Crudo e Nudo is a sustainable seafood market & low-intervention wine shop, as well as a quick-service restaurant for enjoyment on their al fresco patio.
I first heard about Crudo from my hairdresser. I was raging on and on about Dudley market and their phenomenal food, to which she said, "if you like that, you will adore Crudo."
Before going to any restaurant, I almost always research it to a T. I want to know where I'm going, what the atmosphere is like, what the food is like, and most importantly, what people love most.
Crudo was interesting; it's a tiny space with an untraditional service model. You make a reservation (I highly recommend this as they're almost always busy), check in, order at the counter, and they take it from there.
Additionally, they utilize compostable paper plates because of the lack of space in the kitchen, and you sit in a converted patio that used to be two parking spaces. The most amazing thing about this spot is the passion of the employees. When we came here, I had a 10-15 minute conversation with the hostess about wine, and even better, she had plenty of valuable information to offer.
More on that later; let's talk about how this place came to be.
The story of how Crudo e Nudo came to be is a good one. Chef Brian Bornemann and artist Leena Culhane met in the middle of 2020 in Santa Monica's infamous Hotchkiss Park. Little did they know, they attended UCLA together ten years prior to that, with their paths most likely crossing without them even realizing it. They quickly bonded over their passion for sustainability, surfing, and, most importantly, quality food.
Brian was an executive chef at The Tasting Kitchen, Michael's, and Potager, which is an incredible farm-to-table restaurant. He's never been a stranger to local and seasonal ingredients, and Leena was a musician and artist who spent the majority of her time exploring natural wines and working as a bartender.
During the pandemic, the two creatives felt inspired to, well, create Crudo e Nudo, an Italian-inspired raw bar and pandemic pop-up.
At the beginning of their journey, the two sourced local fish from sustainable purveyors, hosting lively social gatherings from Venice to Echo Park, utilizing outdoor space and bars, and recently, they opened their first permanent location on Main Street in Santa Monica. Currently, they’re offering various refined favorites from their pop-ups, as well as other dishes inspired by the relationships that Brian has built throughout his career with farmers and fishermen.
Everything you will find at Crudo e Nudo is locally sourced with an emphasis on sustainability. It all started with communities supporting one another, and environmentally-minded practices became the heart of Crudo e nudo.
The goal of the two was to offer delicious and dynamic ingredients from farmers' markets and local fisheries, aiming for minimal waste and, eventually, zero plastics.
"We believe that it's our responsibility to create the future we want to see: one where small businesses work together to build a sustainable economy that feeds our community in many ways. We offer what we know, from the herbs grown by our long-term partners at the Santa Monica Farmer's Market to the seafood caught by our friends. We are building this company on trust, transparency, our connection to one another and our community, and our ethical responsibility to this planet." - Leena + Brian.
In addition to the amazing food Crudo e Nudo serves, they also serve as a neighborhood outpost for caffeine, community, and a minimal breakfast menu.
Lenny's is Leena's vision brought to life, in which proceeds from this morning program are donated to nonprofits in need, specifically the ones combating food deserts and working to end the hunger crisis with the goal of supporting intersectional environmentalism.
Currently, Lenny's is in full swing at Crudo e Nudo on Wednesday through Sundays, from 8-11 am, and you'll find fair trade Blacklight coffee, which is roasted weekly in small batches, and you can also get a sweet treat from Gjusta Bakery here, as well as a few sweet treats made in house by Leena herself.
Now, this is something I've never really seen before, and I am intrigued. Crudo offers a Crudo e Nudo Wine club membership ranging from $40-90, in which you gain access to wines from winemakers that have a passion for the wines they produce, using regenerative soil practices.
For example, at $39 per month, you get exclusive access to classes, recipes, 10% in-store purchases, and two bottles of natural, organic, or biodynamic wine. The price goes up if you're interested in more than 2.
The second membership is called Crudo e Nudo Tin Club; starting at $49 per month, members of the Tin Club get a rotating selection of tinned seafood products. This could be pickles and preserves that are prepared in-house, sardines in olive oil, or even mussels in escabeche. This package is a perfect option for a date night, a picnic, or a luxury dinner to have at home. You can also add bottles of wine.
