It’s Friday night at Tengu Santa Monica, LA’s latest trendy eatery, and I am arriving to have dinner for two with my significant other. The place is buzzing with hot young crowd, cocktails, hip DJ sounds, and mouth-watering aromas. An array of gorgeous people are surrounding the bar and the décor looks simply spectacular with warm lighting, fresh water fish tanks above the sushi bar, flower and candle arrangements on every table and a spectacular view of the sunset and Santa Monica pier from the terrace. Romantic yet fun, with an array of aphrodisiac dishes Tengu Santa Monica promises a perfect setting for a fun date or a place to meet people.
The attractive and accommodating staff is very knowledgeable about the menu. The waitress was so enthusiastic about some of their specials I decided to try a couple of the recommendations and a few traditional dishes starting with current LA favorite – tuna tostada. Spicy tuna, crispy rice, scallion, ginger vinaigrette, and wasabi cream. A great crispy appetizer.
The elaborate menu featured signature sushi, sashimi, and Omakase selections traditional nigiri sushi and sashimi; signature rolls, and sushi bar specialties and an expansive menu of hot kitchen specialties of pan-Asian. Including Tengu’s signature subarashi roll, lobster cocktail, filet-wrapped asparagus, Asian pear and arugula salad, and roasted New Zealand lamb chops.
We were urged to sample their warm salad with portabella mushrooms and garlic root oil, which gives the salad a light exotic flavor, not that of traditional garlic.
I ordered a white grape martini and my partner had signature house-infused pineapple sake made with fresh maui pineapples. The martini was a wonderful light creation, which I ended up ordering again. Tengu cocktails also come in a flaming volcano bowl, which was skipped this time.
Edamame was perfectly firm and lightly salted. Yakihama – baby yellowtail sashimi with ginger-garlic ponzu is something I can’t wait to go back and order again. We were also treated with a tasting of kurama yama – spicy tuna, shrimp tempura, vegetables, soy paper handroll with no rice.
Mizore Roll, described as a symphony of tastes and textures consisted of crab, avocado, seared albacore, crispy shallots, carrots, jalapeño, ponzu, sesame chili oil, and ground Japanese radish.
Seared togarahi beef came with marinated enoki, micro arugula, white truffle oil drizzle and pomegranate reduction dip. The sauces were a great addition to the beef. Truffle oil drizzle complimented the meat with a flavorful and unique taste. The pomegranate reduction added a tangy sensation.
The menu is packed with fun creations fit for everyone from sushi lovers to those not fond of the raw. Pan-seared chicken gyoza with ginger-soy dipping sauce was one of the best things I had in a sushi restaurant, even though I am a big lover of sushi myself.
We were urged to try the jalapeno-miso chilean sea bass. Miso-marinated roasted with grilled garlic shoots, jalapeno and chili-lime sauce. The aroma of the grilled spices on this delicious creation filled the table making it impossible not to try. A sort of sweet and fruity glaze the sea bass was marinated in gave the dish a mouth-watering flavor. The texture was perfectly light and firm at the same time. The menu said that the sea bass is purchased from licensed fishing boats only.
The dessert was another recommendation. Mini mochi ice cream created by an old lady in Hawaii who comes up with original flavors specifically for Tengu. Tonight they had blueberry cheesecake, mango and cream, raspberry vanilla, milk and white chocolate mochi. Our favorite by far was the blueberry and white chocolate creations.
The information I read prior to my visit stated that Tengu Santa Monica is a restaurant of Choice Hospitality Group, creators of the original flagship Tengu Westwood Village, Nacional, Nine Thirty and The Backyard at the W Hotel, Holly’s and Holly’s West.
Executive Chef/Sushi Master Shunji Nakao is of Matsuhisa and The Hump fame. A protégé of legendary sushi master Nobu Matsuhisa, Shunji worked closely with Nobu at the Osho restaurant, and later as one of the first sushi chefs hired by Nobu to work at his signature Matsuhisa restaurant in Beverly Hills. After running the kitchen at Matsuhisa for four years, Shunji opened his own sushi restaurant, Asanebu, in Studio City, and later became Executive Chef at the highly acclaimed sushi restaurant The Hump, atop the Santa Monica Airport.
Designed by the celebrated Franklin Studios (www.franklinstudios.com), Tengu Santa Monica reinterprets the traditional Asian aesthetic with a contemporary flair. With its dramatic black-and-white palette, sculpted coffered ceilings, lavish use of Indian marble and travertine, and bleached wood parquet floors, the feeling is of a grand Japanese palace. Matching indoor-outdoor sushi and cocktail bars anchor the main dining room, which wrap into one of the city’s most spectacular oceanfront patios, affording an unobstructed view of the Pacific Ocean (formerly longtime home to the famed Ivy at the Shore).
The braintrust of Choice Hospitality Group is Alan Nathan, Rick Calamaro, John Baydale and Guy Ravid.
Location: 1541 Ocean Avenue, Suite 120 Santa Monica, CA 90401 (just north of Colorado Avenue/Santa Monica Pier).
Dining Hours: Lunch: Sunday – Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Late Afternoon Menu (hot kitchen & limited sushi rolls): Sunday – Saturday, 2:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Dinner: Sunday – Thursday, 5:30 to 11:00 p.m. Friday –Saturday, 5:30 p.m. to 12 midnight. Happy hour 5.30 p.m. – 7.30 p.m. daily – half price sushi rolls and select kitchen appetizers. Sake Sundays – half price sake and sake drinks all night.
Valet Parking: $5 for three hours with Tengu Santa Monica validation.
We will not sell or distribute your e-mail address to anyone else.
Written by Amy Grensted