Restaurant Review #51: Anastasia's Asylum, Santa Monica (now closed)

Poached pear, candied walnut and gorgonzola cheese with dried cranberries

Disclaimer: In the summer of 2006, Anastasia's Asylum became Living Room. Living Room then closed. The original review remains below.

Anastasia's is my other favorite coffee shop (in addition to Literati--they have very distinct personalities). It's date-worthy and very cozy, almost to the point of being cramped (but not quite). The downstairs walls are painted bright cadmium orange and covered with a rotating display of student artwork. The wooden tables are mostly small tables for two, but there is an old (and uncomfy) Victorian couch near the door, and tables can always be pushed together. The somewhat undiscovered upstairs is cozy and has a green and purple vibe, but nightly performers work from the balcony and make it an inconvenient place to sit during those times. I enjoy the performers, but they make it difficult to talk. The small size of the shop offers no quiet corners during shows.

They offer brunch on the weekend, and Sundays seem to be particularly crowded. The coffee is good enough, though not great--they seem to do better on Italian sodas and fruit drinks. They also offer a wide selection of healthy meals, such as hummus or chicken wraps, both of which were quite good. The menu is definitely vegetarian friendly: most of the dishes are vegetarian, and there is a whole list of veggie burgers. The ingredients are fresh and above-average in quality. The service in the past tended to be grumpy, but on my last couple of visits they have been friendly and patient and my food and drinks have been brought to my table promptly. A couple of outdoor tables accomodate smokers, but these are along Wilshire and next to Temple Bar, making them not convenient for conversation.

As far as my thoughts on the salad, above, the pear was a little hard in the middle, and there was only one poached pear half in the entire salad, which was a little misleading I thought since pears were emphasized in the salad's title. The cheese was very good--much creamier and less tangy than all the other blue cheese I've ever eaten. The dried cranberries were the kind that actually look like halved cranberries (but I guess Ocean Spray does call them craisins, after all). I didn't like the walnuts much--several were burnt, and they tasted like cereal. I don't like walnuts or cereal, though I have enjoyed the occasional candied walnut, such as the ones at Warszawa, so I thought there was hope. The salad was a bit awkward to eat, since the spring mix they used contained some unwieldy and in my opinion inedible parts. It came with a balsamic vinagrette dressing. I honestly can't tell you if the dressing was good because I don't like balsamic vinagrette. All I can tell you is that it didn't convert me.

Anastasia's is open until 2 or 3am daily.

Anastasia's Asylum

1028 Wilshire Blvd.
Santa Monica, CA

Other Area Coffee Shop Reviews:
Literati Cafe
18th Street Coffee House
The Talking Stick

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