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Review Santa Monica's Manchego

(This is an expanded review from the Yelp post.)

Where other restaurants that dot Santa Monica may lapse into that almost inescapable LA pretentiousness, Manchego, on our visit, was an exception. The service from start to finish was welcoming and casual. We didn’t feel rushed, on the contrary, our server was attentive when needed and we enjoyed an unhurried tapas and wine meal. ~ 2518 Main St, Santa Monica, CA 90405

The server walked us through the owner’s story - they created a restaurant to service the neighborhood, the created it to express their affinity for Spanish wines (I think first and foremost), then lapsing into their tastes for tapas. It is as authentic an experience as you will get - amidst a backdrop of a busy Santa Monica street. The restaurant is unassuming. It felt like a small boutique.

At our quaint table, we were lucky to hit happy hour - so we started with a carafe of their house sangria. Cool and refreshing, swimming with peaches and strawberries. For tapas, we started off with extremely delicious deviled eggs. These are at the top of my list for restaurant deviled eggs surely - the measured combination of flavorful yolk (not overly done, seasoned well), avocado, (tasted as pickled) olive, cherry tomato half, and sprouts (they looked like radish sprouts). Each bite had that same measured flavor.

We had the ‘gambas’ (spicy garlic shrimp) - shrimp with a bit of roux and crostini. The shrimp wasn’t as spicy as I would expect, but making sure to have the roux along with it made it worthwhile. (Personally, I would hit the shrimp with a bit of seasoning after plating.)

Then, the ‘membrillo’ pork belly - prepared as membrillo, I believe a sweet-ish quince sauce, marcona almonds and sprouts. Solid addition to the night, and it helped even out the eggs and the gambas.

Last, with our stomachs growing full - we had the short ribs with crispy polenta. The ribs were braised tenderly, and, in my opinion, tasted like mirepoix, red wine, aromatics and tomato paste. Served over a memorable polenta, crispy and evening to the bold sauce. This was extremely filling, be aware - so definitely needs to be shared.

For dessert, an excellent finish - goat cheese and figs. These were served on a crostini, dripping with honey, a strawberry and blackberries. This is just so refreshing considering the state of desserts today - typically too sweet or over-the-top. This dessert punctuated the overall meal. It reminded me of the late weather in Spain.

All this with very decent prices, especially if you make it for happy hour. I look forward to going there again.

If dining, I highly recommend inside - I like to focus on my food and the weather typically runs on the cooler side especially at night.

For parking ~ go for Parking Lot 11, right behind the restaurant - enter from the Hollister Ave. Cost is typically $2 per 2 hours. Only a few blocks from the beach from the restaurant - so perfect place to take a walk after the meal.

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