Coastal Provençal and Love of the Westside Inspires ‘Lunetta Dining and The Moon Bar’

Spicy Tuna Tartare on yellow watermelon for the media preview of the Lunetta Dining Room & The Moon Bar adjacent to Lunetta All Day in Santa Monica, June 26, 2018. (Photo by Monique A. LeBleu)

Photos by Billy Bennight and Monique A. LeBleu

Local Executive Chef Raphael Lunetta introduced Lunetta All Day, a fast-casual concept for daylight driven guests that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner all day in 2017. On Wednesday, June 26, 2018, Chef Lunetta and the Lunetta Team introduced their new Lunetta At Night experience in a preview party for Lunetta Dining and The Moon Bar.

Lunetta Dining and The Moon Bar, adjacent to Lunetta All Day, features elevated Californian Cuisine, handcrafted Cocktails, and curated wine selections in a cozy Santa Monica neighborhood setting. Designed by De JONG & Co., Lunetta By Night features details like a center skylight that brightens the room before dusk, a single exposed beam that “cuts through like a ship’s mast,” brass lighting, saddle leather seating, and blue soapstone of the Chef’s Counter.

With seating for eight, the Chef’s Counter grants an unfettered view of the kitchen, where guests can watch Chef Lunetta and his team work their magic.

Executive Chef Raphael Lunetta has a Private Media Soirée to introduce Lunetta Dining Room & The Moon Bar in Santa Monica on June 26, 2018. (Photo by Billy Bennight)

Partner and Executive Chef Raphael Lunetta, most notably recently helming the iconic JiRaffe, decided to return to his Santa Monica and Venice Beach roots to open a restaurant that would embody the spirit of the city he grew up in. With Partner and Proprietor Mike Garrett (Voda, Lounge 217, Falcon, Anisette, Pearl Dragon), along with Daniel Weinstock, formerly of Spago Beverly Hills, the trio teamed up with Beverage Director and Sommelier Kristine Bocchino,and General Manager Matthew Stumacher, to bring Lunetta Dining and The Moon Bar to the standard in which Chef Lunetta has set and executed for over twenty-five years.

Dubbed by Chef Lunetta as “the backbone of the kitchen” another member of the team is Partner and Chef de Cuisine Emilio Cuyuch who continues to assist Chef Lunetta in executing the finest New Californian Cuisine at Lunetta Dining.

Lunetta’s interest in food was sparked early in life, with childhood summers spent in the South of France at his aunt’s 18th-century farmhouse where large family dinners were cooked over open fires with fish caught fresh from the ocean and vegetables picked from the garden.

It is these early experiences and his family heritage that influence the dishes at Lunetta All Day and Lunetta Dining.

“Born in California, I’ve got a heavy duty French mother, I’ve got an Italian father–so there’s always going to be some inspiration from Italy,” said Chef Lunetta. “But it’s always going to be coastal provençal cuisine that would embody what you’d find in the south of France, on the West Coast of California, and what you’d find in Southern Mexico, because so much of my talent comes from Southern Mexico–from Oaxaca–and they know how to cook instinctually!”

The Rack of Lamb for the media preview of the Lunetta Dining Room & The Moon Bar adjacent to Lunetta All Day in Santa Monica, June 26, 2018. (Photo by Monique A. LeBleu)

A native of Southern California growing up by the beach, Lunetta was an avid surfer and spent a year on the Association of Surfing Professionals tour traveling the world. In between competitions, he spent his free time in restaurant kitchens immersing himself in local cuisine until he traded his surfboard for a whisk and took the plunge to Europe to broaden his knowledge of the restaurant industry. After two years working in Paris at respected establishments such as Café Pacifico, La Perla, and Restaurant La Posté, Lunetta returned home to work his way through some of the L.A.’s top kitchens, including the esteemed Patina, Capri, and Jackson’s in Beverly Hills before debuting his own restaurant, JiRaffe in Santa Monica.

Honored in 1997 as one of the country’s “Best New Chefs” by Food & Wine Magazine, Chef Lunetta has also participated in multiple national television shows and competitions including Knife Fight, My Country, My Kitchen, Top Chef, and Beat Bobby Flay.

