Santa Monica’s status as a prime dining and drinking destination is only getting stronger, and one little stretch of Wilshire in particular is bursting with restaurants where the plating and pours are both major priorities.
Aestus, from executive chef Alex Ageneau, formerly of Patina and The Royce at Pasadena’s Langham Hotel, opened last Thursday at the base of the Arezzo residential building. The decor is mid-century modern, but Ageneau’s seasonal food is decidedly New American: fried smelt and crudites; a celery-root and rutabaga soup; grass-fed beef with sunchokes, kale, and mushrooms. Meats are prepared on a woodburning grill in a marble-framed open kitchen that allows diners to see Ageneau in action.
Like at prolific barmen Julian Cox and Josh Goldman’s Brilliantshine restaurant across the street, there’s a formidable team making sure what you drink matches the caliber of your food. Former Spago wine director Kevin O’Connor, co-founder of the Lioco winery, and bar director Marissa Grasmick (previously at The Varnish) can help you pick drinks at Aestus, whether you’re in the 60-seat dining room or at the 15-seat brass bar.
Brilliantshine, which opened last year and is one of Santa Monica’s top bar scenes, and Aestus are just a block up from Musha, an izakaya/neighborhood mainstay where the sake and shochu make it fun to linger after you’ve finished your sashimi. Food crawl, bar crawl, both are easy here.
Aestus, 507 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, 424-268-4433