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Seafood paella from Dono in Santa Monica.
Seafood paella from Dono in Santa Monica.
Wonho Frank Lee

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Brendan Collins Opens a Vibey Spanish Tapas Restaurant in Santa Monica

The Fia and Fia Steak chef takes on paella, croquetas, and conservas next door along Wilshire Boulevard

Despite the similarities of the warm climate and more laidback sensibilities, quality Spanish food is still somewhat of a rarity in Los Angeles. Newcomers like Tatel, Otoño, Caldo Verde, and Saso join the reopened Bar Moruno in establishing a fairly substantial Iberian food scene. Now Dono, from chef Brendan Collins of Fia and Fia Steak, is opening in the next-door space with operator Michael Greco beginning Friday, June 3.

Already the drinks are flowing and the tapas are moving thanks to some choice pre-opening services this week, but expect a lot of the classics here, from jamon croquetas, bacon-wrapped dates, albondigas with yogurt, grilled octopus with potatoes, and grilled shrimp with pimenton. Since canned fish is all the rage, expect conservas of tuna, mackerel, and tortas de boquerones (anchovies), while shareable entrees include seafood paella, whole grilled sea bass, wood-grilled butcher’s cut steak with romesco, lamb shank tagine, and grilled piri piri chicken. Like with all Collins menus, expect ingredients to be in the top-tier. Pastry chef Danielle Christie prepares a polished mil hojas with dulce de leche and coffee ice cream, as well as a very appealing chocolate flan with cherry jam and alfajore.

Named after the city of Donostia-San Sebastian, the former Charleston/Tacoteca space still keeps its low-flung ceilings and larger bar area for peak happy hour mingling. It’s not the most inspired interior, but the sizable patio in the back seems like a worthy summertime hangout. Bartender Gabriella Mlynarcyzk has a Spanish-influenced array of gin and tonics, sangrias, and other easy sippers to go with the tapas, while the wines lean Spanish or Portuguese.

With all this food and drink, one wonders if Dono will help round out the Spanish food scene in Los Angeles — if it can give it the jolt it needs to go back to the forefront. With José Andrés opening his celebrated Bazaar Meat in Downtown LA, plus two other hotel restaurants, it’s possible that Angelenos will wake up to a tapas and sangria-fueled dining scene before the end of the year.

Dono is open at 2460 Wilshire Boulevard, and is open 5 to 10 p.m. on weekdays, with a midnight closure on weekends. Closed Sunday and Monday.

Interior of Dono in Santa Monica.
Interior of Dono in Santa Monica.
Dining room of Dono with stained glass windows.
Dining room of Dono.
Bar area at Dono.
Bar area at Dono.
Patio at Dono.
Patio at Dono.
Canned sardines at Dono.
Canned sardines at Dono.
Tuna conserva.
Tuna conserva.
Torta de boquerones.
Torta de boquerones.
Yellowtail escabeche with radish and jalapeno.
Yellowtail escabeche with radish and jalapeno.
Chicken liver pate.
Chicken liver pate.
Grilled shrimp with pickled onion and pimentón.
Grilled shrimp with pickled onion and pimentón.
Seafood paella in a steel paella pan.
Seafood paella.
Grilled sea bass at Dono on a white plate.
Grilled sea bass.
Burger topped with chorizo with fries.
Burger topped with chorizo with fries.
Mil hojas with dulce de leche and coffee ice cream.
Mil hojas with dulce de leche and coffee ice cream.
Chocolate flan with cherry jam and alfajore.
Chocolate flan with cherry jam and alfajore.
Sangrias: roja, rosada, and blanca.
Sangrias: roja, rosada, and blanca.
Rebujito, a tonic with rhubarb, manzanilla sherry, and lemon.
Rebujito, a tonic with rhubarb, manzanilla sherry, and lemon.

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