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Eater's Journal: The Penthouse at the Huntley

Welcome back to Eater's Journal in which we muse on recent meals. Like any good Eater should, we dine out a lot. We might as well discuss.

Whether it's an out-of-town guest or a date, views of sunsets, twinkling city lights, or mountains tend to impress. It's a given. But too often, a restaurant with a view never delivers on all counts--the view might be great, but the food is barely palatable and the service sucks. It's the classic turn-and-burn syndrome. With this in mind, we checked out the Penthouse at the Huntley Hotel in Santa Monica to see if it's all scenery and no substance. The gist: Given a few early hiccups, we're sure sunset or evening reservations will be near impossible from this day forward. The room is light and bright without being too cheesy during the day; at night, it becomes comfortably chic with lots of candles, cool chandeliers, and an almost neon-lit bar. The menu offers playful twists on basics like crab cakes, tuna tartare, salads, and steaks. Even if the kitchen is still tweaking ingredients, the apps we had were clever, fresh, and enjoyable. Wines by the glass sit around the $10-15 mark, same with cocktails.

The bar, looking north

The kinks: A woman behind the hostess stand was on the phone when we walked in, but turned her back instead of acknowledging our presence; the bartenders barely looked up from their tending; and the lone server was in the weeds with only one table. We seated ourselves and flagged someone down to wipe a table, give us menus, etc. To be fair, we got there right around shift change and noticed the night staff in a meeting. By the time they got out (about 45 minutes later), the entire lounge, oval bar and part of the restaurant was filled with couples, co-workers, and girls on the town, and the staff seemed to be in full swing. We were told it's been packed since day one.

This fireplace lounge separates two dining rooms. Kind of cool, except that it's near a server station and kitchen door.

As earlier noted, the cabana tables in the lounge are the place to be. Views of the mountains and ocean to the north abound.