You can learn a lot about a restaurant from its bathroom. If it’s clean and there are actual living houseplants in it, the restaurant is probably pretty well-run. If it looks like a gas station bathroom, you shouldn’t eat the food. And if there’s a person in there offering you hand towels and spritzes of perfume, you should definitely order the lobster thermidor, because you just time-traveled back to 1952.
So when you walk into the bathroom at Margot - the rooftop restaurant in Culver City - what do you see? Sinks made out of large, jagged boulders, lights that are suspended inside elaborate rope nets, and an entire wall of mirrors so well-lit you can practically feel the ghosts of selfies being taken in them (there used to be a photo booth here for that exact purpose). There are also incredibly fancy candles - like, candles that cost as much as your meal. If you Google “restaurant + bathroom + trends + 2019,” the resulting photos will show restrooms largely indistinguishable from Margot’s.
Like its bathrooms, Margot is expensive and photogenic. Once you get your beautiful, plant-filled cocktails, you’ll be tempted to ask the bartender if he has a second career as a florist (those cocktails are also excellent, by the way). The dishes are composed like they know they’re about to end up on Instagram. Everything is designed perfectly, from the kampachi crudo, to the stone-tiled tables, to the liquor bottles that look like they’re floating on shelves behind the bar. Even a seemingly ugly view of the trains at Culver Junction feels like a treat, because you’re sitting on a patio that looks like a CB2 showroom, sipping a cocktail straight out of a design magazine.
It takes a level of care to detail a restaurant this intricately, and that shouldn’t be ignored. And in some cases, this care shows in the food - especially the small plates. The well-balanced pan con tomate, with whipped ricotta and grated tomato, is served on great house-baked focaccia and is an excellent way to start a meal here.
Those crudos are also very good. Whether you get the hamachi, tuna, or kampachi, you’re going to get excellent, fresh fish with citrus, pickled mustard seeds, and something called Calabrian kosho. The problem is that you’re paying around $20 for six small pieces. Similarly, the jamon iberico is truly great - beautifully marbled, superbly oily and salty, and perfect with the grilled bread that accompanies it. But it’s $30 for 12 slivers of ham, so unless you’re here with an agent (or a date) who you’re 100% positive is going to pick up the check, there’s just no way to justify the cost.
Once you’ve finished every crumb of your starters - both because they taste so good and because you’re trying to get your money’s worth - it’s on to the larger plates, and the largely forgettable portion of the meal. The sea bream has so much aioli and salsa verde on it that you can’t taste the fish, and the pastas are generally kind of a mess. The wheatiness of the pappardelle in the bolognese actually manages to overpower the sauce, and the seafood sausage in the tagliarini tastes like it was made with canned fish.
You might show up at Margot expecting a place designed for a blowout meal, but ultimately, what you’ll discover is a place for small plates, excellent drinks on a beautiful patio, and some particularly inspired Instagram posts. If you use it for those purposes, you’ll be happy. Just make sure you check out the bathrooms.
This cocktail tastes as good as it looks - it’s strong, and super aromatic, but not too sweet.
Like a nice pair of dark Levi’s, simplicity is sometimes best. The same is true at Margot with this dish - it’s just grated tomatoes with whipped ricotta over fresh focaccia, but the flavors are perfect together, and you should order this every time.
Things you could do with $1000: pay off all your parking tickets, buy an espresso machine, or order an entire leg of this jamón iberico online. So that makes $30 for 12 pieces (fewer than are pictured above) a little easier to swallow - but it still feels a bit expensive for a few pieces of (very good) ham.
Although they’re small, these sweet little peppers pack a serious punch, with an extremely smoky, melted idiazabal cheese inside.
A well-cooked fish, but it’s hard to taste anything underneath the salsa verde and aioli on top.
Even just saying the words “wagyu bolognese” out loud tastes good. Unfortunately, the taste of the wheat pappardelle noodles in this dish manages to overpower the sauce. None of the pastas at Margot are bad, but they just don’t have much in the way of flavor - we’d skip them.
Lunch at a place like Margot could be an afterthought, but it’s actually pretty great. The salads are exactly what you want for a lunch meeting, and the sandwiches - like a standout with serrano ham, chorizo, and manchego, are excellent.