By Dolores Quintana
Birdie G’s in Santa Monica has a new Happy Hour and it is something special. For one thing, it really is only an hour. It lasts from 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. in the “Bird’s Nest” portion of the restaurant. What’s really special about it is that the restaurant is serving some really super appetizers and drink specials for reasonable prices as well as offering some more substantial dishes for a bit more.
I did sample some of the dishes at the restaurant and I was amazed by how good they really were. They range between $5 and $15 but they are nothing like what you would expect at your typical happy hour. I tried the Vernors-Baked Ham & Pickled Melon and it was wonderful. What made it so good was the fact that the melon was pickled which gave the dish a sour flavor that enhanced the taste of Vernor’s ham. I am not a melon person, but when I tried the ham and melon snack, I was hooked. It is like the traditional prosciutto e melone, but with a twist of pickling the melon which raised it to another level. On the menu, you can also find Whipped Avocado with Fried Matzo, Kippered Sable Terrine with Crispy Potato Waffles, three kinds of fries (Reuben Fries, Caesar Fries and Fries & Aioli) and Lavender Almonds, I didn’t try any of those, but I definitely would like to visit again so I could.
At the same time, I was treated to Bar Manager Stephanie Reading’s creation Staycation Summer with lime, kumquat, strawberry brandy and tequila which will only set you back about $12.00, its one of the drink specials, and it’s a really solid drink. Light with fruit accents and a little tequila punch with a crust of Tajin and salt on the outside of the glass which makes it look great. You can also find Reading’s Chamomile Lavender Lemonade Mocktail for $4, if you want to stay sober and $6.00 glasses of craft beer. But there’s more, Sommelier Kobi Tsesarsky has assembled a variety of planet-friendly, $12 glasses of wine.
The next dish was the ACG Caesar salad and it was a treat. It is gem lettuce, anchovy, garlic, capers, and an egg yolk bottarga which will cost about $19.00. While eating the salad, I wasn’t sure what to make of it at first, but suddenly the salad came together and I realized that the reason my taste buds didn’t know how to cope with the salad was that this was a genuine Caesar, not the faux version that you so often find in grocery stores or grab and go. It had little crispy anchovies which lent that true Caesar dressing flavor. The croutons were fantastic. Usually, when you eat a crouton, you might want to be careful not to chip a tooth. These croutons were fresh and lightly crispy on the outside. Perfect.
Next up was the Weiser Farms Potatoes, priced at $15, with Mt. Tam cheese sauce and truffle butter layered with basil leaves, I think. This was another decadent choice that really hit the spot. The delicate cheese sauce hit the truffle butter with the velvety soft potatoes and the greens. Absolutely dynamite. So simple, but so comforting.
The most amazing dish to me was the corned beef tongue. Yes, I know what you are thinking, ew tongue. I had a bad experience as a child where I was tricked into eating some really chewy, boiled beef tongue which wasn’t very appetizing and put me off of tongue for most of my life. This dish is corned beef tongue, delicately sliced extremely thin and cooked lightly, with cornichon de bourbonne, clusters of mustard seeds and lovage. One of the hallmarks of the snacks during this happy hour that I tried is that they are all very light, but extremely flavorful, comforting but still satisfying. I was on my fourth dish, but I wasn’t feeling weighed down or overly full. The corned beef tongue was the lightest dish of them all. With the tenderness of corned beef tongue together with the gentle flavors of the accent ingredients, I was wowed. I never wanted to eat tongue again after that chewy nightmare, but I would eat this dish at Birdie G’s again in a heartbeat.
Finally, I had dessert, and once again, I was won over by what is called the World Famous Rose Petal Pie. I think that these menu options are outside of the Happy Hour menu, but only the drinks are bit more expensive than the Happy Hour options. The other desserts are the malted chocolate layer cake, the empress date bundt cake, the peach and basil rice pudding, and their homemade ice cream, but I really felt that I needed to go with the ultimate favorite dessert and what they are known for. It was the right choice. The Rose Petal Pie is like an aspic suspension, but the consistency is very soft and the flavors are delightful, a fruity combination of raspberry, rose and hibiscus with a slightly salty pretzel crust that is highly complimentary. I would have to pronounce it a pie favorite of mine after enjoying it thoroughly. The dessert ranged in price from $7.00 to $14.00, for the Rose Petal pie.
Finally, I had a choice of two after-dinner drinks and I had to complement the bar director personally because the imagination and taste combinations in the bar drinks were truly on point and in harmony with the overall theme of light and flavorful that the happy hour was working. The choices were Not Your Mother’s Grandmother’s Grasshopper, which I found highly interesting as a bit of a connoisseur of classic cocktails and the nitro average brew. I had to go for the coffee-based cocktail though. I will save the grasshopper for another visit. The nitro average brew is cafe luxxe coffee, St. George coffee liqueur, creme de cacao la Vanille, creme de banana, Anejo tequila and mezcal. It comes covered and when you are ready, the server whips the top off and a cloud of smoke rises from the drink. Very impressive and Instagrammable. It’s also light and delicious which is a difficult feat to achieve with mezcal, but Reading managed to do that somehow. Mezcal is a very distinctly smoky spirit, but Reading managed to merge the flavors in the drink so that no one flavor outshined the other.
Birdie G’s new Happy Hour comes with a high recommendation from this reviewer. Light delicate flavors that satisfy and are so comforting in a really welcoming atmosphere. Don’t miss out. You can peruse their menu here. The happy hour menu has a lot of really delicious options and you could visit multiple times and not get bored. Certainly, you would be dining at a Happy Hour that is a cut above most in the city.