On Thursday I was invited to a very special Happy Hour at Sonoma Wine Garden in Santa Monica. It was located on the top level of Santa Monica Place. I was able to bring my dear friend and fellow food and drink lover Morgan Hall. Our hostess was Camilla Zohn, Marketing Manager for Ozumo Concepts International, a California-based restaurant group that operates the Sonoma Wine Garden as well as Ozumo, which is located at the other end of the rooftop at the mall.
We were to be given samples of some of the latest specials these two restaurants were offering as well as some information about the new concept for the their latest creation, u-sushi which just opened in Beverly Hills. It was sure to be a fun and tasty night!
The first special we were introduced to was Whiskey Wednesdays at Sonoma Wine Garden. The menu offered assorted Whiskey drinks and food pairings to compliment that smoky whiskey flavor. I’m not a whiskey fan…yet. But if I keep getting tasty drinks like The Sonoma Buck – a sweet refreshing whiskey lemonade – or the Blood and Sand – a tangy citrus blend with just a hint of the smoky whiskey flavor – I may become a whiskey fanatic.
The food was also very good. First we were given a trio of treats to pair with the Whiskey drinks. These included, the house cured salmon with herbed cream cheese, lamb meatball sliders with pickled Fresno chilies, and smoked bourbon maple syrup with pork belly. I try to be a pescetarian and not eat meat as much as possible, so I let Morgan taste the pork and the lamb for me and she liked them, but not as much as I loved the salmon. There was a very generous portion of salmon and the cured flavor was delicious.
Next we were offered to try a few things off the menu. I chose the shrimp skewers, the burrata salad and the bruschetta. All of them were delicious. The shrimp were large prawns cooked to perfection. The three bruschetta each had a very distinct taste. There was, white bean saba, sheepsmilk ricotta and eggplant caponata which tasted like a spicy pizza. I liked all three. The burratta salad had to be my favorite item of the evening. It was just the right size and a mix of fresh greens topped with a generous portion of burrata which is one of my favorite foods, and pomegranate seeds that gave it an added sweetness as each seed burst with fruity flavor.
We also tasted and tested the vegetable lasagna which was 80 percent delicious veggies and 20 percent cheese and pasta, which if you are a veggie lover like me, is just perfect. We also tried the salmon pate, which was the only thing on the menu we all agreed tasted a little fishy and we passed on. Everything else was devoured and enjoyed. All of the food tasted very fresh and left me feeling satisfied, not over-stuffed.
Camilla told us that the menu changes every season and they make sure all of their ingredients are as fresh as possible by shopping at the Farmers Market in Santa Monica as much as possible. They have a very extensive menu and I wish I could have tried more, like the tempting pastas and pizzas!
We had to make room for dessert, of course. Our treats of the night were three beautifully presented, assorted chocolates filled with candied curried walnut, sea salt and the last with bacon. Out of pure curiosity, I ignored my vegetarian impulses and gave the bacon chocolate a taste. I personally think that the chocolate and bacon did not compliment each other and I did not like it at all, but if you love bacon, you might love it. The other two chocolates were divine and rich, just the right size to get a little nibble to satisfy my sweet craving.
After dinner and dessert Anthony Lam, the restaurant’s wine steward, filled us in on the details of the VIP wine club. Lam said, “We’re providing our locals or any club member access to tasting events. I make the “Sips from the Cellar” wine list accessible to all members and change it frequently depending on what we have in our wine rooms. I taste basically every day. Anything that I think is absolutely fantastic that I feel the guests must taste I will put on this list.”
We were given a taste of Fourfathers made by the wine maker Nick Goldschmidt from New Zealand. It was a delicious white wine, very crisp and just the right amount of tartness to leave a nice aftertaste.
If you want to try it, they are doing a tasting tomorrow January 29th at 7 pm for only $10 per person and hors d‘oeuvres will be provided. Winemaker Nick Goldschmidt will be bringing his wine in personally!
Camilla was eager to tell us all about Ozumo Concepts International new restaurant u-sushi. “The concept is basically a customizable sushi restaurant. It’s similar to a Chipotle for sushi. You walk in, you pick your rice, you pick your wrap (seaweed or soy), you pick your protein, you pick your veggies, you pick your sauce, and any garnishes that you would like,” she said. This means you have the option to have it in eighths, halves or whole like a burrito. A u-chef takes the roll and puts it into a machine and it automatically cuts it into whatever size you desire. And that’s it, one minute later you’ve got your whole lunch or dinner. It’s priced by the amount of protein, and it’s fun because you can customize it!
U-sushi had their huge grand opening on Thursday the 23rd complete with a ribbon cutting from the Mayor, a 350-lb sumo wrestler and free rolls to the first 300 customers. If you missed the big opening you can still go and find out what his customizable sushi is all about! It’s all waiting for you at 168 S Beverly Dr in Beverly Hills at Charleville. I will definitely be making a visit soon! Mention The Pacific Punch and get 10% off!!!
The night concluded with a tour of the restaurant which was lovely, and then we walked across the mall to Ozumo and were given a quick tour. There just happened to be a huge Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce mixer going on, so the place was packed with people mingling and having a great time! Camilla also told us about a great special they have on Wednesdays called “Love the Locals” and if you live in the zip codes of 90401-90405 or 90291-90296 selections of food and drinks are only $3 all day!
All in all, it was a wonderful evening of culinary delight! We couldn’t have had a more lovely hostess than Camilla. The staff at Sonoma Wine Garden was very friendly and happy to answer any questions and make great recommendations. The food was wonderful and I have discovered that I may be a Whiskey girl after all!
If you love wine, I would definitely like to sway you to pay them a visit and try some of the tasty wines that Anthony Lam has chosen. In addition to Whiskey Wednesdays, they also have a great Happy Hour weekdays from 4-7 pm, Corkage Free Mondays, and Singer Songwriter Tuesdays featuring musician Brett Young who Camilla says is “very easy on the eyes.”
For reservations and information visit their website or call or call 424-214-4560.
Liesl Jackson is a writer/actress/comedian/pet sitter living in the heart of Hollywood. She loves the arts, animals, volunteering, traveling, and attempting to learn the acoustic guitar. Email her at email@example.com. Follow her on twitter @SillyLiesl and follow The Pacific Punch @ThePacificPunch.