Where the Sun Meets the Sand at Pico and Ocean Way

September 27, 2013

Janet Echelman Interview

Wednesday Boîte at the Beach

Santa Monica’s unforgettable beauty is easy to understand if you’re lucky enough to visit or live in Santa Monica: a sun-washed bit of coastline where Angelenos and tourists drift happily alike. It’s not a wonder that the Australian duo, Angus & Julia Stone, sing with fond wistfulness about Santa Monica in “Santa Monica Dream.”  There’s no better place in the City of Angels to fill your eyes and ears with the sights and sounds of the sea, with daily sunset viewings.

Just a handful of minutes south of the cheerful flurry of activities on the Santa Monica Pier, where Pico Boulevard meets Ocean Way, are oceanfront lounges and restaurants in Santa Monica: Catch and The Lounge at Casa inside of Hotel Casa del Mar; and One Pico, Coast and The Living Room inside Shutters on the Beach.

The restaurants and lounges collectively are called By the Blue Sea and are overseen by Managing Chef Sven Mede, whose vision for the various menus stems from having the sea on one side, and the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market on the other.  With local fruits and vegetables that rival the best markets in France and Italy, it’s not hard to understand why Mede takes advantage of the fantastic produce and highlights each ingredient, letting their flavors shine with both subtlety and skill. The menus have strong influences from coastal cuisines all over: from the Mediterranean to the Eastern Seaboard. Before coming West, Mede trained alongside renowned chefs such as Charlie Trotter, Bradley Ogden, and Michael Mina.

The Michael S. Smith designed restaurant aptly named One Pico (for it’s coveted address) has some of the most highly sought tables in town, so book in advance.  The décor is a luxe Californian riff on architecture you would find on the Cape or the Vineyard.  The spectacularly framed views of the Pacific, whitewashed walls and nautical touches, make One Pico an inescapably romantic setting.  One Pico’s ever-changing, local and market-driven menu with its modern take on seafood is an indulgence not to be missed.  Don’t leave without trying the lobster fettuccine or salmon crudo with a glass of crisp champagne.

Next to One Pico an al fresco staircase leads down to the tucked-away beachside eatery Coast.  Drenched in natural light with clear views of the ocean, Coast’s casual vibe draws in couples and dining parties whether it’s breakfast/brunch time, a light lunch, or a breezy dinner.  Of all the dining choices at Pico and Ocean Way, this is the most family friendly.  Coast is the best al fresco dining option right off Santa Monica’s boardwalk. The all American oysters, Farmer’s Market fresh salads and tastiest vegetarian burger in town could bring you back daily.

The Living Room at Shutters evokes the coziness of a grand beachside villa on the Cape with handcrafted cocktails, wine, and small plates. The Living Room has seats fireside for chilly California evenings, or mingling room on the terrace for some fresh air, live jazz and ocean views.  Midweek, Wednesday Boîte combines music by local favorite DJ Harmony and exotic cocktails.

Just across the beach cul de sac known to savvy locals as The Art Walk are even more dining options with a completely different ambiance. Catch American Seafood and The Lounge at Casa call one of Santa Monica’s most exquisite architectural masterpieces home, Hotel Casa del Mar.

At Catch, ocean views through two story glass windows and Mede’s simple seafood combine for an unforgettable experience.  While you take in the seemingly endless array of color combinations emitting from the Santa Monica Ferris Wheel, share a whole grilled branzino or simply grilled octopus. The experience is sort of a combination of  The Water Grill with the charm of Fishing with Dynamite.

The best place for that final nightcap after you wander around this culinary circle is the Lounge at Casa. Famous for its swanky vibe, nightly live music, and great cocktails.  In the evening, the glamorati of Santa Monica can be found sampling from the raw bar, or nibbling on a few sushi handrolls with the latest handcrafted cocktail in hand, like the Amethyst Lavender cocktail that comes with muddle blackberries – divine.

At the center of the lounge local bands gather nightly to entertain. Leftover Cuties and Alanna & These Fine Gentlemen are popular Thursday/Friday acts while soul and jazz dominate the line up Saturday to Wednesday.

“I especially want the locals to look at all the options at this seaside culinary and entertainment hub at Pico and Ocean Way and stop by every week to discover what’s new.”  Chef Sven explains, “Why drive all over town, when you can find it all on a short stroll on the beach?”

News flash: Chef Sven let it slip that he and his team have a new restaurant ‘cooking’ at Pico and Ocean Way for even more options by the blue sea stay tuned @eatbythebluesea.

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