Jessica Koslow’s California dreams are finally coming true. The beloved face behind impossibly hip daytime cafe Sqirl has now found her footing on the Westside with Onda, the lush Santa Monica restaurant situated at the ground floor of the brand new Proper Hotel. Onda is a partnership with Koslow and Gabriela Cámara, arguably one of Mexico’s most important restaurateurs (Contramar Mexico City, Cala San Francisco), and the restaurant feels like a precise and happy meeting place between their two minds.
“Onda is foundationally Mexican,” says Koslow, “but the boldness and some of the flavors feel very Sqirl-y. It’s really a marriage.”
That certainly feels true with one peek of the menu, which bounces from dishes like hearts of palm ceviche and chips and dip with fermented chile guacamole to an “inside out” version of a turkey quesadilla, done with al pastor flavors and the burnt herb hoja santa.
Onda’s menu leans light, vegetable-forward (think jackfruit sopes), and herbaceous, a common theme for Cámara and Koslow’s places. “The menu has something for everyone,” Koslow adds, “for those who want to be bold and adventurous, or have a lighter, cleaner meal.” Balo Orozco is on as chef de cuisine, star sommelier Erin Rolek (Minneapolis’ Bachelor Farmer) will act as general manager and wine director, and Jessica Stephens steps in as pastry chef. Kyle Bailey oversees the full cocktail bar.
Because this is Southern California, Onda’s highly anticipated 120 seat dining room is awash in light colors and airy touches, without bombarding the senses in pops of bright color or gilded detailing. Sqirl partner and creative director Scott Barry designed the project alongside Kelly Wearstler, and says that Onda’s somewhat “austere” environment will let diners focus on the food, and help the restaurant itself transition more easily from day to night. “The idea,” he says, “was to do something that feels very contemporary and non-thematic... The design allows people to be there, present, and not distracted by decorations.”
Onda opens tonight at the Proper Hotel in Santa Monica. Expect evening hours only to start, from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. daily, with both lunch and breakfast hours down the line.
Onda at the Proper Hotel. 710 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, CA. (310) 620-9917