The many recent restaurant closures and flips have really made me think about what it takes for a new restaurant to succeed in LA. A new eatery needs to have the potential of becoming one of the city's most respected long-running restaurants (think a Trois Mec or Mozza), or it needs to be approachable and consistent enough to keep the local neighbors coming back (like Milo & Olive). Margo's on Montana seems to be learning that hard lesson; after flipping from foodie favorite Ox & Son, Margo's has subtly transformed itself into a more approachable, neighborhood-friendly restaurant complete with modern California cuisine and seasonally driven ingredients. Executive Chef Greg A. Daniels, former Executive Chef of Salt Air in Venice, has taken over the kitchen, serving an eclectic menu with shared plates, plenty of seafood-driven options, and a few vegetarian and gluten free dishes. We stopped in for a casual weekday dinner, enjoying the low-key atmosphere, fresh cocktails, and tasty bites.
We started off with a few cocktails, including the Namaste, which is a refreshing mix of vodka, elderflower, cucumber, and lemon that was a light cocktail to begin with. The Aviation was perfect for a romantic date, with gin, luxardo, lemon, and violette-- citrus-y, a bit floral, and a bit boozier.
We ordered the Butter Lettuce Hearts Salad, one of the many shared plates that they offer. The butter lettuce was lovely and fresh, perfectly dressed in a light mustard vinaigrette. I enjoyed the addition of endive, herbs, and radish, which gave the salad a bit of depth but keep it simple and delicate. By all measures, a really nice salad.
We then moved on to the Tuna Crudo, another light starter. Lentils and wild rice provided a substantial base and a bit of crunch, while the tuna was a fresh, lean protein. I loved the creaminess of the avocado with the citrus of the orange. The addition of ginger provided a slightly Asian flare, and made this dish feel like a healthy but satisfying option. Another tasty, simple starter.
We started moving into heavier dishes with the Scallops, which were beautifully seared and presented on rye toast-- definitely a novel but pleasing combination. Truffle emulsion provided that satisfying umami element, while thai chili added a nice surprising bite of spice. It was a well-balanced, interesting dish in which the diverse components worked really well together.
Another dish that elegantly incorporated some surprising flavors, the Butternut Squash soup was really good. Really satiating with a bit of richness, the brioche croutons were a buttery addition while the mushrooms added even more richness. Candied ginger helped cut through the richness as well, while I think there may have been a bit of thai chili in there too, making it another well-balanced dish.
To finish off the savory portion of the meal, we got the Fried Chicken, one of their signature dishes, and for good reason. The chicken was really nicely fried and well-seasoned, while the honey provided a really pleasing, addicting sweetness. Puréed butternut squash, glazed veggies, and apple celery root slaw were nice additions, but the chicken was undoubtedly the star of this dish. Really yummy!
For the dessert, we ordered the Chocolate Bar, a really decadent chocolate dessert with a crunchy pretzel crust, fluffy, creamy toasted marshmallow, and a classic scoop of Salted Caramel Ice Cream. It was definitely addicting and really good.
Overall, our meal at Margo's was really enjoyable! The dishes were definitely on the lighter side (even the heavy ones), which I appreciated, and were all impressively well-balanced. The addition of thai chilis, ginger, and similar ingredients created some pleasant surprises, adding this thread of fresh ingredients and Asian influence throughout the meal. And yet the dishes remained approachable for any diner; along with the casual environment and fun drinks, Margo's has the potential to become a Montana neighborhood staple.