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Whist at the Viceroy Hotel

Good Food, Good Times

Think trendy, hip, and hot.  If you're ever in the neighborhood of Santa Monica on a Friday night, then you'll know that the Viceroy Hotel (from the small Kor Hotel Group) on Ocean Park is a happening place.  Paris Hilton clones and Hollywood industry folks mixed among locals flock here for meeting and greeting and then some dining and wining. 

Whist is named after a popular British card game and follows so in the restaurant setting with its modern twist of the proper English parlor.  Silvery glass octagon chandeliers and plenty of miniature candles illuminate a dim, but warm atmosphere as shadows bounce to the energy of the nightlife surrounding it.  White tabletops with coordinated kelly green booths and chairs, and intricately designed metallic wallpaper gives the whole room a fresh, but Victorian edge.  Against one side of the entire wall are decorative rows of 250 pieces of fine china displayed against a colossal emerald mirror, adding depth and class.  The uniqueness of this eye-grabbing centerpiece makes it one of my overall favorite restaurant displays.  If you want fresh air, their open and airy garden patio is an excellent choice for brunch under a sun or a romantic dinner under the stars. 

Whist opened three years ago under Chef Tim Goodell and after going through a couple chefs in the kitchen, they've found their star.   Executive Chef Warren Schwartz is innovative and daring enough to bring Whist back onto its feet.  Since September 2004, he has graced the menu with simplistic, comfort dishes while adding his touch from travels around the world.  He is skillfully trained with two years of cooking at Patina with renown Chef Joachim Splichal under his belt.  After that, Warren moved on to shine in earning national acclaim for his creative flair with wild game at Saddle Peak Lodge in Calabasas.  He is driven in creating a menu that includes the freshest seafood in season and the freshest produce and ingredients possible from local farmers' markets.

Schwartz surprises us with some wonderful starters - The grilled calamari with smoked tomato sauce, resembling the shape of a potsticker, was stuffed with grounded pistachio nuts and olive oil.  The subtle chewiness of the calamari balances well with the crunchy bits of pistachio.  Next, a zucchini blossom stuffed with peekytoe crab and goat cheese, accompanied by macadamia nut and zucchini puree.  The creamy filling of tender crab and milky goat cheese with chives in the zucchini blossom was a nice touch in addition to the puree mousse that left a flavorful nutty aftertaste.  A glass of Cloudy Bay's crisp Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand helps bring out the flavors without interfering.  His famous mushroom popover arrives filled with sautéed wild mushrooms, foie gras, and port reduction.  As you fork the meaty mushrooms, breaking away the pouch of soft bread with its mellifluous reduction sauce running over, you can just taste the creaminess of the foie gras. 

My entree of the night was pan roasted and sliced duck breast, accompanied by duck sausage, black-eyed peas, braising greens, onion, and garlic.  The thick, tender, chunky portions of the Peking duck breast were a nice change from the thin sliced tradition, and these good portions captured the rich juices for maximum flavor.  The slightly crisped skin lingered with a bacon-smokiness that ran well with the softness of the meat.  The grilled duck sausage was aromatic while the black eyed peas dripped with seasoned juices from the duck breast.  A superb pairing with the duck is Cambria's medium bodied, full bouquet, Pinot Noir, that's flowery with a tinge of pepper.  

Another notable entree was the grilled ribeye steak, garlanded with fluffy mashed potatoes, roasted garlic and crispy spinach leaves.  The steak dishes out robust flavor without being too fatty, and becomes tenderer as you cut towards the center.  Highly comparable to Kobe beef in both consistency and flavor, it was grilled just right without being over or undercooked.

Dessert is sweet, simple and unassuming - doughy crepes with creamy mascarpone cheese, warm and sugary apple strudel a la mode (served in a mini wok, it's large enough to share amongst a group), chocolate with caramelized hazelnuts, whipped chocolate pudding, etc... just eat your heart out! 

For more information or reservations, visit Whist online at viceroysantamonica.com or call (310) 260-7500.  Open daily, 7 a.m.-3 p.m. & 6-10:30 p.m.  Sunday brunch, 11 a.m. - 3 p.m.

Whist at the Viceroy Hotel
1819 Ocean Ave.
Santa Monica, CA
(310) 260-7500

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