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A Very Cosmopolitan Feel

Voda brings swank and 20 designer martinis to Santa Monica

March 19, 1998|TRACY JOHNSON | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Finally, the Santa Monica lounge scene is coming of age and giving Hollywood something to worry about.

Veteran nightclub promoters Tommy Stoilkovich and Mike Garrett--the people who gave us the ultra-hip Lounge 217 in Santa Monica--have opened Voda, a caviar-martini bar that is the swankiest spot Santa Monica has seen in eons.

Voda is to Santa Monica what the Sky Bar is to the Sunset Strip. There's nothing distinct about Voda on the outside--no lights, no address, no sign. But on the inside, a gorgeous nightspot with a sexy ambience has risen from the ashes of the now-closed Second Street Bar and Grill that's just off Broadway.

Designed as a modern speak-easy, Voda has a cosmopolitan look and feel. Distressed leather booths in the style of old French club chairs line one side of the room while a brushed leather day bed-like seat with pillows stretches in front of the louvered windows.

In the middle is a mahogany bar that anchors the chic martini lounge. The more than 50 kinds of vodka that Voda uses in its 20 designer martini drinks are displayed above the service area between two bouquets of red ginger. (Gin martinis are also available.)

Underneath the bar are wooden slats through which soft white light shines. Across the way, there's a sleek, narrow counter with votive-like candles stretching from one end to the other; it's the place where the folks who can't get a table hang out. Small beaded lamps dangle from above, and small palm trees with faint uplighting glimmer near the front.

"We wanted to build a room that we would want to hang out in again and again," Stoilkovich said.

Voda, which means water in 22 languages, is a martini bar and not a place for the brewski lover: You need a menu to order a drink.

Sure, they have the safe old standbys, like Cosmopolitans and the classic dry martini with an olive, but Voda is a place that just screams, "Try something new." There are innovative cocktails using exotic garnishes such as edible flowers, Godiva chocolates and crystallized ginger. And sexy martinis that use almond slivers and Midori. All martinis are $7.50.

Each martini is presented in a custom-made mini martini shaker that is shaken and poured by the wait staff, which stops by often to check on you and your drink. The caviar is served on a flowered ice block with traditional or personalized condiments ($28 to $55). There are also pizzas, Asian lettuce cups and steamed clams; appetizers range from $5 to $15.

The crowd is a mix of Westside hipsters and young Hollywood stars and starlets and industry types who want to get away from the Tinseltown scene. The music is a mellow mix of jazz, blues and contemporary tunes with a bass beat that's not too soft or too loud.

"We wanted to fill a niche on the Westside by being a cool nightclub where you can go for some cocktails and a good time," Garrett said. "Santa Monica's becoming a little Hollywood, and it's our goal to cater to that crowd."

BE THERE

Voda, 1449 2nd St., Santa Monica. (310) 394-9774. Open Tuesdays-Saturdays. 21 and over. No cover. Upscale bar menu. Reservations highly recommended on weekends.

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