nook neighborhood bistro
11628 santa monica blvd
la, ca 90025
after reading so much (not necessarily all good nor all bad – just a lot) about nook neighborhood bistro, I finally made it over to this place that i should have visited a long time ago.
We got to the intersection of santa monica and barry avenues, and almost decided to go somewhere else because we couldn't find it. nook is hidden, literally tucked away in the nook of a mini mall, without a sign, just an arrow. we were walking in without a reservation, and thought we may have to wait for a long time because all the tables, around the perimeter, were taken. the only table in the center of the room is large, raised up, and looks like it was being used for two different parties as a communal table.
The floors are concrete, and the ceilings are open through the metal rafter like a studio, so even as a small space, nook is loud. the decor is clean, modern, artsy, and definitely doesn't feel like it fits with the pizza-by-the-slice and chinese express places in the mini mall. we were finally seated, and got what felt like the best seat in the house, a cozy booth toward the back of the room.
Nook's menu is very comfortably american bistro, almost like an upscale diner with a couple flourishes here and there. a curried lentil salad and a vegetarian chickpea stew were about as exotic as it got. the starter was also interesting. the server brought not bread, but a small dish of spiced, boiled peanuts in their shells. she asked to bring more after we inhaled them within a few minutes. though we were tempted, we said "no" for fear we would spoil our dinner by continuously gobbling them up, plate after plate. the peanuts were deliciously salty and creamy, but they didn't quite go with the wine we were drinking.
The wine list is short and to the point. each wine was selected to go with the items on the menu. nook is not stuffy about wine, and treat us and the wine list as casually as a knowledgeable neighbor. our server even brought a taste of the pinot noir for me, before i decided on something else.
We orderd crispy calamari. i thought it was soggy because it had been sitting ready for pick-up from the kitchen for a while before the server eventually thought to bring it to our table. it was actually from being tossed with citrus soy vinaigrette, but still, i like fried calamari crispy. the accompanying wasabi aioli made up for it, though. my caesar salad was a stand-out, with a slight twist on the dressing – whole grain mustard. it gave the salad a little kick that went beyond garlic.
I could have shut my eyes and pointed at anything on the menu and been happy with whatever i landed on. the final decision was tilapia, which itself was not exceptional (almost bland), but in combination with roasted beets and pickled red onions was a great dish. next time, i think i'd like to try the burger that everyone seems to rave about.
The best thing of all about nook, aside from it being just down the road from me, is that it's so very reasonably priced. certainly, a $10 burger isn't cheap, but the tilapia was only $17, and the most expensive thing on the menu, the herb roasted pork chop, was only a $1 more.