Sunday

Sam’s By The Beach


108 W. Channel Road
Santa Monica Canyon
Santa Monica, CA 90402
310. 230-9100
samsbythebeach@yahoo.com


Romance by the sea: nothing says it like Sam’s. Were we in Los Angeles? We were in Cyprus? Or were we just swept away by the romance of a cool night filled with ocean breezes and an empty stomach. It wasn’t until we exited Sam’s at the Beach that we remembered we were actually in L.A.; and how worth it was for us to take a few extra minutes to get there.

With only 12 tables, this comfy and cozy Mediterranean locale is one of the most romantic spots in Los Angeles. Located on Channel Road where mediocre restaurants abound up and down the block, this is the only choice for the Dining Duo, and explains why this most recent visit was probably our 50th. As we enter, we were greeted like family with warm hugs by Samir (“Sam”), the owner, and also from the Captain, Jean-Michel; at our table, we were treated like sultans.
Making our way to our favorite table (#7), we wind our way through pairs of lovers talking softly under the hush of the billowing curtains and dangling Moroccan lamps that cast shadows every which way. The tables line the walls of this incredulously small venue, and different fabrics cover the banquets, strewn with fluffy pillows of varying shapes, sizes and fabrics. We feel like we’re in Sam’s living room, but with the sense of privacy of our own living room. Table #7 is a big square table that can accommodate six comfortably, but is also perfect for two. It’s also next to the full service bar, giving us a view of something to start warming our insides. Speaking of full service bars, Sam’s is but a handful of restaurants that actually use fresh juices as mixers.

Plan on over eating here. It’s what you’ll do, so if you just come to terms with it in advance, you won’t feel so guilty. There is no other way to start than with “Sam’s Trio”, an assortment of homemade hummus, Taboule and Babaganouch served with pita bread.
No one, and we mean no one, makes babaganouch like Sam. This, and the recipe for Tabule, comes from his mom who hailed from Lebanon. Sam’s uncle has also lent a recipe or two, and that’s something because his uncle is the only chef who was awarded a gold medal from Cordon Bleu in the Middle East. This babaganush contains hints of smoky flavors influenced by Sam’s proximity to the Turkish border.
Everything here is organic, fresh, and hand picked by Sam. We wonder why Sam, with swarthy Middle Eastern handsome good looks, is single, and it’s clear when he tells us that he’s up at five in the morning in order to procure the best choices on his produce, meats and fish at local markets.
The chicken is completely free range and organic; the beef is grass fed Australian from Greg Norman Ranch. “Everything is like a piece of Art” Sam explains to us. “You can make the best tasting dish, but it needs to be with the best products and it needs to be presented properly in order to be perfect.” Indeed it is.

We started with an incredibly reasonable and full-bodied Semler Vineyard cabernet from right up the beach in Malibu; who knew we had such good wine in our own backyard ($15/glass or $55/Bottle). The absolute best way to enjoy Sam’s is to ask him to cook for you. If you do this, you will enjoy everything he brings, but make sure you tell him when to stop as his cultural hospitality is all about stuffing you like a goose until you can’t move.
Our absolute favorite dish of them all was the Lamb Chorizo Risotto ($26.50). Carnaroli Rice prepared with lamb sausage, fresh spinach, feta cheese in Meyer’s lemon broth, it was bursting with flavors and elevated “risotto” to a new level.  Feeling as though we were dining in restaurant deep in the medina, the dishes continued to arrive at our table. The lamb shank was divine, succulent, tasty and soft as butter. It was braised for six hours with field-fresh veggies and herbs, and served with watercress and French Fries ($26.95).
The veal Cordon Bleu was Sam’s favorite as a child, so although Scott doesn’t eat veal, Michael had to try it: it was a classic dish that proved to be spectacular and oozing with exactly the right amount of cheese. Pounded, it was filled with prosciutto and Swiss cheese, served with wild mushroom sauce ($26.95).
It’s hard to believe that we had room for dessert, but we did and it was worth every calorie. Although there is a plentiful list (we didn’t have the crepe suzettes this visit, but it was fabulous the last time we dined here), and many to choose from, they are all $8.00, and a great value. Do not miss “Sam’s Bread Pudding” which is the most unusual take on bread pudding we’ve ever experienced.
Part crème brule, part crème caramel and part bread pudding, this unique combination was part fantastic and part when-do-we-come-back for more! Ask Sam for some of his private tea, a mixture of his mom’s homegrown (from Cyprus) chamomile and baby-rose buds.

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When finished, walk next door to where L.A.’s cultural GLBT social life started at the “Friendship Inn” opened in 1932, the proud owner of L.A.’s liquor license number 2. Opened for nearly 70 years (now the mixed “Hideout”), it quickly was joined by 11 other gay establishments in the area, but this spot became host to the likes of Christopher Isherwood and other bohemian folks. Although the Friendship is closed, its neighbor, Sam, has continued to welcome our community with open arms.
You can play it again and again at Sam’s, and we can’t wait for another beautiful evening together by the beach.

Posted by The Dining Duo | 8:44 PM | , , , | 1 comments »

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1 comments

  1. Anonymous // July 19, 2010 at 3:37 PM  

    Yum. Looks great DD.

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