As far as culinary buzzwords go, "shared plates" and "locally sourced" have remained steady contenders when generating interest in new openings. At The Wallace, Culver City's latest restaurant boasting sustainable California fare, executive chef Michael Teich has embraced both. The space is gorgeous—Edison bulbs dangle above beautiful (albeit uncomfortable) wooden chairs and tables, while an open kitchen allows diners to get a glimpse of the local ingredients so heartily emphasized. Unfortunately, those ingredients, no matter how expertly sourced, did not always translate well.
A selection of appetizers arrive in jars—there is jarred chicken liver mousse; a jar of marinated olives—and we started out strong here, with grilled flatbread and three jarred spreads: bacon marmalade, romesco and melted greens. For those suffering from recent heartache, skip the Ben & Jerry's and instead order this dish; the spreads could have been eaten by the spoonful and the jars scraped clean. If you like your carbs in a more traditional form, the Gruyère and black pepper popover comes with a delectable chive butter.
The Wallace prides itself on using sustainable produce—as it very well should—but they may need to reconsider whether they're using too much of it. Many of the dishes came smothered and doused and sprinkled with so many ingredients, it was difficult to appreciate what lay beneath it all. The salmon belly—procured from Schooner Bay and cured in-house—was tender and rich, but overwhelmed by all of the cucumber, beets, horseradish and plethora of dill piled on top. What's more, the salt roasted beets plate had an almost identical laundry list of ingredients and, again, far too much dill; a larger dish of roasted scallops was expertly seared, but unfortunately tainted by overcooked prosciutto.
Simple comfort food, it turns out, is what the kitchen does best. Tender short rib ravioli with braised greens and parmesan butter hit the spot, and we finished the evening on a positive note by ordering the salted caramel pudding, a creamy concoction that perfectly walked the line between salty and sweet. It's just too bad the night's stand-out dish had to arrive so late.
What to Eat: The grilled flatbread with spreads ($10). The Gruyère and black pepper popover ($6). The short rib ravioli ($13). The salted caramel pudding ($8).
What to Drink: The Early Ace ($12) is a rarity, in that the very last sip is just as compelling as the first. This Damrak gin-based libation is topped with an incredible pistachio foam that continues to dissolve into the cocktail with each sip, conveying a sweet and nutty undertone throughout its entirety. Translation? Ordering it is a no-brainer. For vodka fans, the Dream Catcher ($12) is a refreshing choice; beer and wine are available as well.
Where to Sit: It is unfortunate that The Wallace's logo is that of an upside-down chair; it only served as a reminder, throughout the meal, just how uncomfortable my own wooden seat was to sit on. Snag a booth if you can—they are sparse, but infinitely more enjoyable.
Conversation Piece: Ask any waiter where your surf or turf came from and they'll be happy to tell you. When it comes to the surf, The Wallace only serves seafood deemed safe and sustainable by the Monterey Bay Aquarium.