Infusion of Mediterranean Cuisine | Mon Ami Santa Monica, CA
Mon Ami Santa Monica, An Almost Hidden Gem
Santa Monica, CA, June 2023
• GAYOT’s Rating: 14/20
• Cuisine: Mediterranean / Middle Eastern / Vegetarian / Gluten-free
• Open: Dinner Tues.-Sat. 5 p.m.-close
• Mon Ami is on GAYOT’s:
– Best Los Angeles Mediterranean Restaurants
– Best Santa Monica & Malibu Outdoor Dining Restaurants
– Best Santa Monica & Malibu Romantic Restaurants
– Best Los Angeles Sexy Restaurants.
Finding Mon Ami can be a challenge as it is somewhat hidden on the busy and touristy Ocean Avenue, right across from the famous Santa Monica Pier. But that is where the charm all begins. You get the feeling you are going to a special place — and, actually, you are. Look for the red luminous sign with an inviting heart in the back of the alley between Red O and Del Frisco’s Grille. Push open the wooden door and enter a serene patio paved with blue and white tiles at the entrance. The palm trees, olive trees, umbrellas, twinkling flames of the pyramidal patio heaters, cozy banquettes, wooden tables and string of lights covering the outdoor terrace are as inviting as the name of the restaurant, which translates from French to “My Friend.” Inside is a very different ambience, with a beautiful bar, a dining floor covered with carpets, wide-spread tables, two sofas facing each other for a more relaxed time at the table, and a private room.
The menu was elaborated by chefs Samir Mohajer and Sabel Braganza. They were both born in Los Angeles, but with Samir’s Middle Eastern and Mediterranean background and Sabel’s travels through Europe, the pair has created dishes from some of the countries surrounding the sea called Mare Nostrum during the Roman Empire. Their repertoire includes Spain, Greece, Italy, France and Morocco.
As the wine list is very short, do not hesitate to commence your soirée by one (at least) of the signature cocktails, and sip it over a Mezze Platter. You can build it yourself with hummus, baba ghanoush, nas-o-musir, prosciutto-wrapped tomatoes, chicken souvlaki and a few more items. You can also share the Calabrian Chili Prawns; the Greek Salad with Persian cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, red onions, and marinated olives over a hidden bed of whipped feta; or the Mon Ami Caesar, where the ingredients of the Caesar salad (with the addition of tomatoes) are placed within the leaves. The Potato Zeppole, described as crispy savory potato donuts, served with spicy tomato dip, is a must-have.
Two dishes are clearly marked “Vegan & Gluten-free.” They won’t only satisfy the vegans, but all of us. The potato dumplings of the Gnocchi Genovese, with the vegan broccolini-pesto sauce, mushrooms, crispy shallots and pistachios, might well be a dish to stay on the menu forever. The other one, Cauliflower Shawarma, is made of roasted cauliflower, mushroom shawarma, and Mediterranean marinade set on a grilled flat bread.
Italy called for branzino and Morocco for a tagine. There is a chicken one, which is, of course, served in the traditional tagine pot — this one needs a little more Moroccan flavor, probably some more spices.
Since I don’t like cinnamon, I did not get to try the Reine des Fraises, a strawberry sorbet topped with brown sugar crispy rice and almond-cinnamon foam. But the Loukoumades, Greek donuts drizzled with honey and to be dipped into cardamon Chantilly cream, are a delight and a great way to end your friendly dinner.
The two distinct décor atmospheres (indoor and outdoor) and the cuisine of the culinary team, which includes head chef Daniel Ulrich (see video below), are tasty and good excuses to return to Mon Ami with your friends.
On Fridays and Saturdays, a DJ makes an entrance. Mon Ami becomes a nightlife lounge after dinner hours. A limited late-night bites menu is offered.
> Scroll down the food photo gallery for the décor photos. All photos © GAYOT.com
Watch head chef Daniel Ulrich describing the Chicken Tagine. When discussing with Ulrich, I told him that it was obvious he likes to cook. He replied: “Cooking is my life.“