Thursday, May 26, 2005

Nook: a sheltered and secluded place

The neighborhood restaurant. Oh how I crave the homey, comfortable, neighborhood restaurants that I remember as a kid. Formico's Pizzeria. Country Gourmet. The Cheese House. God those places were good. I know the Cheese House is still there, I wonder if the other two are....

What made The Cheese House so special was the maze-like, floor-to-ceiling library of gourmet sauces, oils, vinegars, chocolates, and other treats. It was there that I first had a Haribo Gummi Bear. And where I discovered the carnivorous pleasure of a tri-level sandwich piled high with meat, cheese, lettuce, tomato, and special sauce. Screw McDonalds, this sauce is more special. It sounds so simple, and it was, but simple executed perfectly is divine. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. Which is what I've been looking for. A mouth-watering restaurant that's in my neighborhood. Convenient and affordable, delicious and walkable. Is it too much to ask?

Happily the answer is no! Hidden, truly, in the corner of a mini mall on the corner of Santa Monica Blvd and Barry is a little gem called Nook. You will almost miss it. Part of me hopes you do so that it stays unpacked, but I know that spells doom for a restaurant, so come one, come all, and eat at Nook.

Brought to us by the same folks who run the cafe at Bergamot Station, that amazing art gallery warehouse in Santa Monica with the fabulous name, Nook is a neighborhood bistro with delicious food, unpretentious decor, and incredibly friendly staff. I've been a few times, and each time I've enjoyed it thoroughly, and each time it's gotten better. At the beginning, I could sense hints of newness and apprehension. It felt like the place had just opened, but they were doing well despite the occasional misstep or pause. The waiters made up for it, with quick refills and enthusiastic recommendations on the menu, without that fake, "everything here is good!" baloney. I had the catfish burrito on my first and second trips there, a yummy combination of blackened or grilled fish with napa slaw, oven roasted tomatoes, and meyer lemon aioli coupled with shoestring fries. Oh that's good.

And then something magical happened. On my third trip to Nook everything gelled. The menu expanded, the kitchen blossomed, and the waitstaff knew it. From the second we were seated we had a fabulous dining experience. None of us could decide what to get, which is always a good sign, and everything we ordered tasted divine. I had the caesar salad with whole grain mustard dressing and fried capers, a nice change from anchovies, and a side order of Mac and Cheese. I still have a secret place in my heart for the bright orange stuff, but real Mac and Cheese, such that this was, puts Kraft to shame shame shame. My dining compatriots enjoyed a Maple Glazed Steak with sauteed apples and onion rings, Chicken Paillard, Roasted Green Lip Mussels, and Shitake Mushroom Bread Pudding. As we ordered, the waitress looked like we were listing all the greatest hits from her favorite band. And perhaps we were.

Oh, those onion rings were so good. (The steak is underneath. It was a huge pile of crispy onions.) After this plentiful bounty of food, we didn't have room for dessert. It was embarrassing, really. We should have left room. But it was all so delicious, how were we to know we would fill up so completely? Next time I go, I will be sure to save that secret dessert pocket in my stomach.

Hidden in the corner of
11628 Santa Monica Blvd #9
Los Angeles, CA 90025


Open from
11:30 AM to 3 PM and 5 PM to 10 PM Monday through Friday
5 PM to 10 PM Saturday


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nook rocks. As do the fizzy drinks you can order there with weird names. It'd be a great little jewel in any neighborhood, but I'm glad it's in Julie's!

6/08/2005 12:31 AM  

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