Review: Michael's In Santa Monica Still Looks Like 1979, But It Tastes Very 2017

Have you been to Michael's lately? Because the Stellas are still on the walls, the Charles Garabedian drawings are still kind of naughty, and the guys at the front bar are still drinking complicated things that involve whiskey more expensive than you can afford. It's all very disco-era until you get out to the tented patio, where it is still pretty late-'70s except that the Robert Graham frieze is as good as anything you've seen at a museum lately and the foliage springs eternal; the seaside California we all wish we still lived in, where the people at the next table are just back from the Venice Biennale and you could probably throw together a gallery exhibit featuring nothing more than the customers' shoes.

But that bowl in front of you — it might contain a bit of chopped summer squash, some cherries, rose geranium-scented cream and crisped grain; a vegetable appetizer that could pass as dessert. The wine in your glass is likely to be an orangey-pink skin-contact white from Slovenia instead of a Napa Sauvignon Blanc, and the bread on the table is dark and profoundly sour. Your last course may have been an uni-frosted spoonful or two of the Japanese custard called chawan mushi; your next may be include pork neck, cauliflower and a vaguely Thai-inflected coconut cream. The chef, Miles Thompson, late of the defunct modernist Echo Park restaurant Allumette, likes dusky greens and splashes of citrus, whole grains and pungent cheese, fermented things and custardy sauce.

Find out why the décor doesn't need to be updated when the menu is this good in the rest of the review.