In thanksgiving for enduring the hippies, the heat and the dirt that made up Bonnaroo 2006, Lindsay took me to dinner at this adorable new restaurant in Santa Monica, Three on Fourth. The restaurant’s theme is “international tapas” or, more specifically, small plates featuring Western-European, American and Asian cuisines. They also serve beer, wine and sake.
When we arrived, the restaurant was virtually empty. I have mixed feelings about empty restaurants – part of me likes it when I can sit wherever I want and have the full attention of the waitstaff, and the other half of me wonders, what does everyone else know that I don’t?
We ordered the mussels, grilled pear salad and the open-faced sandwich trio. We sopped up the garlicky mussel sauce with toasted baguette and sipped happily on a bottle of pinot noir. We chatted with the hostess, who wore a gorgeous red rose print Dolce & Gabbana dress, met the restaurant manager/sommelier and hardly thought twice when our waiter brought us the wrong sandwiches. Normally, I’d be a little surprised that our order would be incorrect in an empty restaurant, but everyone was so friendly that I didn’t care. And the food was delicious! I was already imagining my triumphant return to this restaurant, where I would air kiss my new best friend the manager hello as the hostess seated me and my companion at the best table in the house.
At least that was the plan.
About two weeks after my first visit to Three on Fourth, I returned with boyfriend in tow. I was feeling fussy and indecisive at the time, and instructed him to do the ordering. He’s aware of my devotion to Tony Bourdain’s theory on “specials” but likes to listen to them just the same. After the waiter spouts the specials, we usually smile in gratitude and then wait for him/her to walk away before we agree to not order a single one. And then we giggle. Actually, I giggle and he guffaws – it’s far manlier.
However, the specials are definitely worth noting. Instead of the NY strip steak, they had ribeye. OK, no big deal. Oh, and the mussels that Lindsay and I enjoyed last time? They were marked down. Marked down to $12.
WTF? Who does that? I mean, if you’re going to serve rotting seafood, why advertise the fact in your evening specials?
Needless to say, we didn’t order the mussels. We ordered tuna tataki, macaroni & cheese with pancetta, crab cakes, ginger-cilantro shrimp and a half-bottle of pinot grigio. That’s part of the fun of this restaurant – you really can mix and match with different flavors. It’s like playtime for the palate.
The tuna portion was far larger than we’d anticipated, which was a nice surprise, but I found the macaroni & cheese to be a bit grainy and the pancetta too much like deli-sliced ham. I like my crab cakes to be lightly browned, and the color of these were just a bit too dark for me, so visually I was unimpressed. The real star of this meal was the shrimp. The tempura-esque coating was light and flavorful, and with the accompanying chili paste it really was fun to eat. We even had to split the last shrimp in half, so we each got our fair share.
So, what’s the consensus? It was a great outing the first time, but only mediocre the second. Will I go back? Probably. It’s a moderately-priced restaurant in a great location with a cute theme. I’d go back at least one more time just to make my final judgment. But to be honest, if you want to try it, go sooner rather than later. With the way restaurants turn over in this city, it may not be there long.
Three on Fourth
1432-A Fourth St.
Santa Monica, 90401