Thursday, July 23, 2015


The Independence
205 Broadway
Santa Monica, CA 90401
Tel: 310.458.2500
$$ ($15-$30)
Cuisine: American
Fri, 07/17/2015, 7:00pm reservation
    (4 Piglets)

Goodbye Buddha's Belly! Hello The Independence! 

Jonathan Chu has abandoned his old restaurant Buddha's Belly and turned it into a cool, hip gastropub-like restaurant known as The Independence. Opened since February, the place is quite open with artistic murals throughout the restaurant. It's not at all stuffy or pretentious, but rather a chic yet casual place to sit, drink, eat and relax with friends (or by yourself if you prefer...). 

The Interior
Another section of the interior

Tom Block, who had stints at BLT Steak acts as Executive Chef for The Independence. The creativity and talent of chef Block can be seen throughout the menu. Geared towards providing local ingredients to hungry eaters, the food is fresh and Californian.   

The mixologist Vincenzo Marianella of Chu's other establishment Copa D'Oro runs the cocktail menu. The cocktails cater to everyone's needs, from the sweeter-end like the Strawberry Smash to the no-nonsense man's drink like the Smoke of Scotland (Laphroigh Cask Strength Scotch Whiskey, Extra Dry Vermouth, Elderflower Liqueur, Amaro Averna). 

The Independence offers a fantastic happy hour and dinner menu and lucky for me, I've tried both (for the piglet that I am). 

DOHENY COCKTAIL ($6.00) FROM THE HAPPY HOUR MENU: Bourbon, Apricot Brandy, Jerry Thomas Bitters. When it comes to this drink, Vincenzo doesn't mess around. If alcohol is what you want, then alcohol is what you shall get. The drink is ideal if you don't want a girlie girl's drink and want something strong and satisfying. I seem to have enjoyed it (as seen below)!
Enjoying the Doheny Cocktail
PULLED PORK SLIDER WITH SPICY VINEGAR AND SLAW ($4.00/EACH): For a happy hour menu, this is a great item! The pork was a little dry, but it offered a tangy, spicy and vinegar slaw for flavor and texture. The slaw was crisp and gave the acidic component the dish needed. 
HANGER STEAK SKEWER WITH CHIMICHURRI (3 FOR $6.00): This was so good and probably my favorite happy hour item off the menu. The meat was tender and the chimichurri sauce was a little tangy while offering a substantial amount of spices and boldness to the dish.
PECORINO AND GREEN PEPPERCORN GRAVY FRIES ($5.00): Man, oh man...I love me some gravy fries. This starchy gift to mankind was good, luxurious, and rich. The fries were crisp, just the way I wanted them. I couldn't get enough of these and by the end of it all, they were all gone! 
NETTLE AND RICOTTA GNUDI ($5.00): This was a light dish with the same consistency as tofu. The ricotta was prominent in the dish (as it should be) and the flavors meshed well together. 


KALE CHOPPED SALAD ($15.00):  Iceberg, smoked egg, baby carrots, green beans, feta, candied walnuts, citrus, pear, lemon mustard vinaigrette. This beautifully presented salad had a lot going on, but somehow, it all actually worked well together. You could taste the smokey flavor on the egg and the citrus cut through all the ingredients. The nuts added the texture it needed while the feta offered the salty and creamy component. It was refreshing, satisfying and a well made salad.
VENISON RAGU ($22.00): Pappardelle, marsala, truffle oil, pecorino. The ragu was not overly gamey and had a richness that would be similar to a bolognese. The pappardelle was made thin and was well-coated with the ragu. It was definitely satisfying and even tasted great as leftovers the next day! A good dish overall. 
ROASTED WILD MUSHROOMS ($15.00): Toast, 62 degree egg, yuzu kosho hollandaise. This was absolutely delicious. I love the creaminess of the egg yolk, the satisfying and delectable mushrooms and the crispy toast to soak up all the goodness. One of my favorites of the night! 
RASPBERRY TART ($9.00): Candied kumquat, walnuts, fennel. This dessert is for those who prefer something not overly sweet. It includes fennel, which is quite different to use as part of a dessert ingredient. The fennel offers a crisp, fresh texture, while the kumquats give it a slightly bitter taste. Although the ingredient says it includes walnuts, we actually received pine nuts instead. The crust was a little softer than I would like. My friend enjoyed it, but I prefer something that is a little more decadent. 
STRAWBERRY SMASH ($12.00): Vodka, strawberries, mint, honey ginger syrup, orange bitters. This was a perfect girly drink that is reminiscent of summer. It is similar to what a strawberry mojito would taste like and is simply downright refreshing. I loved this drink! 

