One Pico

1 Pico Blvd. Santa Monica, CA 90405 • (310) 587-1717 • bytheblueseasantamonica.com/restaurants-pico.html

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Shutters on the Beach is an anomaly of a hotel. It’s quaint, yet massive. Low key, yet cool. Cool, but not trendy. And while I do love it, I also hate it. The valet circle is such a debacle I wish someone would carpet bomb it and start anew. The layout of the hotel is more confusing than The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. The bar area, a.k.a. lobby, is so understated that no one ever states anything about it. And their fancy restaurant, One Pico, is less impressive than the casual, much cheaper option below, Coast.

Now, apart from having a pair of mediocre meals there, my other gripe is the name. Sure, I get that it’s the hotel’s address, One Pico Blvd., but who are we kidding, they purposefully made the word “pico” diminutive so that the ONE is center stage, clearly going after a double entendre, that in my opinion failed misérable, because if ever there was one restaurant to go to in Santa Monica, this would not be it. It’s your typical hotel grub with a jacked price tag.

But if you really feel like staying in, my advice, at least walk over to the sister hotel next door, Casa Del Mar and eat at Catch. You can still put the bill on your room even if you’re staying at Shutters and I give you my ferocious word you’ll be MUCH happier with your meal. Not to mention happier than the chef at One should they ever read this review and see that I’m giving One… only two.

2 teeth

Catch

 Hotel Casa Del Mar • 1910 Ocean Way Santa Monica, CA 90405 • (310) 581-7714http://www.bytheblueseasantamonica.com/restaurants-catch.html

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Catch is quite the…well, catch. Easily the best restaurant of the Pico-Ocean Hotel Trifecta (Casa Del Mar, Shutters & The Viceroy). One, Coast and Whist simply don’t hold a candle.

For lunch I strongly suggest the lobster BLT. Now obviously it’s pretty hard to screw up lobster and bacon on a bun, but there are nuances that differentiate goodness from greatness. The lobster is moist and tender. The bacon crisp. And the avocado creamy. All met with the sweet airiness of the brioche and you’ve got the makings for a super sammy. Creamy and crunchy. Savory and sweet.

For dinner you will be surprised to hear that the sushi is pretty on point. Granted in LA you can almost get great sushi at a gas station, so perhaps it’s not that surprising. The rest of the menu isn’t half bad either, offering up things from land and sea like a delicious grilled octopus and a watermelon, feta salad that’s more refreshing than meeting a waiter in LA who isn’t also an actor.

3 teeth

Cha Cha Chicken

1906 Ocean Ave. Santa Monica, CA 90405(310) 581-1684chachachicken.com

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Perched in the middle of a Bermuda Triangle made from posh Santa Monica hotels like Shutters, Casa del Mar and The Viceroy sits a bit of an odd bird. A chicken to be precise. Named Cha Cha. Which is technically Cuban by origin, but they serve pan-Caribbean fare, including jerk chicken. And it’s served up with such islandy vibe you almost feel like you’re on an island. The weather obviously helps a lot with this, especially because it’s only outdoor seating, similar to Cora’s down the block.

But what makes Cha Cha so odd is that it almost looks like a shack. Not unlike Chez Jay’s, also down the block. But Chez at least has the excuse of having been the first establishment on Ocean Avenue, so one might consider it grandfather in. Whereas Cha Cha came along much later, only about 15 years ago. But whatever works, right?

And it definitely works. As a fun, affordable departure from the more refined eating destinations that are abound in Santa Monica and Venice. Among the pan-Caribbean offerings, you’ll find a few Mexican influences that find their way into their “pan” as well. For example the jerk chicken enchiladas. Call it Jamexican. Served with a spicy-sweet pineapple habanero sauce. Get it with beans and rice, along with some fried plantains and you’ll be dancing the cha-cha. Mostly because in LA Caribbean eats are hard to come by. But by East Coast standards Cha Cha is just So So. The flavors get a little mushy and the jerk could stand a little more Cha, if you catch my drift.

3 teeth