Dinner at La Sandia

Sept. 4, 2013

If you’re a huge fan of Latin food, then don’t walk, run to La Sandia…what an experience! It seems that Latin food has made one huge comeback in Los Angeles, but not just any average Mexican cuisine, we are talking high end, adventurous, and bold. La Sandia has been at Santa Monica place since it opened 4 years ago. Flavors that you won’t forget linger like daylight in the summer. Hot, savory hints of Mexican salsa dancing in your mouth.

Upon entering, the interior is such a pleasure to look at. You immediately get lost in the arches, and spaciousness. The interior is modern hacienda, meaning fusion of modern and old style hacienda. It feels like your inside a mission but with a very stylish twist in that, you are surrounded in luxury. Everything about this place is unique, like the rod iron light fixture that stretches the entire length of one of the dining rooms. Also, the ceiling is at least 20 feet high, which adds expansiveness and creates a perfect setting to the wonderfully appointed furniture.

The furniture has an exotic feel and is an ideal match for the arches in the middle of the dining room. These arches separate the patio, and the smaller rooms. Also, as an added touch, is an electric glass ceiling that opens up the middle room into a patio. The music that was playing during my dining experience was a perfect blend of British pop meets contemporary Mexican ie. Ricky Martin was represented. Types of clientele are young families, and couples on dates, and all seem to be having the time of their lives. The sounds of clinking glasses and laughter echoed through the arches the entire evening.

My server, Stephen Simmons, who is originally from Palm Springs, made my tasting very memorable. Being half Chinese and half Mexican he is a perfect fit for La Sandia… Exotic! He was so knowledgeable about our fare it was like our server was a walking food Wikipedia. He was truly amazing, knowing everything about every food item, and every drink item on their menu. Head Chef Eduardo Barrios became head chef after working in lot of different positions in the past year. He worked previous at Coral Café and Fred 75 Bistrot.

Their tequila menu alone is a huge achievement, ranging in price from $9.00 to $58.00 a shot. If you love your shots of tequila, La Sandia will not disappoint.

Here’s what I tried:

BBQ GRILLED CHICKEN BREAST with tomato, corn, panela, Cheese, black beans, lettuce mix, crispy tortilla
cilantro ranch dressing. What I really loved about this salad, is the great dressing, I am hooked.

AVACADO STUFFED with sautéed citrus adobo shrimp,
corn relish, cilantro pesto, chile chipotle aioli. Although this is a great salad, I would eat the BBQ chicken salad hands down over this one.

TORTILLA SOUP with creamy chile guajillo broth, crema fresca, avocado, and crispy tortilla. The flavor of this soup will stick with you for a long-time, nice creamy consistency too, a real winner.

MEXICAN CHICKEN SOUP with shredded chicken, chipotle-chicken broth Mexican rice, avocado, onion, cilantro, crispy tortilla. This is like grandma’s chicken soup with a Latin twist.

GUACAMOLE, prepared tableside with avocado, tomato, onion, cilantro, and chile Serrano. There is such a difference in this preparation. The flavors really pack a punch.

GRILLED QUESADILLAS with Mexican cheeses, roasted tomato, chipotle aioli, well rounded cheesy goodness in every bite.

BEEF & CHORIZO EMPANADAS with braised beef, chorizo, raisins, Oaxaca cheese, almond, chipotle sauce. Wow what a treat! Sweet and savory, simply the best empanadas ever!!

CHICKEN FLAUTAS, Chicken tinga rolled in a crispy corn tortilla, chile morita salsa, cotija cheese, black bean purée, crema fresca. These were good too, but the empanadas really got my attention.

CHICKEN TINGA TAMALES, steamed in corn husks, avocado, crema fresca sweet chiptole sauce. I liked the sweet corn tamales here much better then this dish.

SHRIMP CEVICHE with shrimp, creamy citrus-habanero broth, avocado tomato, pickled onion. There is lots of shrimp dripping with creamy citrus habanero broth, very tasty.

GRILLED STEAK TACO with grilled Harris ranch hanger steak, cilantro, onion lime, and salsa roja. The richness of the beef and the seasonings make this taco a must have.

BAJA TACO with grilled fish, chipotle aioli, Mexican slaw, corn avocado. This is not your typical fish taco; it is not fried, so it’s healthy and not so filling.

GRILLED SHRIMP FAJITAS with achiote-citrus-herb marinade, salsa verde- iron skillet fajitas
served with sautéed bell pepper and citrus
marinated onion in a cast iron skillet, with
guacamole, Mexican rice, charro beans, salsa,
crema fresca and flour tortillas (half pound). These were good, but not my favorite shrimp dish.

ENCHILADAS with Oaxaca, Chihuahua and Monterey cheeses, tomatillo sauce, crema fresca. Very straight forward, if you’re an enchilada aficionado then you will love these.