PICK ME UP ($12.00): Rye whiskey, espresso liquor, amaro Montenegro, Jerry Thomas Bitters. If you started off with some strong drinks and still want to stick with them without it being overpowering, then this is the drink for you. This has a great whiskey taste. It is similar to an Old Fashioned with a subtle coffee flavor.

SMOKED WHITEFISH TOAST ($10.00): Pickled shallots, apple, fried capers. This dish was plated beautifully. It wasn't overly fishy and you could definitely taste the smokiness of the dish. The apples created a nice, crisp texture. The capers offered that tangy saltiness it needed.
HEIRLOOM TOMATO AND MOZZARELLA ($14.00): Local market heirloom tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, honeydew, cucumber, spicy calabrese salami, basil, balsamic. I appreciate that Block utilized local ingredients into this dish. It was beautifully presented and everything was fresh, but it wasn't one of my favorites. I felt this dish needed something more in terms of flavor.
SHISHITO PEPPERS ($6.00): Smoked paprika, lime. I liked this dish a lot. The peppers were cooked well and had crispy texture. It had a southwestern feel with the smoked paprika and the lime just enhanced the flavors.
MY FAVORITE DISH. SPAGHETTI DI MARE ($24.00): Santa Barbara ridgeback prawns, manila clams, chorizo, white wine, pepperoncini, herb breadcrumbs. The spaghetti was cooked perfectly al dente and the chorizo added a little spice to the dish. The clams were tasty as well as the prawns. All the ingredients meshed well together and I definitely appreciated the texture with the herb breadcrumbs.  
GRILLED OCTOPUS ($17.00): Smoked beans, grapes, celery, pickled chili. The octopus had a fantastic char to them and you can taste the smokiness of the beans. The grapes added a nice sweetness to counteract the spiciness of the pickled chili. I just wish the octopus was grilled slightly less accompanied with a thick sauce to bring the whole dish together (but I'm also comparing this octopus to Maude where I had the best octopus I ever had just a week prior to visiting the Independence).
CHILI FRIES ($8.00): Cincinnati style, pickled chili, red onion, cheddar. According to my friend, the chili is pretty authentic coming from an Ohioan. Similar to what is known as skyline chili in Ohio, the chili contains cinnamon that makes it stand out from the others. The only difference is that the cheese is usually grated thinner than this version. These were good chili fries and I guess if you want to try some real, authentic Cincinnati style chili fries, this is the place to do so. 
SNOW CRAB AND SANTA BARBARA UNI FRIED RICE ($22.00):  Sweet soy, egg, scallions, Thai chilis, carrots, fried shallots. Alright, so I'm very particular when it comes to fried rice. I want it good! I grew up eating fried rice and well, this version was good, but not amazing. I wanted something a bit different and I was expecting that with the uni, but to me, it didn't deliver. 
ROSEWATER PANNA COTTA ($10.00): Macerated Strawberries, pistachios, meringue. The texture of the panna cotta was smooth. I liked the strawberries, giving the dish a bit of tartness to counteract the sweetness of the panna cotta. The pistachios and the rosewater was slightly overpowering. I definitely am a huge fan of the meringue, which added a nice touch.  Overall, I didn't love this dessert as I felt there was too much going on. I also wanted something a bit sweeter and with chocolate, and hence, see below! 
WALNUT BROWNIE A LA MODE ($9.00): Vanilla ice cream, salted caramel sauce. Mmm...brownie and ice cream and salted caramel? You can't really go wrong with this combination. I enjoyed it as well as my tummy. The brownie was a little on the thinner side, but who cares? It's saving me some calories! 

Overall, The Independence is a great happy hour spot with reasonably priced food items to accompany your drink of choice. The dinner menu is tasty as well. Chef Block seemed to have accomplished the ability to serve up good food without being over-the-top. Drinks are downright superb. It's Copa D'Oro cocktails with the option of having delectable dishes at a sit-down restaurant. The service here is exceptional and the ambiance is not too stuffy. I definitely wouldn't mind coming back if I wanted something casual and within my vicinity.  

Notable dishes: Spaghetti Di Mare and Venison Ragu

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