Precise Cuisine at Sugar Palm Ocean Avenue | Viceroy, Santa Monica, CA
Santa Monica, CA, March 2022
• GAYOT’s Rating: 14/20
• Cuisine: California
• Open: Brunch daily 6:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., Dinner nightly 3:00 p.m.–10:00 p.m.
• Sugar Palm is on GAYOT’s:
– LA New & Hip Restaurants
– and Best Santa Monica & Malibu Outdoor Dining Restaurants.
If no one can explain to me why the restaurant is called Sugar Palm, what is for sure is that lots went in to the total transformation of the ground floor of the Viceroy Santa Monica hotel (I have not seen the rooms). I know the space from having dined there several times in the past. It is unrecognizable. A great job was done by the design firm EDG, creating one big space, combining elements to make the lobby, the restaurant, the library and the patio a welcoming and comfortable area where wood is the king. As we know, its look is soothing, and it is enhanced by the round shapes of most of the furniture.
While the firepits have a vibrant feel, I chose to sit inside at one of the luxurious marble-topped tables next to the bookshelves where round decorative objects bring more peace of mind. There is also a new team in the kitchen led by chef Jason Francisco. He was born in Hawaii and is of Italian descent. Add to that his travels to Singapore, Germany, Holland and Turkey that have exposed him to different cuisines and produces, and you get his creative, precise and colorful cooking.
Just look at the photo below of the “Beets & Burrata.” Francisco uses many ingredients, all complementing each other, leaving pleasant tastes on the palate, yet easy to apprehend. For the Hawaiian dish poke, Francisco prepares it with salmon, which is not native to the islands, but he likes it because he says the flesh catches the flavors of the other ingredients. The crab cake arrives nestled in a crab shell — a fun presentation. Steamed mussels are served in a saffron tomato broth that made the dish. For meat lovers, who most likely eat their meat medium rare, the hangar steak was cooked just right. Francisco uses as much local produce as he can. If I were to go back, I would probably reorder the same dishes I had, including the “Deconstructed Cheesecake.” There is a story behind it: Francisco’s girlfriend wanted a lighter version of this American staple, so there is no crust and it is prepared with whipped mascarpone.