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The Beach Gourmet: The Wilshire: Accessible Opulence:

Lunch oftentimes is regarded as a simple feeding exercise, bereft of any of the celebratory qualities that an excellent meal demands, and as such this mid-day essential often degenerates into an acceptance of mediocrity.

A good lunch is another thing altogether. Unhurried, it retains the functionality of a breakfast while keeping a focused eye on the splendor of a sumptuous dinner and all the while possessing a lightness that satiates without smothering.

The Wilshire, well known for its evening culinary and social adventures, recently began offering a lunch menu. Under the governance of Executive Chef Chris Blobaum, The Wilshire has availed to us its stylish atmosphere, smart dining room and sun-kissed patio where we can bathe in the pleasure of a good lunch, a very good lunch to be precise, and at a price that belies the quality of the dishes.

As well as a full a la carte lunch menu, The Wilshire now offers prix fixe options for $26 or $35, including a glass of wine. It was this menu that was of interest to me, and so I perused the choices with eager anticipation, having been somewhat familiar with the reputation of Chef Blobaum.

The Wilshire adheres to the respected practice of purchasing 95 percent of its ingredients from local farmers’ markets, family farms and organic growers, and I had this in mind as I waited for my choice of starter, a Moroccan Winter Squash Soup (Bartlett pears, candied walnuts, fried sage), a main course of John Dory (pickled chanterelles, cauliflower, hazelnut crust) and a dessert of Crème Fraiche Brioche Tart (Bartlett pears, dried cherries, toasted almonds).

The soup was light, sweet and delightful, with the Bartlett pears setting off an uncluttered and simple fusion of obviously super- fresh ingredients that I found impossible to fault.

John Dory, or St. Pierre, is one of my favorite fish choices, and again preparation is everything here, lest the result be “John Gory.”

This example was pan-fried with hazelnut crust, and prepared perfectly, sitting atop a delicate bed of finely chopped cauliflower, chanterelle mushrooms, almonds and capers with a touch of white wine and lemon.

It was beautiful, tasty, luscious and light with all the flavors gently escorting the fish, like maids to a queen, unobtrusive and complimentary. Quite delightful indeed.

To round off the proceedings, I was served with a beautifully presented piece of culinary art in the form of Crème Fraiche Brioche Tart.

This delicacy looked almost too well crafted to consume. The brioche pastry was flaky and light and the fruits fresh and scintillating. A delicious dessert, and a great breakfast option also.

So, to sum up, the new lunches at The Wilshire are exquisite and enjoyable, with the attendance of gracious and knowledgeable staff, an attractive environment, and, most importantly, superb American haute cuisine at an affordable price.

Certainly a contender for “The Best of Santa Monica.”

Bon appetit!

The Wilshire, 2354 Wilshire Blvd., 310.586.1707.

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