Let’s start at the end. That’s when a waiter spills a tray of wine that splashes all over Mrs. Monster. Now this might, especially at a restaurant only on its second day of operation, be the literal end for The Monster. But instead it proves what great customer service is all about.
Because at Taberna Arroz Y Vi, Michael Cardenas’ newest venture (Lazy Ox, Toranoku), from the hostess to the waitress to the bussers and the manager The Monster experiences some of the friendliest service he has had in years. But what you really want to know about is the food…
…Which we’ll get to in a second. First, the room itself, formerly the Tudor House, has been transformed into an energy filled bar and restaurant with flamenco music cranking and décor that is at times whimsical (copper bar, antlers chandeliers) and perhaps at others a bit gauche (don’t love the lounge-y couches substituting for chairs in the dining room and some of the art is questionable). Some areas are overly bright (ahem, where The Monster is seated) while others are darker and more intimate. Also, did anyone sit in the chairs before they were purchased? Because they are weirdly low and not terribly comfortable. Those criticisms aside, The Monster orders a citrus cherry sangria (refreshing) and peruses the menu from chef Verite Mazzola.
Braised baby octopus with pate de tomato, crushed almonds and mojo is a yes off the tapas portion. As is the mussels in white wine with spicy butter and Spanish queso. From the small snacks section pickled vegetables is always going to make the grade for The Monster. And lastly, from the Con Arros section the Majorcan Fish Stew with citrus Valencia rice and prawns, crabs clams, mussels and tomate de vino.
You may want the lamb belly roulade or the whole roasted game hen from the Comida section or perhaps Jamon Serrano or Lomo is more your speed from the Queso, Etc. portion of the menu.
Having recently been burned at Bar Pinxto, and unable to think of one great tapas restaurant in LA, The Monster awaits his food with angst-y trepidation.
The pickled vegetables are the first to arrive and they are crunchy with a tangy bite. Sure, they are an overplayed menu option but The Monster loves them.
The octopus is next up and quick work is made of this dish. The bright flavors from the mojo pair well with the fresh cephalopod and the bread is a perfect accompaniment to sup up the juicy flavor.
While the mussels are also a fine dish with a wonderful broth (about three loaves of bread perish in its honor), the appearance of some form of meat in the dish (not listed on the menu) is a bit bothersome. While The Monster picks around it, others may not be so forgiving.
Lastly, the fish stew is laden with seafood and flavor, but suffers a tad from being oily and the appearance once again of some form of meat not listed.
It is at this point, suitably stuffed, that The Monster takes leave and the unfortunate accident occurs. Kudos to the staff for quickly bringing over club soda, towels and the manager’s card in case of any dry cleaning bills.
It is service like this that will hopefully allow for a long and successful run for this Spanish newbie.
Why go? You don’t just pay lip service…
Monster rating: 3/5 Monsters
1403 2nd Street
Santa Monica, CA 90401