Chef Lunetta uses ingredients from the historic Santa Monica Farmers Market in the new Lunetta Dining Menu, beginning with Market Small Plates with offerings such as Sliced Tomato & Local Reed Avocado, or the Grilled Nectarines, Shaved Manchego & Crispy Prosciutto.

The Wood-Grilled Spanish Octopus with hummus and marinated tomatoes at a Private Media Soirée to introduce Lunetta Dining Room & The Moon Bar in Santa Monica on June 26, 2018. (Photo by Billy Bennight)

Blistered Shishito Peppers and Wood-Grilled Corn on the Cob provide guests with that barbeque summer flavor. Starters & Salads begin with a tossed-to-order Rock Shrimp & Baja Scallop Ceviche, served with fresh homemade guacamole and lime chips, or the Ahi Tuna Tartare, a play on steak tartare down to the capers and sherry mustard vinaigrette.

The Wood-Grilled Spanish Octopus begins with a three-to-four hour low and slow confit process before finishing it off on the wood grill and it is served with butter beans and cherry tomatoes. Crispy Chicken Wings feature Cabra Verde and grilled house-made pineapple wing sauce, while the Pepperosa & handmade Crab Gnocchi are prepared with Fontina, Reggiano, and Pernod. Fresh for summer, the Stone Fruit Salad features wild rocket, Treviso, bleu goat cheese, and homemade hazelnut vinaigrette.

The Fish & Meat selections begin with the Wood-Grilled BBQ Scottish Salmon, accompanied by summer market vegetable ragout and smashed fingerlings, and the Wood-Grilled Loup de Mer, a dish “like no other” inspired by a meal eaten in Indonesia made with Bali spice, fresh herbs, and local citrus.

There is the knife and fork Heirloom Burger with grass-fed beef, grilled onions, heirloom tomato, sharp cheddar, and avocado, while the Herb Jidori Brick Chicken features roasted lemon garlic chicken sauce and grilled tomato salsa. Beginning with a signature brine, the Classic RL Caramelized Pork Chop is initially cooked on the wood-fire grill before finishing it off in a cast iron skillet, plated up with Chieftain wild rice and smoked bacon, summer fruit, and sage reduction, while the 22 oz Dry Aged New York is meaty enough for two, featuring potato banana gratin, Castelfranco, and confit tomato.

The Lunetta Dining Summer Specials begin with the Wild Spot Prawns with summer tomato gazpacho. Other seafood fare specials include the Kona Kampachi, with horseradish gremolata and citrus soy, or the Wood-Grilled Santa Barbara Shrimp with cilantro lime butter, and the Pappardelle & New Zealand Red Crab, comprised of house-made pappardelle, white wine cherry tomato sauce, and arugula.

Also for summer dining, a Sweet White Corn Ravioli prepared with truffle corn emulsion, an 18 oz Kansas City Steak, accompanied by wild arugula, blistered tomatoes, balsamic reduction, and extra-virgin olive oil, or a majestic New Zealand Rack of Lamb, with pan-seared spinach and ratatouille are on the menu.

The Affogato with espresso, pistachio ice cream, and lemon pistachio biscotti at the Private Media Soirée to introduce Lunetta Dining Room & The Moon Bar in Santa Monica on June 26, 2018. (Photo by Billy Bennight)

For desserts, there’s a Nectarine Blueberry Cobbler, served with vanilla ice cream, a Strawberry Pistachio Bombe, an innovative spin on a French classic, with strawberry crème anglaise, and, using dates directly from the Santa Monica Farmers Market, the Sticky Toffee Pudding accompanied by vanilla ice cream, toffee sauce and candied pecans.

For Chocolate lovers there are three choices, beginning with the Chocolate Bourbon Truffle Cake topped with caramel bourbon sauce, whipped cream, and cocoa nibs, a Chocolate Triple Berry Bread Pudding, featuring vanilla ice cream, fresh berries, and strawberry sauce, and a Manjari Chocolate Crème Brulée with fresh berries.

De JONG & Co. styled warm and relaxing The Moon Bar with its cozy corner fireplace, features handcrafted cocktails like the Cold Brew Martini, comprised of vodka, Mr. Black Cold Brew Liqueur, and Bailey’s can complete the meal, or several Italian classics such as Sambuca Romana, Amaro Montenegro, a bubbly Ceretto Moscato D’Asti, and the digestif Branca Menta.

