Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Lounge Comes to Main Street

Wrote an article for the SM Observer on the Main Street lounge 31Ten.

 The Lounge Comes to Main Street 

There aren’t a ton of fire pits on Main Street in Santa Monica. Which is just too bad because fire pits are sexy; they’re swank, and cool, and hip.  In other words there aren’t a ton of lounges on Main Street in Santa Monica.  There aren’t a ton of locations on Main Street where you can grab a cocktail (perhaps a combination of Vodka, St. Germain, Pomegranate Juice, Thai Basil, and Prosecco aka the Californication) while watching dangerously beautiful flames flicker in front of you. So when the 31Ten officially opened in the 3110 Main Street space in February, I was ecstatic to see that special lounge something: a fire pit.  

31Ten is a Hip place (not just hip, but Hip). The thirty something first date crowd transitioned into twenty something martini drinkers in our two hour window, 8-10pm, so by the time we left the place was hopping with a resplendent swanky chillness.  A neo-Italian lounge that only needs to be open Wednesday through Saturday from 5 pm to 2 am (the time management truly says it all).  On the interior, the 5,500-square foot space features exposed brick, couches and bucolic walnut floors.  For the outside spaces there’s the aforementioned fire pits, four bars, a trio of cabanas (for ultra swanky private parties), and an open space lounge topped with a retractable roof (for our random So Cal rainy nights) that allows you to see the moon while still being lit in moody red tones.  The DJ begins spinning at 9 p.m. and the music soundtrack sometimes includes someone having an orgasm.

Who’s the host?  Who’s our server? Are they the same person? Truthfully it’s a little hard to tell because everybody working at 31Ten is wearing the same thing.  An outfit that’s more Cahuenga than AWOL: short fiery red dresses and tall tall black boots.  Plus it’s dark.   It also turns out the confusion is justifiable: they’re a set of identical twins. That’s right this place is so Hip they have identical twins working there.  “Everyone thinks we’re the same person,” said the server, although she informed us that she is taller than the host sister.

Sequestered in the back, the 3110 Main Street space has been a lot of restaurant/bars over the years (Cache, Hidden, and Schatzi to name just a few).  And none of them have stayed to the point that many locals think of the space is somewhat doomed (Read: me).    But the cool thing about owner Paolo Cesaro is he’s been here before and he still fiercely loves the space.  Prior to Caché (3110’s last reincarnation) the space housed Hidden, a restaurant turned lounge where Cesaro served as General Manager.

Born in Italy, Paolo Cesaro has worked at restaurants around the world in Chicago, Miami, New York, Paris, London and Italy. He came to California in pursuit of a new experience.  After serving as General Manager at Hidden, Paolo had the opportunity to achieve his lifelong dream by opening Ado with fellow Italian ex-Pat Antonio Muré, his business partner and one of California’s best chefs.  Together the duo founded one of Venice’s most successful Italian restaurants: Ado (located two blocks down Main Street at 769 Main Street in Venice.  You might recognize it as the one with the ridiculous amount of half a million dollar priced sport’s cars in the parking lot…).  For Cesaro opening 31Ten was the perfect opportunity to apply the knowledge and skills he gained while working at Hidden and execute a concept he’s chiseled out with the success of Ado.

31TEN isn’t about fine dining; it’s not about sitting down to white linens tablecloths. The menu instead offers up international-inspired (through an Italian focused kaleidoscope) small plates at couches and low tables, Hip casual food. “The idea behind this,” explained Cesaro “was to create an atmosphere where it is easy and organic to mix and mingle.”  Along with cocktails such as Blueberry-Pomegranate Mojito, topped with ginger beer, the wine list consists of more than 10 white and 30 red varieties from Italy and California.  The beer selections focuses on Italian and German brews. 

The standout appetizer is the Crisp Kurobata ($8) Seared Pork Belly served over Le Puy Lentils and Baby Wild Arugula Char.  It’s grilled to perfection: the outside is crispy with the inside housing a very succulent and buttery smokiness.  The salad compliments the crispness with a buttery olive oil dressing dotted with teardrop tomatoes.  From the Mains make sure to check out the Seared Prime Beef Medallion with a Poached Lobster Tail, Seared Foie-Gras, and Pomegranate Sauce ($28, the highest pricing on the menu) Filet Mignon cut with lobster. It’s surf and turf (even if it’s too Hip to describe it that way) wrapped into a perfect bite: filet with lobster and fois gras it’s layer upon layer of umami that your taste buds almost can’t comprehend due to information overload (but do!).  

And one can’t talk about 31Ten’s menu without mentioning pizza (it is an Italian restaurant) which run a range of $10-$14.  The menu offers five different selections of Wood Fired Pizzas such as a Margarita, Diavola, and Prosciutto e Funghi (Ham and Mushrooms for those who don’t speak Italian restaurant).  Each of these choices are also featured on the Happy Hour (which runs from 5pm to 7pm every day).  But the standout pizza of 31Ten is the San Daniele, Parma Prosciutto, Shaved Parmigianino Cheese, and Wild Arugula (although the Arugula is generously sprinkled so it can be a little awkward to eat as the pieces have a tendency to fall off the slice).

All of these dishes are the brainchild of Italian-born Antonio Muré, who serves as Executive Chef at 31Ten and Ado. Muré was born in Portopalo di Capo Passero, Sicily, and raised in Parma, Emilia Romagna, know to be one of Italy’s most important food regions.  Influenced by his hometown, Antonio’s culinary style blends the essence of Emilia Romagna’s cuisine with the exotic flavors of Sicilian cooking tradition.  After graduating from Istituto Alberghiero di Stato, the Michelin award-winning chef spent several years perfecting his skills at exclusive restaurants and hotels in Italy.  Antonio moved to Los Angeles in 1995 and became the chef at Il Moro.  Since then, he’s served as the chef at a handful of local restaurants including Locanda Veneta and Allegria and Valentino in Las Vegas.  Today Antonio serves as Executive Chef at 31Ten and Ado. With 31Ten’s menu he collaborated with Chef Rodger Marsh to create a menu that boasts high-quality dishes at an affordable price.

Resplendent hipness is now present on Main Street.   “We take you from dinner to 2:00 a.m.,” noted Paolo Cesaro.  “You don’t need to go anyplace else.”  So lounge lovers and pyromaniacs (Read: me) take note.

Kat Thomas is a writer who has way too much love for fire pits.  You can find more about her at    

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