119 Broadway Blvd., Santa Monica
We visited The Yard Friday @ 10 pm
Dish we will try to cook – Skirt Steak $18
After visiting 25 different restaurants in the Los Angeles area for our blog, with the majority of those visits being the first time to the restaurant, you would think we’d be use to the idea that there are such wonderful places to eat near where we live. Yet here we are on our “Y” restaurant post, once again being pleasantly surprised. With a few exceptions (Melisse, Rustic Canyon, Michael’s, and a few places on Main Street and Montana Avenue), Santa Monica isn’t a town known for its to-die-for restaurants. Being located on the beach, Santa Monica is very popular with tourists and therefore most dining establishments and bars are over-run by loud, annoying out-of-towners. The Yard, is the hidden gem amongst all the hustle and bustle of the newly redesigned Santa Monica Place. It holds true to their tagline: Your Neighborhood Gastropub.
The foodies out there may recognize chef Chris Jacobson’s name from season 3 of Top Chef or more recently as the sous chef for Michael Chiarello on Top Chef Masters. Or if any of you are die hard volleyball fans, you may recognize him from his formers days as a professional volleyball player, which, due to traveling for competing, is where he developed his love for different foods and flavors. Apart from these merits, chef CJ began his culinary career as a private chef for the likes of Arianna Huffington and the Marciano Family (of the Guess Corporation). After outgrowing his original restaurant site of offering dinner in the backyard of a beach house in Santa Monica, chef CJ opened The Yard on the corner of Broadway and Ocean Blvd. in 2008.
After a short walk, we arrived at The Yard around 10pm on Friday night to a lively atmosphere. We passed the time of a 20 minute wait for a table by enjoying drinks at the large bar towards the back of the restaurant. In fact, the restaurant is about half bar and half tables for dining, with an oversized, long table between the two areas that can be used for either purpose. The bar has large chalkboards with lists of beers hanging overhead and a large T.V. for watching the game. While we sipped on beer and a mojito, we had ample time to people watch and really get a feel of the place. We noticed chef CJ interacting with guests at one end of the bar, and what seemed to be a large group of friends out sharing drinks on a Friday night surrounding the long table. While the crowd was loud, they weren’t annoying. Most patrons were in their late 20’s – 30’s, casually dressed for a night out. This was definitely not a crowd of tourist living it up in LA, or college kids out for the sole purpose of getting wasted. This was a crowd of true Santa Monica locals.
We hadn’t researched much on the place or food before showing up for dinner so we weren’t quite sure exactly what to expect. Soon, we discovered a diverse menu full of Santa Monica Farmer’s Market fresh ingredients. The menu had 2 salads, seafood, beef, fried chicken, fish tacos, scallops and pork. While they are known for their House Ground Yard Burger (aged angus, chuck, short rib), we decided to order the persimmons salad (dallop of buratta, grilled bread, pomegranate seeds, mint) $11, the skirt steak (watercress, grilled balsamic grapes, horseradish crème fraiche) $18, and the mac n cheese (pancetta, sautéed market kale, crispy bread crumbs) $14.
The persimmon salad was a daily special not printed on the menu and we ordered it because we haven’t had much experience with persimmons but had noticed them at many of the tables at the farmer’s market. Wow. That sums up what we thought about the dish and expresses our excitement for the main courses. The salad was simple and smart. Chef CJ didn’t fuss with the dish, he let the ingredients shine and impress. The persimmons were at the peak of ripeness and easy to cut with a fork, combine that sweetness with the salty burratta and bold mint and all the taste buds were awakened. Our only disappointment with the salad is that we would have liked a few more pomegranate seeds. We can’t wait to go to the farmer’s market and bring home some persimmons to recreate this dish. Actually, we would have picked the salad to highlight this week, but we thought it was a bit too close to the fig appetizer we prepared from Rustic Canyon. So instead, we encourage you to go to The Yard soon, while the persimmon salad might still be on the menu.
As we had expected, the skirt steak and mac n cheese main course plates were created with the same balance of bold, natural flavors and playful combinations of ingredients. The mac n cheese is not your normal kid-meal variety. Chef CJ prepares the bowl using orecchiette noodles in a light, white cheese sauce. The sauce is a sophisticated blend of cheeses that are both cheesy (for lack of a better word) and mild. Sauteed kale is a surprising ingredient that kicks it up a notch and makes you feel like an adult while eating it. Our waitress pointed out how instead of serving the mac n cheese is a deep bowl where it can lump together, they started serving theirs in a more shallow yet wide bowl so that the bread crumbs could cover more surface area and create a nice crispy crust for every bite. Even Romeo, who notoriously doesn’t like mac n cheese, commented that he actually enjoyed the dish. The skirt steak was a bit more complicated of a plate than the mac n cheese, yet still restrained enough to let the ingredients do the talking. We ordered ours rare, and the meat was tender to the fork and full of juice. In fact, our only complaint of the dish was that the meat had not been allowed to rest long enough before being served and a bit too much of the juice (and blood) had pooled out onto the plate when they sliced it for plating. The horseradish crème fraiche gave the dish a welcomed boldness yet surprisingly was light and didn’t over power the flavor of the beef or the grilled balsamic grapes.
