It’s 5 p.m. Wednesday and the servers of Tar & Roses are huddled around chef/owner Andrew Kirschner. Kirschner is going over the night’s menu with them, working out the previous night’s service kinks, and getting his servers fired up for the evening’s busy dinner service about to start.
So begins every night at Tar & Roses, the new restaurant at the corner of 6th and Santa Monica Blvd., across from the main library. It’s only been open since late January and the restaurant is buzzing with people who’ve come to check out the long-awaited new venture from Chef Kirschner, a creative chef whose resume includes restaurants like Joe’s, Axe, Table 8, and Wilshire. He’s also had a turn on the cooking show, “The Next Iron Chef” Season 3.
Kirschner grew up in Santa Monica and says he got into the culinary world after being exposed to fine dining at an early age by his parents, who traveled and ate out a lot. He remembers the creativity, imagination, and great food at Santa Monica restaurants like Bikini, Michael’s, and a place on Montana called Luna. “Back in that day there were a lot fewer restaurants like that – they opened my eyes to food and what can be done with it,” he said. Very different from your mom and pop kind of restaurants.”
Kirschner describes Tar & Roses as modern rustic; the menu focuses on wood-fired cooking. The kitchen’s star is a ‘mugnaini’ – a wood-burning oven brought in from Italy, which gets much hotter than a traditional oven.
“Cooking with wood is a primal technique that’s been around since the beginning of time he says. “The flavor that you get around wood – there’s nothing like it. That extra couple hundred degrees makes a huge difference in terms of what you can do.”
The menu is organized into snacks, veggies, small plates, and large plates. Try the Popped Corn ($6) with bacon, brown sugar, and chili; the tender braised lamb belly with apple chutney ($11); or a bowl of English peas roasted in the pod ($7), their natural sugar and texture concentrated by the wood oven. There’s even a wood-charred salad of little gem lettuce, pickled sardines, burrata, and mustard ($10). Larger plates include a wood-roasted half chicken ($19) served with an heirloom tomato salad, and a hanger steak ($24) with wood-roasted duck fat potatoes.
Or you can order from the bruschetta, cheese, and charcuterie bar. Here you can mix and match choices like Berkshire lonza, Robiola cheese, and bruschetta piled high with salt cod brandade. Recently, three-course suppers served family style were added to the menu; call ahead to order these ($32 to $39 per person). There’s a good selection of draft and bottled beer, and the wine list includes several by the glass.
The bare concrete floor, high exposed ceiling, and reclaimed wood accents give the space a modern rustic feel, and world music selected by KCRW’s Tom Schnabel plays in the background of this new Santa Monica restaurant. Service is friendly and smooth, and under Chef Kirschner’s watch, you get the feeling you’re in good hands.
Tar & Roses
602 Santa Monica Blvd.