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Caché Restaurant & Lounge

Josiah Citrin plays it cool with his new Santa Monica restaurant.

July 27, 2009|S. IRENE VIRBILA | RESTAURANT CRITIC

As I approach the entrance to the new Santa Monica restaurant Cache, I catch a glimpse of a tousle-haired man in a white apron disappearing around a corner. Yes, indeed, Mr. Citrin is in the house and running around like crazy, looking excited and pleased that this new casual-French California restaurant is finally open -- and filled with people. It's a beautiful night, and guests are sprawled on sofas in the outdoor lounge area and trooping in for reservations in the dining room.

When Hidden, the multi-cuisine circus that moved into the old Schatzi with mixed reviews, wasn't doing well, the investors approached Josiah Citrin and offered the space to him. With Melisse, his high-end French restaurant humming along just fine, thank you very much, two Michelin stars under his belt, Citrin was looking to branch out -- and probably make some money at this easygoing spot.

The designers have stripped away the extraneous to create a sleek modernist space with the luxury of a huge outdoor terrace that flows into the dining room. Between the two is an outdoor bar with hipster barflies who may well have been occupying those very stools, for all I know, since the governor owned Schatzi's in the '90s.

Cache's menu hits all the sweet spots -- tuna tartare, charcuterie and cheese plates, flatbreads (i.e. pizza) from the wood-burning oven, salads, steaks and chops, even a portobello mushroom main course featuring plenty of Santa Monica farmers market veggies, plus an abbreviated lounge menu served until the wee hours.

Citrin is, of course, in executive chef mode. The chef de cuisine is young Nyesha Harrington, who worked with him at Melisse and Lemon Moon.

After a random sampling of dishes, I have the feeling you could stab almost anywhere and end up with a pretty good meal. Duck sausage and baby artichoke flatbread is highly recommended. The charcuterie is first-rate too. And the ahi tuna tartare with minced cucumber, avocado mousse and a spunky lime-ginger vinaigrette is sure to become a favorite here. Hangar steak comes with Maui onion rings and chimichurri sauce, and there's a zillion sides to try, including blistered cherry tomatoes with chive oil or pommes frites showered with parsley and espelette pepper from the Basque country.

Cache (which means "hidden" in French, by the way) is a relaxed place to spend an evening out -- for dinner, for a bottle of wine and some small plates in the lounge, or for a drink at the outside bar. It already feels like an ongoing party you can join in any time. Just what the doctor ordered.

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virbila@latimes.com

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Cache Restaurant & Lounge

Where: 3110 Main St., Santa Monica

When: Open for dinner 6 to 10 p.m. Sundays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays and 6 to 11 p.m. Thursdays to Saturdays. Lounge open 5 p.m. to midnight Sundays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Thursdays to Saturdays. Full bar. Valet parking, $8.

Price: First courses, $12 to $18; charcuterie and cheese, $15 to $22; flatbreads, $11 to $14; salads, $9 to $14; main courses, $20 to $38; sides, $5.50 to $10; dessert, $10.

Contact: (310) 399-4800; www.cacherestaurant.com.

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