photo credit: Jakob Layman

Rustic Canyon review image

Rustic Canyon

When Rustic Canyon opened in 2006, the world looked a lot different. Cars was the year’s second highest-grossing film, Pluto got downgraded to “dwarf planet,” and Twitter had yet to irreparably destroy our attention spans. It was also the beginning of LA’s farm-to-table movement—there were no Crudo e Nudos yet, or restaurants selling CSA boxes—and Rustic Canyon was one of the hottest restaurants in town, a revolutionary place where farm names were printed right on the menu and herbs tasted like they were picked that day.

Since then, the team behind Rustic Canyon has taken over the Westside, opening places like Birdie G’s, Cassia, Ester’s, Milo & Olive, and most recently, a Malaysian bakery in Ojai called The Dutchess. The buzz around their flagship restaurant has calmed down a bit too, and today, this Santa Monica icon has become a proper, grown-up classic. With its sleek dining room and excellent service, it’s both fancy enough for a special occasion, but casual enough to drop in whenever you want. Names of farms and staff members still appear on the menu in a way that feels nice and wholesome, like a final bow at a local production of Rent. It’s a token of respect, proof that they know—and care—where their food comes from, whether it’s the yams, tomatoes, or gigante beans that taste like butter.

Jakob Layman

Rustic Canyon review image

Concentrate on the starters at the top of the menu. We love the lavender almonds, toasted to be nicely crunchy and fragrant. They’re the best way to start a meal here. And while ingredients rotate with the seasons, many of their signature dishes stay on the menu–like the must-order beets and berries. It’s a vibrant dish, the color of a bright pink Barbie dream car, and contains every texture known to man: slick beet slices, crunchy quinoa and pistachio bits, and fresh raspberries and blackberries on top.

For the main course, get the pork chop. Blanketed in bright orange trout roe and finely chopped herbs, this massive hunk of meat looks like someone took a Christmas wreath and flattened it—then doused the whole thing in biting white vinegar sauce. The pig comes from Peads & Barnett, a California farm focused on treating their animals with respect. That means no GMOs, no growth hormones, and a pat on the back every now and then, along with the phrase, “That’ll do, pig.”

The menu at Rustic Canyon changes frequently, but here are a few examples of the kind of dishes you might find here.

Food Rundown

Lavender Almonds

Have you ever had lavender almonds? Roasted ever so slightly and brushed with a fragrant oil/herb mixture, they are absolutely luxurious. Rustic Canyon, if you’re reading this, please sell them by the bag (or sack or pound).

Beets & Berries

Although the name’s a bit dull (and sounds like a mnemonic trick you’re taught in middle school while learning how to beatbox), this is a Rustic Canyon classic. Just look at this picture—oven-roasted beets are tossed with fresh berries to create the prettiest colors, plus there’s a bed of mashed avocado hiding underneath.

Jakob Layman

Rustic Canyon review image

The Garden Of Lettuces

Just a wonderful, simple salad. You’ll find buttery greens (courtesy of Coleman Family Farms), dijon mustard, radishes, and a tangy shallot vinaigrette. Is it terribly different from other little gems in town? Not really. But we tend to love those—and this is no exception.

Pork Chop

If you’re looking for a giant piece of meat, now’s your chance. It comes sliced for convenience and smothered in a very rich, almost gravy-like smoked trout roe sauce. Very silky.

Sourdough Linguine

A miss for us. While fermented yeast pasta sounds good in theory, in practice, it’s kind of a weird texture. The linguine is thick and sticky, and almost hard to chew. This dish is highly seasonal, meaning the stuff on top of it changes almost weekly. On our last visit, we had mussels and parsnips.

Persimmon Sponge Cake

Rustic Canyon is one of those rare, delightful places where the sweets at the end are just as important as everything that came before. Keep your eyes on the pastries—for example, this sponge cake is as dense as a memory foam pillow and perfectly sweet.

Ice Cream

The Rustic Canyon people also own Sweet Rose, so as you can imagine, this ice cream is absolutely exceptional. Again, the flavors change all the time, but be on high alert if honeycomb is in the mix.

Carla Choy

Rustic Canyon review image

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