Rustic Canyon Wine Bar

Rustic Canyon Wine Bar
1119 Wilshire Blvd
Santa Monica, CA 90401
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Type: Restaurant, Bar
Category: Dinner
Company: Date, Friends, Family, Visitors
Cost: $10-$31/plate, $9-$20/wine glass, $6-$12/beer, $25+/.5 bottle-full wine bottle
Quick-Rec: If you aren't a gambler, make reservations. Enter the number in to your contacts - this is your Primitivo of Santa Monica.

OTC Tip: Get the burger, with egg.  Always get dessert. 

Arriving at 7:30 on a Saturday night, we knew that procuring a table would be a toss-up. Jumping out of the car, I raced inside and announced my request for an unreserved table and, approximately, how long something like that might take.

Receiving, of course, an invisible eye-roll for something so last minute at such an establishment, I was offered a vacated two-seater section at the end of the bar - or a 40 minute wait for a table.

Lacking an even ordinate amount of patience (especially when it comes to food) I jumped on the immediate offer for bar-seating then danced outside to tell my friend, Sam.

Saddling up and settling in to our bar-seats, we noted that I had a straight-ahead view of the internal workings of the kitchen. Sam was shy - he said he'd rather not know. I, on the other hand - quite possibly, could not stop staring.

Our consideration of the menu was quick. We knew what we were there for: the quiet pausing as we mused over the rest of the menu was out of sheer appreciation and curiosity for Evan Funke's genius, and not the typical "what should I get" consideration. 

Prior to ordering we took a second to indulge my shameless side - and, if you care, the "Crispy Polenta" is made such by slicing bits from a full pan of cooked polenta and dropping said "triangles" in to the deep fryer (which we learned - when inquiring about the also-famous beignets - is on the upgrade to an industrial size to accommodate the incessant demand for the notoriously fried dessert).

Taking a slight detour, we opted to start with the Burrata and Roasted Farm Vegetable with Crostini. Spectacular. The small hill of loose burrata was topped with tiny tomatoes, some garlicky spinach and rapini? and a scatter of garbanzo beans. Sam and I both approved, aside from the brief moon that the ratio of (4) crostini to the amount of topping was disproportionate (6 would have been a better bet). Naturally, we chose chose respective beers to accompany our pending meal (mine, the Ruth American Pale Ale from Hair of the Dog Brewing) and sat back.

Oh, Rustic Canyon, you are so cool. As in, kewl. From my corner perch I even got to see Evan Funke amble in and out of the kitchen (his tatted arms are a dead give away) which obviously added an increased level of enjoyment on my part, and an elevated sense that I was in the know. 

Enter the Niman Ranch Burger (after, what I should add, the perfect amount of down-time). Sharp Cheddar, Onion Fondue, Bread and Butter Pickles, Herb Remoulade, Hand-Cut French Fries AND the "add fried egg" option (rule of thumb: never say no to a fried egg).

Unlike most ladies, I am not when it comes to eating. In both taste and well - manner - I will get that burger medium-rare and I will not cut it in half - instead, I much prefer to pile everything on high and then smash the first bite straight in to my face.

Delicious. Of course, covered in a smear of egg and herb remoulade, I tried my best (hardly) to maintain some level of self preservation that an establishment offering a $20 burger deserves. Thankfully it was dark, so as I mowed my way through the fries (eh, a tad above average in texture and taste - I would NOT go out of the way to order these if they did not come pre-paired with the burger) and about 90% of the burger, I can say with about 40% accuracy that there was no true witness to my gluttony. Well. Aside from Sam, who is privy to my occasional crude sort of burger-behavior and has become rather immune to my child-in-trough-like habits.

Sam approved of my approval. I told him it reminded me of the burger from Father's Office - but that the egg and the sexiness of the venue gave this one an edge over the former. 

Ooh, dare I say Umami Burger < Fathers' Office Burger < Rustic Canyon Burger? Yep. Boom. 

Since I had kicked down the doors of reservation with my food face-plant, we marched head-first in to dessert without hesitation. Deciding between the Boston Cream Pie and the Pear and Quince Crostata, I confirmed for Sam my knowledge that Boston Cream Pie is indeed a soft cake, and not a crust-topped delicacy.

Needing texture, we went with the Crostata. Arriving happily topped with a boule of ice cream we dug in - Sam, being a typical guy took two bites and pushed the rest over to my side for demolition. Great! The free-form tart (essentially) was tender but with a buttery bite, and the pear-quince combination was light, sweet,a bit caramelized, and a tad warm. Perfection (especially when topped with melty-cream).

Would I return? Yes. Would I order the burger again? God yes.  And so should you.

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