30 Dec Wine, Cocktails, Food and the Best Outdoor Dining is at Fia Santa Monica
Hands down, one of the best restaurant patios in all of Southern California was Wilshire Restaurant in Santa Monica. When it first opened in doors 14 years ago, I lived around the corner and would frequently dine there. When I moved a little further east, I stopped going to Wilshire as it had become a bit more of a club scene. Wilshire finally closed and now the space is back with Fia and it is fantastic.
I had found a parking spot on Wilshire Blvd in front of the restaurant. Instead of walking in the door near the valet, I followed signs down a long walk way.
The walkway led me to the very large and gorgeous outdoor patio. Trees and fresh greenery fill the space and tree lights wind up the trees and hang across the open air giving the space a warm and intimate feeling.
In addition to the outdoor open-air dining, there is plenty of indoor dining in various nooks, some areas more private than others. All in all, Fia can seat 300 people so it really is a very large space, yet it feels intimate when you are seated.
While there is an outdoor bar, I worked my way through the patio and inside until I found the indoor bar. The large rectangular bar looked familiar but the space is so much brighter, lighter, and warmer than when it was Wilshire.
If you are heading to Fia for drinks, you can enter directly into this bar by walking through the entrance from the valet parking lot.
Fia, named after the Irish Saint Fiacre, a Catholic priest, abbot, hermit, and gardener of the seventh century, is a California-Italian inspired restaurant that represents the Pacific Coast to the Amalfi Coast. The cocktail menu was curated by barman Vincenzo Marianella who created produce-driven cocktails with Italian flavors. We started our night with cocktails.
The 25th Sour is made with bourbon, homemade Lambrusco syrup, fresh lemon juice, organic pasteurized egg white, and angostura bitter. The Adelaide is made with gin, fresh lime, chamomile-ginger syrup, blackberries, fresh basil, and sparkling wine. Both delicious cocktails with balanced flavors and savory acidity.
When we sat down for dinner, we shifted to wine and were able to select two lovely white Italian wines from a list that has been nicely curated by Kaitlyn Harrah with primarily California and Italian wines, but a lot of interesting varieties and small producers.
To pair with our wines, we had a lot to chose from the menu. Brendan Collins, who was previously at Birch and Waterloo & City, has created a seafood-forward menu with fresh California products and an Italian touch. The menu offers five sections:
In the Raw is a selection of crudos, and of the three we tried, each was super fresh fish with bold flavors.
Kampachi, Calabrian Chili, Ginger Brunoise
Hamachi, Leche de Tigre, Basil Radish
Big Eye Tuna, Acqua Pazza, Avocado Mousse, Black Garlic Aioli
The Next section offers salads, meat and cheese boards and other small dishes. While we did not order anything from this section, the next time I go to Fia, I plan to try the many of dishes in the Next section.
The following section, After That, is where you will find the pastas. We selected the Grilled Spanish Octopus, Anelli e Fagioli. Two large octopus tentacles are perfectly cooked with a nice char on the surface and sit in a broth with large beans and anelli, delicate little pastas shaped in circles.
From the Veggies section, we enjoyed the Gigante Butter Beans, Rapini, Vegetable Bouillon in which the butter beans are served al dente.
The main courses are found under the section From The Big Bad Montague…..and we selected the Black Cod, Buerre de Paris, Sauteed Spinach, Pumpkin Seeds. Anytime I see buerre on a menu, I am immediately drawn to it. The delicate fish was matched against the rich butter and the pumpkin seeds added an unexpected texture and flavor.
We did not make it to dessert on this visit but I know I will be back to Fia. Sitting outdoors, whether it is warm outside or chilly, dinner at Fia is a wonderful experience. Luckily, I do not live too far from the restaurant.
2454 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica