A row of striking antlers set off by vibrant lighting dominates the bar upon entering Taberna Arros y Vi, Michael Cardenas’ latest tapas-centered venture in Santa Monica. The restaurant’s mishmash of art and decor include a boar’s head, flickering candles, large chairs and couches, and an assortment of art, providing for a hip, eclectic ambiance that walks the line between intimate and energetic.
We are greeted warmly and settle down to enjoy one of the restaurant’s numerous house-crafted cocktails, the Seasonal Salted Watermelon. A wash of sweet and savory pleasantly tingles our tastebuds and we decide that the tasty cocktail may have been worth the trip to Santa Monica alone. But what meal is complete with just one solo drink? A selection of refreshing sangrias awaits, and who are we to deny ourselves, particularly when a delightful Honey Grapefruit sangria is just begging to be consumed.
But let’s get down to business. Deciding what to order from the extensive menu might seem overwhelming at first, but that’s why the Iberian Gods invented small plates, right? You’ll find a variety of tapas and paellas on chef Verite Mazzola’s menu, including traditional standbys like Gambas al ajillo (Shrimp sautéed with garlic) or Aceitunas Alintadas (Cured Olives) and more creative interpretations, like Pulpo en Lata (Octopus in a Can).
We start off with an order of the Pickled Vegetables, a mix of vegetables with just the right mix of crunch and tanginess, and a welcome briny accompaniment to our dishes still to come. Out comes a Scallop Ceviche, which is plated with sweet pickled fennel, blossoms, herbs and melt-in-your-mouth fried capers. We also order the Mejillones al Vino Blanco, green-lipped mussels that sit in a complex, queso-and-white-wine broth perfect for soaking crusty bread in. Dip in and you might also find bits of chorizo for a nice surprise. Crispy Pig Ears also arrive, paired with a flavorful harissa aioli. We dig in and we’re pleasantly surprised with a tasty, refreshing experience in a tapas realm that can be all too predictable.
READ MORE ON TABERNA ARROS Y VI IN OUR NEWEST ISSUE HERE
Santa Monica, CA 90401