By Dolores Quintana
Birdie G’s in Santa Monica has a new Happy Hour and it’s something special. For one thing, it’s really only an hour. It lasts from 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. in the “Bird’s Nest” part of the restaurant. What’s really special is that the restaurant serves really great appetizers and drink specials at reasonable prices, as well as more substantial entrees for a bit more.
I tasted a few of the dishes in the restaurant and was amazed at how good they really were. They range between $5 and $15, but they’re nothing like what you’d expect at your typical happy hour. I tried the Vernors-Baked Ham & Pickled Melon and it was wonderful. What made it so good was the fact that the melon was pickled, which gave the dish a sour flavor that enhanced the taste of Vernor’s ham. I’m not a melon person, but when I tried the ham and melon snack, I was hooked. It’s like traditional prosciutto e melone, but with a twist of melon pickling that took it to another level. On the menu you can also find Whipped Avocado with Fried Matzo, Kippered Sable Terrine with Crispy Potato Waffles, three kinds of fries (Reuben Fries, Caesar Fries and Fries & Aioli) and Lavender Amands, I haven’t tried any of these, but I would really like to go back so I can.
At the same time, I was treated to bar manager Stephanie Reading’s Staycation Summer creation with lime, kumquat, strawberry brandy and tequila which will only cost you around $12.00, it’s one of the drink specials, and it’s a really solid drink. Light with fruit accents and a bit of tequila punch with a Tajin crust and salt on the outside of the glass that makes it look great. You can also find Reading’s Camomile Lavender Lemonade Mocktail for $4, if you want to stay sober and $6.00 glasses of craft beer. But there’s more, sommelier Kobi Tsesarsky has put together a variety of $12 planet-friendly wine glasses.
The next course was the ACG Caesar salad and it was a treat. These are gem lettuce, anchovies, garlic, capers, and egg yolk bottarga which will cost around $19.00. While eating the salad, I wasn’t sure what to do with it at first, but suddenly the salad came together and I realized that the reason my taste buds didn’t know how to deal with the salad was because it was a real Caesar, not the fake version you so often find in grocery stores or takeout. There were crispy little anchovies which gave that real Caesar dressing flavor. The croutons were fantastic. Usually, when eating a crouton, you might want to be careful not to chip a tooth. These croutons were fresh and slightly crispy on the outside. Perfect.
Next, Weiser Farms potatoes, $15, with Mt. Tam cheese sauce and truffle butter topped with basil leaves, I think. It was another decadent choice that really hit the mark. The delicate cheese sauce hit the truffle butter with the velvety soft potatoes and greens. Absolutely dynamite. So simple, yet so comforting.
The most amazing dish for me was the corned beef tongue. Yes, I know what you’re thinking, new language. I had a bad experience as a child where I was tricked into eating really chewy boiled beef tongue which was not very appetizing and caused me to lose my tongue for most of my life. This dish is a tongue of corned beef, delicately sliced extremely thinly and lightly cooked, with bourbon pickle, bunches of mustard seeds and lovage. One of the characteristics of the snacks during this happy hour that I tried is that they are all very light, but extremely tasty, comforting but always satisfying. I was on my fourth course, but didn’t feel weighed down or overly full. The corned beef tongue was the lightest dish of all. With the tenderness of the corned beef tongue and the sweet flavors of the accent ingredients, I was won over. I never wanted to eat tongue again after that chewy nightmare, but I would eat this dish again at Birdie G’s in a heartbeat.
Finally, I had dessert, and again, I was smitten with what is called the World Famous Rose Petal Pie. I think these menu options are outside of the happy hour menu, but only the drinks are a bit more expensive than the happy hour options. Other desserts are Chocolate Malt Cake, Empress Date Cake, Peach and Basil Rice Pudding and their homemade ice cream, but I really felt I had to go with the ultimate favorite dessert and what for they are known. It was the right choice. The Rose Petal Pie is like a slurry of aspic, but the consistency is very smooth and the flavors are delicious, a fruity combination of raspberry, rose and hibiscus with a very complementary lightly salted pretzel crust. I should pronounce it as my favorite pie after thoroughly enjoying it. The price for dessert ranged from $7.00 to $14.00 for the rose petal pie.
Finally, I had a choice of two appetizers and had to personally compliment the bar manager as the imagination and taste combinations in the bar drinks were really on point and in keeping with the overall theme of light and of taste that happy hour was working. Choices were Grandma’s Grasshopper from Not Your Mother, which I found very interesting as a connoisseur of classic cocktails and medium nitro beer. I had to opt for the coffee-based cocktail. I will save the grasshopper for another visit. The medium brew nitro is Cafe Luxxe Coffee, St. George Coffee Liqueur, Vanilla Creme de Cacao, Banana Creme, Anejo Tequila, and Mezcal. It’s covered and when you’re ready the waiter whips the top and a cloud of smoke rises from the drink. Very impressive and instagrammable. It’s also light and delicious, which is a difficult feat to achieve with mezcal, but Reading somehow managed to pull it off. Mezcal is a very distinctly smoky spirit, but Reading has managed to fuse the flavors of the drink so that no flavor overpowers the other.
Birdie G’s New Happy Hour comes with a high recommendation from this reviewer. Light and delicate flavors that satisfy and are so comforting in a truly welcoming atmosphere. Don’t miss. You can browse their menu here. The happy hour menu has lots of really delicious options and you can visit multiple times without getting bored. Granted, you’d be dining at a Happy Hour that’s a cut above most in town.