Our plan was to save a little bit of room for dessert, but we just couldn’t do it. Our waitress, Kara had noticed our not-so-subtle tripod and camera on the table and started chatting with us about our blog. She even surprised us with a plate of their arancini (crispy risotto balls, spicy marinara) $9, so we could experience even more of the dishes they offer. While we loved them, we had to laugh recalling our previous adventure of trying to replicate the arancini from Bottega Louie for our second blog post. To this day, Romeo thinks risotto is the bain of all rice dishes. However, we were delighted to try The Yard’s version and decided that we liked there’s much more than Bottega Louie’s. The outside of the balls were super crispy, while the inside was satisfyingly creamy and smooth. Their rice was cooked to perfection and the spicy marinara was a perfect combo to the creamy cheese in the risotto. As we were enjoying the arancini, another waitress stopped by to asked for one of our We Can Cook That business cards so she could read about what we do as well. (We’d like to say hello to both Kara and Helena as you read this!)
The four dishes plus a few beers and a blood orange martini left our taste buds happy and our stomachs full. We had such a fun time at The Yard and hope to return often to try more of the dishes chef CJ and his crew offer. If you’re young (or young at heart), like to have fun, and live on the Westside, we definitely recommend spending a night out at The Yard. Due to the lively patrons and loud music being played, the restaurant isn’t one for quiet romance but is the perfect place for drinks with friends and great food. Be sure to check our their website as they have all types of events being offered weekly, from Thursday night grilled cheese dishes to bourbon tastings. They even have a late night menu from 11-1am and brunch on the weekend.
(prices reflect the cost of the package, not the portion we used.) The rest of the ingredients we already had in the kitchen.
Cream Fraiche $4.49
Skirt Steak $8.98
Black Grapes $5.51
Below is our take on skirt steak with watercress, grilled balsamic grapes and horseradish crème fraiche. While we have no idea exactly how they prepare theirs, we looked around online for recipes then combined that knowledge with the flavors we tasted in the original dish and went from there.
Makes 2 servings.
1 lb skirt steak
1 bunch watercress (cut from stems and rinsed)
6 black seedless grapes
1 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tsp horseradish
1/4 cup crème fraiche
3 TBSP unsalted butter
1 TBSP Olive oil
salt and black pepper
Marinate grapes in balsamic vinegar for at least 1 hour, or up to overnight. Using a stovetop griddle, grill grapes for around 1 minute. Remove from heat and allow grapes to cool. Mix crème fraiche and horseradish together and chill.
Next, season steak with salt and pepper. Melt butter and 1 TBSP olive oil in a pan on medium-high. Place steak in pan and allow steak to cook about 4 minutes on each side or until medium-rare, continuously bathing in butter. Remove steak from heat and allow to rest for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, lightly drizzle watercress with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and toss.
On bottom of plate, place about a 1/8 cup of crème fraiche in center. Layer with skirt steak and top with watercress. Lightly drizzle olive oil around the edge of crème fraiche. Finish with 2 to 3 balsamic grapes on sides of steak.
Rating- We give our dish 4 out of 5 stars.
For all our readers out there, we strongly encourage you to try and make this dish. It is very simple and straight forward, yet the flavors are bold and make you want to eat every bite off of your plate. Even if cooking is not your forte, this dish is very approachable and something anyone can easily do in less than an hour.
Our high notes:
We feel we cooked our steak perfectly and more or less matched the flavors from the original dish. We also gave ourselves some points based on allowing our steak to rest long enough not to let the juices run on the plate.
Our low notes:
The creme fraiche had the right flavor, but we feel we could have used a bit more horseradish and used a little less mixture on the plate overall. Also, we could have grilled our grapes a little longer. Lastly, based on the comparison pictures, it looks like The Yard may have lightly wilted the watercress.
After all was said and done we still had one of our more successful dishes that we were happy to write about. We’d love to hear your experiences on cooking this dish and if you’re ever in the neighborhood, we’ll be more than happy to meet up for dinner and drinks at the Yard.
How would you rate our recipe? We look forward to hearing feedback from you guys. Feel free to email us if you have any questions on the recipe and don’t forget to vote for next week’s restaurant!