Tiato Garden Lunch Evokes Feelings of Winery Visit

I arrived in Santa Monica around noon – just in time to meet my friend on her lunch break – so I walked across town to meet her at Tiato (tea-ah-tow).

I’ve written before that Santa Monica is one of my favorite spots in Los Angeles, and I really enjoyed the walk through town this afternoon. The sun had broke through the marine layer and I was comfortable in jeans and a T-shirt – the first time all day I was able to remove my long-sleeve shirt.

The town is very pedestrian friendly – large sidewalks and wide streets, and the landscaping is all very well attended to and the city is rather clean. There was a touch of fall amongst the palm trees today – not all the trees here stay green all year long – but you had to really look to see it.

I felt very relaxed walking into Tiato – the outside garden patio very welcoming and spacious. It sort of reminded me of a winery the way the space was laid out – I definitely felt completely removed.

There is a section in the back of the restaurant where you can order sandwiches, salads, and entrees to go (you can then carry it out or eat it on the patio). They also sell cookies, and the chocolate chip I had for dessert was very thin and crunchy.

I’m getting ahead of myself, though – the dessert was tasty but far from the highlight. I was impressed by the menu – lots of things perked my interested, and I considered the Turkey Taco Salad ($11), the Curry Chicken Salad Sandwich ($11, with apples and raisins), and the Smoked Pulled Pork ($12). A part of me wanted to try the the upscale Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup ($11, a childhood classic), but I ended up going with the Vietnamese Style Baguette ($11).

Vietnamese Style Baguette. Photo courtesy of Tiato.

Why? Because it was the first thing the waitress recommended, and I always take the staff’s advice when there’s no clear-cut favorite. I got it with chicken, carrot, Daikon, cucumber pickles, jalapeno, and cilantro (you can swap the chicken for beef).

It’s true that the bread makes or breaks a sandwich, and my baguette was perfectly baked – it was crispy when I bit into it, but not so crispy as to make the filling squeeze out the end. The owners of the restaurant are Vietnamese – they knew what they were doing on this one – the chicken was loaded with flavor but did not sit heavy. The whole menu follows this focus of heath and freshness – “tiato” is the Vietnamese word for a type of mint.

We capped off the meal with a glass of Snoqualmie Riesling ($5 on special, $6 regular). This one is a sipper – it’s very sweet – and I intentionally left most of it for after the meal so I could enjoy it more as a dessert wine. If you drank enough to wash down your food, the sweetness was overwhelming.

I have to give my friend the proper credit, choosing such a light and comfortable restaurant. This is a great spot for any lunch occasion – whether you’re on the run or ready to enjoy a few glasses of wine in the sunshine.

Later, I’ll stuff my face with Burgers and Beer as the L.A. food and wine festival, TASTE, kicks off tonight at 7 p.m.

Stay tuned for a gluttonous weekend of food.

Vietnamese Style Baguette. Photo courtesy of Tiato.
Photo courtesy of Tiato.
Photo courtesy of Tiato.

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