This group is always a good time regardless of where we go. Last night we visited La Sandia, Santa Monica. I was happy to get out of the house and make the drive outside of the 'bubble' with Kim and Amy. A nice drive down PCH with friends beats the freeway at rush hour any day. Plus, there were cocktails awaiting us at the other end.
We were treated to a tasting of their new Latin Lite menu. Nothing over 475 calories! And it was indeed, light. All of it was traditional Mexican cuisine. And while tasty, was pretty standard in it's flavor and constitution. The presentation was simple and elegant on white porcelain square plates. Their appetizer shrimp was the most flavorful (also the most caloric, sadly), and also showed up on their Fajita entree. We had an array of steak, chicken and fish, as well as a delectably grilled portobello mushroom and a very spicy Chile Relleno. Lettuce wraps replaced tortillas (to cut calories), but were very messy to navigate.
The Lite menu drinks had a newly developed 'natural' sweetener called nectreese. I'm always suspicious of any artifical sweetener, and while the claim is natural, I couldn't abide. I opted for a Mango Mojito with all the real stuff in it. That did the trick.
We enjoyed a comfortably satiating meal, lots of chat with friends and plenty of neck craning throughout our visit to see Ben Affleck across the room. I have to say, when I was a kid, this mall was an eye sore. It was built at a time when things weren't that far off the ground (yes, I'm old, sigh). And when it was built, the food court was just becoming the 'thing'. So when I realized that this mall has been revamped, and that the restaurant we were at was in a mall, and Ben Affleck was also eating in a 'mall restaurant', I had to laugh and wince simultaneously. No celebrity would have been caught dead eating in a mall unless they were a teenager. I'd say that celebs have called their bluff, as no average teen can likely afford an upscale restaurant. On the other hand, perhaps I've been living in the 'bubble' for too long. I was less starstruck by Ben than I was by the ambient space indicator lighting system installed in the parking garage to help drivers find open spaces.
(Photo credit: http://www.surfsantamonica.com)
We thought we were done. And then . . . they brought us cones of sugar encrusted churros. One for EACH of us. With dipping sauce. Two kinds. So much for the 'lite' dinner. They were so good. Amy pointed out that she and hot dough have a long and difficult relationship. I completely get it.
So by the way, Ben Affleck, albeit with a streak of gray hair in the still fully covered head, is incredibly good looking in person. Actors are not always what you expect when you come across them in daily life. Growing up in Santa Monica I have seen and known my fair share of entertainment industry folks. I am rarely star struck by any. In fact, I don't really want to meet them. That would destroy the characters and images they have created in my rich fantasy life. Amy actually got him to sit on her finger. We settled on buying him a drink. Better that he come to us than we gush over him like tourists. Didn't happen. Oh well. A missed opportunity for Ben.
The ambience at La Sandia is elegant. It's hard to believe the restaurant is in a mall. Mall food sure has come up in the world. Santa Monica Place has evolved though over the years, from a standard teen hang out mall to an upscale, very high end shopping and dining experience. I was amazed at the parking garage ceiling lighting, designating spaces that are open or not. I don't tend to think of the bubble as that far from society, but if it is, I like it. Does that make me old? Old school? Removed? I guess I don't care. Anyway, The decor was pleasant but unremarkable. The general manager was very knowledgeable and friendly, though he outed Ben being there to us. First rule - protect your clienetele!
Oh, one more thing - they offer a kids meal on a cute, coloring menu. The crayons have sides so they don't roll. Brilliant! Though I can't say I would bring triplets here. We can make a mess at home.