The Honey Ryder cocktail at The Moon Bar, Santa Monica, June 26, 2018. (Photo by Monique A. LeBleu)

With cocktails “heavily influenced by Chef Lunetta’s menu, particularly his incorporation of produce from the Farmers Market,” Vodka and Gin cocktails are featured, such as the Spicy Like a Sleepover, with St. George Green Chili vodka, Becherovka, coconut cream, lemongrass, ginger, and lime, or the East Side to the West Side featuring Fords Gin, cucumber, mint, lime, orgeat, and Angostura Bitters, and in an homage to a Bond Girl, the Honey Ryder made with London Dry Gin, pamplemousse, lemon, and bubbles.

On the creamy, spicy side, are Tequila and Mezcal based cocktails such as the Mariposa Calor comprised of Espadin mezcal, Amaro Nonino Aperol, lime, Firewater bitters, or the Tired but Wired featuring blanco tequila, Rhum Agricole, housemade chamomile-turmeric syrup, coconut cream, Blackstrap Bitters, and lime.

A few tropicals like the Oaxacan Mai Tai, comprised Plantation Pineapple Rum, mezcal, lime, Dry Curacao, orgeat, and Angostura bitters or the Gnarly Surfer, a mixture of Rhum Agricole, pineapple gomme, lime, Blackstrap Bitters, and vegan egg white might make you feel like a beachcomber relaxing in a hammock.

For Whiskey enthusiasts, starting with the Salted Butter, features Japanese whisky, Cocchi di Torino, Suze, Italicus, and grapefruit bitters, a Pimms Cup 2420, with Buffalo Trace, lemon, honey peach bitters and Pimms, or the Not Your Nonna’s Negroni, comprised of rye, Mr. Black Cold Brew, Cappelletti, and Cocchi di Torino.

A Pimm’s Cup 2420 at a Private Media Soirée to introduce Lunetta Dining Room & The Moon Bar in Santa Monica on June 26, 2018. (Photo by Billy Bennight)

For wines, the French Aubry Brut Rosé, and Hébrart Brut Cuvee de Reserve, or the Italian Ferrari Brut Sparkling, the Rosé collection includes the 2017 Liquid Farm “Vogelzang” Happy Canyon from Santa Barbara, as well as a Grenache based Rosé straight from the Sierra Foothills of California: the 2017 The Wither’s El Dorado.

The White varietals start with the 2015 Picpoul Forlorn Hope Rorock Vineyard, from Calaveras County, followed by a 2015 Viognier Yves Cuilleron from Condrieu, France, and from Kamptal, Austria the 2016 Gruner Veltliner Weinschlossl. For reds, a Spanish 2015 Grenache Palacios, Les Terrasses, or a 2015 Alpha Omega II Rutherford from Napa Valley, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Malbec. A Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot blend, the 2010 Phélan Ségur Saint Estephe. Cellar Selections provide unique vintages such as the Bordeaux-Style blend from Napa Valley, the 2001 Joseph Phelps Insignia, or a wine born from the Nebbiolo grape in the mountains of the famous Piemonte region of Italy, the 1998 Gaja Costa Russi, also offered from Champagne, France is the 1997 Salon Les Mesnil Blanc de Blancs.

Lunetta Dining and The Moon Bar serves Dinner every Tuesday through Friday from 6:30 p.m. to 11:00 p.m., and every Saturday from 5:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. For more information or to make reservations, please visit www.LunettaSM.com or call Lunetta Dining and The Moon Bar at 310-581-9888.

Special thanks to Mitch Braiman.

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About Monique A. LeBleu

Monique A. LeBleu is a writer, photographer, videographer, shameless foodie and wineaux. Her love of film history and a background in film production, post production and film theory give her unique insights into her movie reviews, and a brief background in technical theater fuels her passion on all-things theater and film. As a foodie, living in the ever-growing and diverse culinary landscape that is the City of Los Angeles feeds her never-ending pursuit of the perfect comfort food. She lives in the hope that someday she'll find the world's best Mac n' Cheese to pair with a saucy Malbec. ScopingLA
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