Tempting terroir

We're green with envy over the green of the veggies served at Aestus in LA

Carrots from Aestus
Roasted carrots with kumquats, goat cheese and argan oil showcases Aestus' emphasis on seasonal So Cal produce.

Right about now, we’re having serious Aestus envy. We’re jealous of the residents of Santa Monica’s Arezzo building, who can simply slip downstairs to dine at this new restaurant, where the produce-driven plates and mid-century modern dining room are equally stunning.

Location is everything, especially in this kitchen. Owner-sommelier Kevin O’Connor and chef Alex Ageneau have grounded the New American menu in the concept of terroir, which (aside from the wine focus) means that the kitchen’s emphasis is on produce hailing from Southern California soil.

Food with a sense of place is something quite familiar to Ageneau, who grew up on a farm in the Vendée region of France, where his grandparents tended orchards and vineyards and made everything served at the table from scratch.

The interior of Aestus
Aestus’ mid-century modern dining room and open kitchen.

Ageneau is carrying on that tradition at Aestus, where he crafts his own charcuterie, pickles, and pasta—pretty much everything except the bread—in house. His French training is apparent in his dishes, but the California context means that he’s favoring olive oil and citrus over cream and butter.

The simple preparations let the high-quality ingredients—sourced from sustainable family farms whenever possible—speak for themselves. Selections will rotate seasonally, but expect dishes like snap peas with mint pesto and pistachios ($8), roasted carrots with kumquats, goat cheese and argan oil ($13) and branzino paired with celery root, grapefruit segments and hazelnuts ($38). There’s a wood-burning grill for meats like the superb grass-fed flat iron served with sunchokes, spinach and mushrooms ($32).

Our advice? Order a bunch of dishes to share. Otherwise you might have plate envy.

507 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica