R+D Kitchen and M Cafe

by David Latt
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newcafes.jpgYabu, Il Fornaio and Musha are my favorite restaurants. They have great food and they're comfortable and affordable. I'd go to them every week if I could. Having said that, without realizing it, I'd fallen into a rut. It took my wife, Michelle, to shake things up and get me to try two new restaurants.

R+D Kitchen is part of the Hillstone restaurant group that includes Bandera, Gulfstream, and Houston's among others. Recently opened at 1323 Montana Avenue in Santa Monica, R+D took over an address that was something of a black hole. Montana Lounge and Yu Restaurant had failed. Even a successful entrenpeneur like Wolfgang Puck couldn't make the space work for him. With the Aero theater directly across the street, this should be a good location.

Good design makes such a difference. The previous tenants had sealed off the space, creating dark interiors. Walking into the restaurant, it's easy to see that R+D came up with a fresh approach. With a minimalist design, a skylight in the middle of the dining room, an L-shaped bar to one side, and windows that open out onto Montana, R+D is inviting both inside and out.

newcafes2.jpgA single sheet, bar-style menu focuses on a few choices: sandwiches (cheeseburgers, Reuben Sandwiches, Veggie Burgers), salads (Mediterranean tuna salad, chopped chicken salad, and an heirloom tomato salad), a few entrees (chicken, pasta, omelet, and steak), and one or two specials.

The night we visited the restaurant we came early while it was still light, all the better to enjoy the airy interior. The portions are large. The Featured Sandwich for the day was an ahi tuna burger which the kitchen obliged us by splitting. We shared a salad as well. The Newporter was a perfect salad entree, with pieces of roast chicken sharing the plate with a mix of apples, bacon, cashews and greens. Judging by the crowded tables and with a lively bar and a good wine list, R+D certainly seems to have hit a sweet spot on Montana.

newcafes4.jpgM Café adds a macrobiotic kitchen to the ever-expanding restaurant row on Culver Blvd. Like R+D, M Café is a member of a larger family of restaurants. The Chaya organization in Los Angeles has always been known as a design-savvy company with an eye on fusion cuisine. M Café in Culver City is an inviting restaurant with a large space inside and a shaded patio out front. With its refrigerated cases, the offerings have the feeling of an upscale deli.

If you think that "macrobiotic" means a subsistence diet of whole grains and raw vegetables, you will be pleasantly surprised. M Café bends the rules to include fish. An avoidance of refined sugar, eggs, or dairy doesn't mean that the pleasures of the patisserie are ignored.

newcafes3.jpgAn extensive menu offers salads, rice bowls, sandwiches (hot and cold), sushi, and desserts. As befits a restaurant that has "fusion" embedded in its corporate identity, Cole slaw comfortably shares space in the deli display with whole-grain brown rice inari sushi.

Since Michelle has recently embraced a whole grain, sugar-free, largely vegetarian diet, M Café is a dream-spot for her. With the original M Café at 7119 Melrose, she can enjoy her new diet on the West Side and in town as well.


M Cafe on Urbanspoon


David Latt is an Emmy-award winning television producer who turns to cooking to alleviate stress. He shares his experiences with food and his favorite recipes on his blog Men Who Like To Cook.  

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