99 Essential Restaurants 2014

Rustic Canyon

photo by Anne Fishbein

Since chef Jeremy Fox took over the kitchen at Rustic Canyon in the beginning of 2013, Josh Loeb and Zoe Nathan’s convivial Santa Monica restaurant has had a renewed sense of purpose. Fox, who earned star status as chef of the meat-free Ubuntu in Napa, unsurprisingly has a deft touch with fruit and vegetables. Where other chefs in town serve beets with their goat cheese, Fox accompanies his with vibrant green kiwi fruit, topped with curlicue pea tendrils, pine nuts and the sweet tang of saba. But Fox also is flexing some serious creative muscle with the restaurant’s meatier pleasures, like a slick coppa de testa topped with a lovely bread salad. If you’re craving posole, Rustic Canyon serves one of the best versions in town, its salsa verde underpinning as bright as spring and rife with the brine of the mussels and clams swimming in the broth. The restaurant remains a boon for wine lovers — indeed, the entire California-chic operation feels as close to wine country as you can get without leaving the city — and Nathan’s influence as one of our city’s best bakers shows itself on the brief, seasonally driven dessert menu.

-- Besha Rodell