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On The Town With Richard by Richard Alton Stermer

Trolling north along the coast looking for a place to eat we made our way from Marina Del Rey to Venice and then Santa Monica. As we traverse Ocean Blvd, just north of the pier, I see some flames coming from the corner of a rooftop some 6 stories up. After determining that it was man made and controlled I then wondered whether it was public or private. I pulled up to the building and saw that it was the Shangri la Hotel 1301 Ocean Ave, Santa Monica, CA 90401.

I parked the car and went in to the front desk where I learned that there was a “rooftop bar and restaurant” that was open to the public.

Making our way to Onyx, on the 6 floor, we enter an art deco building from the 30’s with most everything in place from that bygone era. We take a small elevator, with a vintage moving arrow to indicate the floor levels, up to the penthouse level and exit into a very dark lobby which leads into the bar. After this we come to the outdoor patio and are treated to an intimate rooftop area with an enclosed seating space lined with benches and another area around this with individualized seating, a flaming pit and space heaters. Soon after our arrival, the best seat in the house, on the corner, in front of the fire pit, becomes available and we settle in for our dining experience. What was promised to be a restaurant turns out to be a bar with food but who’s counting? We settle on a bottle of Courtage Brut, a reasonably priced sparkling wine with a wonderful story which pours and drinks appropriately celebratory. We pair this with an order of the Brussel Sprouts, a bowl of crisped brussel sprout leaves flavored with balsamic reduction and parmesan cheese, (apart from being a little salty this is a hit!) and an order of the Fish and Chips, white fish, tempura batter and crispy herbed fries. The fries were delicious, but the battered fish was soggy! A definite miss, which begged to be addressed, but the hour was late and the stomachs were growling.

Moving on to dessert we ask our server for the list and her recommendation. My companion is interested in the Coconut Cheesecake but I’m intrigued by the Knickerbocker Glory, vanilla and strawberry ice cream topped with strawberry compote, pineapple chunks, pop rocks, whipped cream and meringue. This arrives in a tall fluted ribbed glass with a toasted meringue crown. The presentation alone is worth the price of admission but it turns out to be just ice cream underneath. I think the fact that this is a hip bar spot and it was a late weeknight definitely impacted the food service. If I went back, I would give them a second shot and be ready to press for a little more fidelity to the menu.

Did I mention the view overlooking the Santa Monica coast? Breathtaking! And right on the edge of the building! Not for the week of knees. Very hip! Very Cool! And a little funky with an old school vibe. Pricey parking on site but street parking available outside. $$


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