Living in Los Angeles, this is a perfect option for anybody who likes natural wine, good food, and the outdoors.
The menu at Crudo changes daily, but there are a few staples and fan favorites. For example, they offer a five-course tasting menu selected by the chef, including on and off-menu items, called Neptune's flight.
To start with, oysters. You can get half or a full dozen, and they come with a pink peppercorn-limoncello mignonette, borage, and lemon. I came here with a few people, so we opted for the dozen; they came out quickly, small, petite, dainty, fresh, and delicious.
The halibut with shiro dashi, arbequina, sesame, and green onion beckoned my name on the menu online, but upon our arrival, it wasn't listed on their daily menu; however, tuna sashimi was, so I ordered that. It came fresh and delicious looking with capers, an olive oil drizzle and lemon zest. It was, to say the least, phenomenal.
Speaking of olive oil, Crudo offers a side of seeded fresh bread from Gjusta with olive oil on the side, and this is an absolute must because you can't have a meal without fresh bread, especially when Gjusta is involved. We soaked every crumb in olive oil, and it was 100% worth it.
There's a fantastic vegetarian/vegan section that anybody and quite frankly, everyone should order from as it offers fresh and local vegetables from the farmers market. And the vegan caesar salad sounded fantastic, with little gems, scrappy croutons, avocado, and furikake; there's also a chickpea toast with stewed chickpeas, paprika, smoked oil, za'atar on Gjusta toast, but what really caught my eye was the Santa Monica Market Mezze, with farmer's market veggies like carrots, zucchini, olives, and one of the best black garlic hummus' I've ever heard, with a sprinkle of za'atar.
The presentation of this dish was everything you could hope for – it was quite literally a plate filled with colors and flavor. I highly recommend it.
You'll notice several tables around you with something I deeply regret not trying, the tuna Tartare Toast with shiro shoyu, new onion confit, shrimp stock, sesame, green onion, and yuzu. It looked phenomenal, and it's on my "to try next" list.
I decided to try the infamous caviar nachos, they sounded great, and it's essentially a plate with potato chips, fish eggs, avocado, pickled onion, creme fraiche, chives, and Calabrian. I'll be honest, I really wanted to like this dish, but coming from a Ukrainian household, I prefer fish eggs with a piece of plain bread and butter, so the nacho situation was not ideal, and it was overly salted. You live, and you learn, or in this case, you eat, and you learn.
In terms of food, our meal ended there, but I'd definitely go back to try the tuna tartare toast and the steamed venus clams. Their daily menu changes frequently, so this is definitely the kind of place you come back to so you could try new things.
I know I typically start my food reviews with drinks, but the wine was probably one of my favorite things about this entire experience. As I mentioned before, the hostess and I had a 10-15 minute conversation about it because I couldn't decide between white or orange wine, and their selection was hefty.
She gave us three separate options, a natural white wine that was similar to sauvignon blanc (my favorite), another bottle that was smack in the middle of white and orange, although I can't recall the name, and finally, a 2021 Filigreen Farm Anderson Valley Skin-Contact Pinot Gris, which is certified organic & biodynamically farmed.
It was destemmed and left for five days on the skins, then pressed and fermented in stainless steel. It's a perfectly orange/peachy color, and it tasted like apricot and caramel with a touch of tangerine on the finish.
It was fantastic, needless to say, and I appreciated how much care the hostess put into walking us through the options and giving suggestions on what she thought we'd like.
As mentioned before, this place is tiny, and there is only outdoor seating available, so make sure to dress warmly if it's cold, although there are heat lamps, and definitely make a reservation in advance. There's a slim chance you'll get street parking on Main Street, but there are neighborhoods you can park at and walk from, there is also metered parking behind the restaurant.
Prepare to not only have a good meal but an overall great experience. This spot is perfect for a casual date night with your partner, a good time with friends, or simply a date with yourself if you're feeling like treating yourself.
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