PORK CARNITAS, with slow roasted pork shoulder, corn tortillas, charro beans, salsa verde, habanero salsa,
guacamole, pickled onion now this is something very special, great flavor just melts in your mouth.

CHIPOLTE PRAWNS with grilled shrimp, achiote-chipotle sauce, white rice sautéed with market vegetables and black bean. Ok so these prawns are award winning, this dish over the shrimp fajitas any day.

GRILLED SALMON with mild spice-citrus marinade, chile morita sauce, tomatillo-mango salsa. Well rounded, bold, this is a hearty menu item.

Here are the drinks that I tried:

POMEGRANITE MARGARITA, with real pomegranate seeds, and thirst quenching good ness, I love this drink. Fresh pomegranate margarita infuses tequila with fresh pomegranate and citrus

CORONITA MARGARITA, choice of frozen tropical fruit margarita coronita bottoms up with a tajin rim. Such an interesting presentation, it is a huge glass goblet, with a holder on the rim for a small bottle of corona beer. With each sip the corona manages to pour into the existing ice blended margarita, what a concept. It is delicious!

SPICY ORANGE, with tequila infused with chile Serrano, fresh orange citrus, on the rocks. For all of your hot pepper junkies, this drink will work nicely for you.

CADILLAC TRADICIONAL, with cuervo tradicional reposado tequila Grand marnier, citrus, rocks. I love this margarita; the grand marnier just adds the right amount of syrupy orange to the party.

DON JULIO 1942, with its vanilla, toffee and smooth finish, it will put some lead in your pencil.

CLASSIC AZUL, sweet clean and crisp.
They also have vertical and horizontal tequila flights.


Citrus-lemon, pear, vanilla and oaked wine. This wine went great with the salmon, with its oaky flavors.

TRIVENTO RESERVE, MALBEC, ARGENTINA. This wine added a lot of character to the beef taco.


CARAMEL FLAN, Mexican custard, caramel, pineapple-strawberry pico. The best flan I’ve had in a long time.

EL TRES LECHES, chiffon cake, house blend of three milks, walnut brittle. This cake is the absolute bomb, so moist, dripping with great sweet milky essence.

CHURROS, cinnamon, sugar, cajeta, abuelita chocolate sauce. Love these as well, cinnamon crispy goodness.

La Sandia is just one more of the prolific chef Richard Sandoval’s many restaurants. Growing up in Mexico City, Chef Sandoval was inspired by his grandmother’s cooking; she prepared authentic Mexican feasts from scratch. From his grandmother, he learned to respect fresh, authentic ingredients and to create the vibrant flavors that turned family dinners into celebrated events. Also, his restaurateur father, owner of Madeiras and Villa Fiore in

Acapulco, taught him about service and restaurant management.
In 2003, Chef Sandoval and opera star Placido Domingo partnered their first joint venture Pampano, which lead to many more endeavors. Pampano is located in midtown Manhattan, and serves Mexican coastal cuisine. In 2004 he opened Zengo in Denver his first Latin-Asian restaurant.

Richard Sandoval Restaurants is a leading international restaurant group with outlets in Denver, Las Vegas, New York City, Santa Monica, Washington DC, Mexico, Dubai and Qatar. The group includes Tamayo in Denver; Zengo in Denver, Washington DC, New York City and Santa Monica; La Sandia in Denver, Washington DC metro area and Santa Monica; Maya in New York City and Dubai; Pampano in New York City and Qatar; Isla in Las Vegas; Masa 14 in Washington DC; and Venga Venga in Snowmass Village.

In addition to all of this, Chef Sandoval has developed custom menus for Raya at the Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel; Ketsi at the Four Seasons, Punta Mita; La Hacienda at the Fairmont Princess, Scottsdale; Brasserie La Moderna at Hotel Brick, Mexico City; T&T at the Luxor, Las Vegas; and DohYO and TERRACE at Yotel, New York.

Chef Sandoval has received many awards. He was a semi-finalist for the prestigious James Beard “Outstanding Restaurateur” award, as well as the Cordon d’Or “Restaurateur of the Year” in 2011. In the same year, Raya was recognized as “Restaurant of the Year” by Riviera Orange County, while Pampano in Qatar was voted “Best Seafood” by Time Out, Doha and Maya was awarded “Best Latin-American” by Time Out, Dubai.

Chef Sandoval was Bon Appetit’s prestigious Restaurateur of the Year in 2006, and he was named one of the “Best Chefs of 2003” by New York Magazine. Maya and Pampano are the only two Mexican restaurants to have been awarded two stars by The New York Times. International accolades include the National Toque d’Oro, Mexican Chef of the Year, and the MENA’s Best Fine Dining Restaurant award for the experience at Maya, Dubai.

The thing that I wasn’t prepared for when I walked through the door is just how delectable and special the food is. It is outstanding in every way. La Sandia gets it so right with all their items. This place will forever make me crave some dishes that I never knew I would.

La Sandia
395 Santa Monica Pl. #305
Santa Monica, CA. 90401


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