Archive for the 'Il Grano – Santa Monica' Category

Il Grano

I am going to sound like a broken record but I must repeat that Il Grano is a “must go” restaurant. Chef/Owner Sal Marino is amazing – his attention to detail, his extraordinary ability to get the best ingredients and his gift in that he lets the ingredients shine and not give you overwrought cuisine. We invited good friends to join us for a meal at Il Grano  – another meal of amazing company, extraordinary food and unbelievable wine.

Grano - champagne

BYO Champagne

Grano - crostini

Crostini with sautéed shishito peppers, dried bead crumbs, toma cheese

grano - smelt

Fried Wakasagi – Japanese smelt – with a sauce reminiscent of guacamole – pepper and smashed avocado

grano scallop

Seared Hokkaido scallop, oscetra caviar, Sequoia cherries, Purple carrrot and coffee sauce

Grano corton

BYO Corton

grano lobster

Lobster Catalonia, marinated onions, tomatoes, olive oil, basil

grano - montrachet

BYO Montrachet

grano - mushrroom

Porcini Mushroom Carpaccio, arugula, sundried tomatoes, parmesan, olive oil

grano - pea soup

English pea soup, olive oil, edible flowers

Grano - Lynch

BYO Lynch Bages

Grano - papparadelle

Home-made pappardelle, peasant ragu

Grano - Chateau de Beaucasse

BYO – last red wine!

Grano - rabbit

Rabbit stuffed with artichokes, caramelized onions, rabbit demi glace, edible flowers

Grano - lamb

Lamb loin, lamb chop, potatoes parmentier (my notes are very sketchy at this point!)

Grano - dessert

Apricot with amaretto, nectarine peaches with fresh mint, sequoia cherries with white chocolate

What a meal!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! A+++++++++++++++++++++

Il Grano

In my last post about Il Grano I made the comment that this was a “must go” restaurant. That comment absolutely still holds true – Chef/Owner Sal Marino is amazing! We invited good friends to join us for a meal at Il Grano and a 4 hour meal felt like 4 minutes – amazing company and extraordinary food.

Gran- wine table

A table just for our wines! John forgot to take a picture of each wine but this is some of what we had.

Gran Champagne

Gran- Chablis

Gran - red wine

Gran red wwine 2

Not too shabby!

Now to Sal’s wonderful food. We just let Sal devise a tasting menu.

Gran- first amuse

On the left a purple carrot tart, lemon, mascarpone and on the right wild big eye tuna toro, blood orange sauce

Gran- crudo

Sal’s crudo plate – nobody does crudo better than Sal. Starting from the right: Scallop with saffron aioli, Tuna with schezwan pepper sauce, Japanese red snapper with squid ink sauce and not pictured (my photographer wasn’t great) Luna oyster with mandarin sauce

Gran prawns

Grilled Santa Barbara prawns, prawn roe, arugala salad, horseradish jelly on the far right – absolutely spectacular

Gran razor clams

Razor clams, Japanese yuzu kosho – “Yuzu Kosho (aka yuzugosho) is a Japanese seasoning paste made by blending together yuzu fruit zest, chile peppers and salt.”

Gran pea soup

Pea soup, olive oil, salt, pepper, edible flower – Sal uses no dairy just the pristine ingredient handled brilliantly

Gran - Spanish mackereel

Grilled Spanish mackerel, needle sauce, bluesde spinach – look at the pristine quality of that fish handled with a deft hand

Gran - lobster and pasta

Maine lobster, julienne of zucchini, lobster reduction, tagliatelle

Gran - ravioli

Ravioli stuffed with capon and beef, eggplant sauce, sautéed radicchio, pine nuts

Gran - rabbit

Rabbit loin, sausage, brussel sprouts

Gran - strudel

Apple strudel, raisin, pineapple, caramel sauce, vanilla gelato

This was an A+ meal – Sal is an incredible chef who features the best ingredients and knows how to use those ingredients that brings out their best qualities. He is not a chef that throws 30 ingredients on a plate and hopes that something will catch your fancy. This is a chef’s chef.

Il Grano

Usually I end with a bottom line comment about my overall feeling about a restaurant. This time I am starting with my bottom line – A MUST GO restaurant!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It has been way too long that we haven’t been back to Il Grano – my last post was 2008. What a mistake on our part. Chef/Owner Salvatore Marino dazzles you with his unbelievable sourcing of the freshest of fish and given that we are at the end of tomato season the most amazing array of every imaginable tomato known to man. Ingredient sourcing is extraordinary but what sets Sal’s cuisine apart is his deft ability to let the ingredients “speak” or what Thomas Keller would refer to as “finesse.”

Grano - Sal

Sal was terrific. He came out to greet us, helped us pick our white wine and then said the magic words – just let me cook!  His enthusiasm is contagious and I was excited before my first bite.

