Tar & Roses
602 Santa Monica Boulevard
Long, narrow, and moodily dark, Tar & Roses feels like a railroad apartment would if it had a pricey Berkel meat slicer on the counter and a barkeep who poured plummy Barolo. Andrew Kirschner, who grew up in Santa Monica, has created a spot where the idea of local and seasonal eating is given an Italian overlay and presented family style by a kitchen obsessed with the nuances of the open flame. Brushing the ricotta gnocchi with lemon-infused oil and speckling them with bread crumbs lends the dumplings a whole new dimension, while the lamb shank, encrusted with chopped thyme and bay leaf and cooked over almond wood, delivers a primal kick. The ember-roasted pea pods, finished with big-flake Maldon sea salt, may be the dish of the year. Still, desserts like arborio rice pudding with passion fruit caramel are just off-kilter enough to make an impact after some mighty eating.