilshire Boulevard, Santa Monica, CA 90403 (310) 586-1707)

Upon arrival at LAX, my sister picked my up and took me straight over to Wilshire Restaurant.  We planned to keep it a semi mellow night because Saturday morning we participated in a 5k run for Pancreatic Cancer Awareness.  We ordered a couple of drinks and decided to order some items off the menu even though Wilshire was offering a preview of their V-day tasting menu.

We got the beet salad w/ burrata cheese, lightly creamed spinach, mac n cheese, braised spare rib, and monkfish. Unfortunately, Nyesha couldn’t come to visit us at our table. But she was so sweet to sent me a tweet later that night to apologize we didn’t meet and they were slammed in the kitchen. No worries, Nyesha, because I will definitely come back for more eats.  We can meet then! :-)

Chris Crary: Chef de Cuisine at Whist Restaurant @ the Viceroy Hotel (1819 Ocean Avenue, Santa Monica, CA 90401 (310) 260-7500)

OMG… Best Dining Experience EVER! I had been excited for dinner here for… lets say… since I booked the reservation (back in December… I am a planner).  The night totally EXCEEDED my expectations.

When the hostess called me Saturday afternoon to confirm my party of 8, she assured me that the evening would be special.  Boy were we in for a treat!  While our party gathered in the lobby/bar area for some starter drinks, the folks at Whist were preparing our table/cabana.  Yes, cabana.  Our table was outside near the pool in a cute little cabana.  The canvas walls were rolled down, curtain closed, heater on.  It was a perfect private little room for our dinner.  I already felt like a celebrity!

We also were served a round of complimentary prosecco.  I am not sure if this is a Whist standard for a big party or if it was because I made my presence known (via twitter). Nevertheless, it was a nice touch.  My whole dining party loved it!

Before the first course was served, we got a treat!  Well first I opened a totally rad birthday present from my bestie (check them out… the Oakley Daisy Chain) new aviators sunnies. Right after I opened my gift, we had a visit from Chef Chris Crary himself. *swoon*  He is as cute as he is on TV… I’m just sayin’.  I must have been super nervous, but I got up to great him and take a photo with him.  It was so awesome. 

As for food, we all went with the 5-course Tasting Menu and added some ad hoc menu items to the mix.  In total I think we got 12 or so amazing courses.  One of our ad hoc dishes was the Beet Salad… and OMG that was so freaking good.  It was one of the best things I have tasted. In the photo below I have captured the porchini foie gras raviolis, beet salad, shortrib dish, Maine lobster and my special birthday dessert.  Those chocolate truffles on the dessert plate were AMAZBALLS… like literally… amazing balls of chocolate.

I also want to take this opportunity to say how awesome twitter is. Chef Chris also tweeted a happy birthday, thanks for coming in and great to meet you message after dinner.  I think my weekend was definitely enhanced because I was able to interact with Chef Nyesha and Chef Chris before and after my visits.  It really made my visits to the restaurants a personalized experience; it was great. :-)

It’s been a couple days now since I flew back to my current home base in the Bay Area and all I can think about and talk about with friends and colleagues is my experience in LA this last weekend.  I really could not have asked for anything better.  The restaurants made me feel special and my friends made me feel loved.  <3 <3  Thank you!

And don’t forget to Vote for Nyesha and Chris for Top Chef Fan Favorites here!!

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