A few Fridays ago, The Astronomer and I were treated to dinner at Whist restaurant as guests of the Viceroy Hotel. Executive Chef Tony DiSalvo recently introduced a new assortment of Mediterranean-inspired dishes to the menu, and we were excited to come in for a taste.
Tucked into the first floor of the dimly-lit hotel, Whist boasts a thoroughly modern space that feels more intimate than your everyday hotel eatery. Here, Chef DiSalvo, an alum of New York City’s Gramercy Tavern and Jean Georges, prepares a diverse menu with Spanish, Italian, and French leanings.
The dining room was mostly empty when we arrived for our 8 PM reservation, save for two parties finishing up an early dinner. The nearby lounge and outdoor pool area, on the other hand, were bumpin’ with weekend revelers.
Dinner started off with a slate of bread—pretzel, cranberry, and dark brown. The pretzel and brown bread were jaw-achingly chewy, while the cranberry quick bread was very good but a little on the sweet side for a starter.
For appetizers, The Astronomer and I ordered a plate each from the “Nibbles” and “Small Plates” portion of the menu. The garlic shrimp arrived in a petite pot with mild chilies, slices of preserved lemon, and fresh parsley ($15). The dish was simple and well prepared, if a little boring.
Once the meatballs ($11) arrived at the table, I all but forgot about the shrimp. The Chef’s meatballs are handmade daily using a family recipe that has been handed down for generations. Comprised of ground pork, beef, ricotta, and Parmesan cheese, the meatballs were loosely packed and packed a zesty punch.
For our main entree, The Astronomer and I shared a slab of pork Milanese ($28), which was served on a wooden plank. I’ve been obsessed with this dish ever since my culinary crush Joe Bastianich challenged the contestants on Master Chef to recreate it, but I hadn’t encountered it on a menu until this evening.
The pork, which was golden and crispy on the outside and moist within, was garnished with parsley, lemon zest, fresh horseradish, and golden raisins. It was a lot of meat for two carbohydrate lovers, so we packed a good hunk of it to-go.
Served alongside the chop was a creamy sage risotto with bits of prosciutto.
Our second entree was a Bellwether ricotta gnocchi ($16) served in a foamy Parmesan broth with mint, English peas, prosciutto, and chilies. The pasta was as tasty as the plating was beautiful. The only flaw was that the peas weren’t cooked all the way through—the grittiness interrupted an otherwise pillowy creation.
The strongest and most memorable dish of the night came courtesy of pastry chef Brooke Mosley. Billed as a “ricotta budino” ($11), the dessert was a deconstructed cheesecake accented with sweetened fennel, candied tangerines, and Sicilian pistachios. The slightly salty crust, which was made of buttery shortbread crumbles and crushed pistachios, paired like a dream with the airy and creamy ricotta filling. It’s been a long while since I’ve been this impressed with a restaurant’s dessert, and if my stomach had allowed it, I would’ve loved to have tried more of Ms. Mosley’s sweets.
Whist—Come for the ambiance and maybe some meatballs, but make absolutely certain to leave room for dessert.
Whist at the Viceroy Hotel
1819 Ocean Avenue
Santa Monica, CA 90401