Grano - white wine

A terrific white wine from their list

Grano - bread

Bread served with olive oil to be placed in the white part of the dish

The next two dishes we shared – we ate half although my significant other is not great about sharing!

Grano - greengazpacho

Green Zebra Tomato Gazpacho with olive oil and dried black olives. On the side a tart filled with purple carrot puree with a touch of schewan pepper

Grano - red gazpacho

Sunrise Tomato Gazpacho with olive oil, dried black olives and the purple carrot puree tart – both Gazpachos were absolutely terrific

Grano oyster

Luna Oyster served in a dish designed by Mori ( the famed sushi chef of the famed Mori restaurant)

Grano - crudo

Crudo – from left to the right – Japanese snapper, burrata cheese, Indigo tomato, basil — Wild Blue Fin Tuna, Saffron aioli, arugula —- Hokkaido Scallop, Squid Ink Sauce — this was off the charts A+ – I could go to Il Grano and have an entire crudo menu!

Yellowtail Tasting:

Grano yellowtailtartare

Yellowtail Tartare with Shaved White Truffle

Grano - yellowtail tasting

The dish as presented – grilled loin of yellowtail, grilled belly, grilled collar and the tartare – I am in fish nirvana.

As I mentioned earlier Sal is the tomato “KING” of Los Angeles. He grows them, pampers them and gets the best from each variety.

Grano - tomato tasting

Caprese with 12 different kinds of tomatoes, burrata, wild arugula – there was no way that I could get our very patient waiter Fabio to get me the name of every tomato but what a wonderful seasonal dish

Grano - red wine

BYO Red Wine

Grano - uni pasta

Bigoli al Nero- Squid ink Pasta, Santa Barbara sea urchin sauce – I love uni and this is a justifiable signature dish

Grano - octopus

Maccheroncini Polipo – artisanal maccheroncini, octopus bolognese, bone marrow – spicy in a good way

Grano - bad pic of fish

An absolutely horrible photo – Black Cod, Autumn Caponata, Butternut Squash, Celery Root, Lobster reduction – delicious

Grano - duck

Anatra – duck breast, brussel sprouts, black mission figs, smoked duck demi glace –  saucing was perfect, the meat perfectly cooked, what more can one ask for?

This was a fantastic meal. I can’t wait to go back to Il Grano. This really is a must restaurant for anyone who loves great food executed by the talented and gracious Sal.

Il Grano

Our usual style at Il Grano is to say to Sal, chef/owner, you cook and we’ll eat. We are right in the middle of tomato season and many of the dishes featured tomatoes, all from Sal’s garden. This menu was an ode to summer.

Before we started our meal, Sal came out with a huge piece of Kobe, letting us know what he had in mind toward the end of our meal. He was like a proud papa and made sure that we saw that the markings said Japan. This was not Wagyu.

First Course – Anchovies, yellow bell peppers, Heirloom tomatoes and red onion slices – light, fresh, ingredient-driven


Second Course – Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho with Dungeness Crab and Micro Celery – Again summer in a bowl

Third Course – Japanese Snapper served sashimi style and topped with oven-dried tomatoes, Burrata cheese and basil puree – It is so obvious that Sal goes to the Japanese fish market every morning – absolutely sashimi quality fish.


Fourth Course – Lightly Grilled Maine Scallops, Lightly Grilled Blue Fun Tuna with arugala and black truffle sauce – This was an A dish and that black truffle sauce was perfect with the tuna and scallops.


 Fifth Course – Heirloom Tomato Salad – I hope that I got the varieties correctly as Sal was rattling off the names very quickly. Starting at the 1:00 o’clock position –Green Zebra, Early Girl, Moonglow and Cherokee, Sunrise, Sweet 1000 with Burrata. (As an aside, the woman at the table next to us ordered a green salad and insisted that there be no tomatoes. Boy, did her eyes open wide when this was served.) Delicious


Sixth Course – Candy-shaped Ravioli with buttara. The ravioli was filled with mozzarella and mozzarella cream. The saucing was a tomato and basil sauce.

Inside of the ravioli


 Seventh Course – Wild Japanese Snapper that Sal picked up that morning at the Fish Market.

Snapper – simply grilled


Sal “works” on the presentation tableside.

Plated – I honestly don’t remember the accompaniments – I just got so excited seeing the fish that I forgot to take any notes.


 Eighth Course Grilled Albacore Tuna with Spinach. I can’t read my notes re the saucing.


Ninth course – Dover Sole from Japan with fingerling potatoes

Tenth course – Kobe Beef from Japan with matsutake mushrooms, cauliflower and truffle sauce

Eleventh course – Peach Filo with Gelato and Raspberry sauce



An excellent meal – completely ingredient-driven. This is not haute cuisine, just delicious food presented simply.