Restaurant Review #110: The Hump, Santa Monica -- CLOSED

Update: The Hump has closed.

I am re-posting this review with some changes because of the vastly different experience I had on my second visit.

The Hump has an unusual atmosphere for a sushi restaurant. Rather than cool colors, sleek surfaces, and clean lines, The Hump's dining room is warm yellows, and browns and has the round, homey feel of your grandparents' living room with only a hint of LA chic. Even on a Saturday night, and even at the sushi bar, the acoustics are such that you can hear your friends without straining your ears or your voice at all. And even at 7:30 on a busy Saturday night, the hostess will manage to find you a 9:00 reservation.

On my first visit, we sat at the far end of the sushi bar, and surprisingly, it was both cozy and unintimidating. The bar is wide enough and the seats are far enough apart that for once, I actually enjoyed the sushi bar experience. We ordered the omakase and had a friendly, humble chef who accomodated our special requests. It looked like everyone got the same omakase, which made me feel a bit less special. Our chef gave us the inside scoop on the food though, which made me feel a bit more special. Also, I got to try young ginger and fresh wasabi for the first time, both of which I loved. Young ginger comes in round sticks slightly wider than a pencil that are white and taper to a bright magenta. Does it grow like that, or is it dyed, I wonder? Fresh wasabi doesn't have that grainy consistency that powdered wasabi can't help but have. It's also more moist and perhaps more pungent. The basic flavor didn't seem too different from it's powdered cousin, though.

The food was excellent, the service was excellent, the prices were slightly above average, and the atmosphere was unpretentious, cozy, and conducive to conversation. This combination is a rare treat, and makes The Hump one of my favorite restaurants. Oh, and in case you were wondering, its proximity to the Santa Monica airport (practically on the runway) doesn't make it a noisy place, but it's pretty cool to watch small planes landing in the dark.

On my second visit, my friend and I went on a Tuesday night around 8:00, again without a reservation (not that we would have needed one--the restaurant was about half-empty). The shishito pepper appetizer was excellent--a generous portion served piping hot and garnished with shaved bonito. I couldn't quite finish them all. All of the fish was excellent--I ordered red snapper, albacore, and yellowtail nigiri, my usual favorites. I also ordered seared scallop, which I didn't like as much--something about the flavor of the citrusy green bits on top just didn't go with the flavor of the scallop. The quality of the fish itself left nothing to be desired, though. The portions of fish are smaller here, and the prices are standard ($5-6 for most things), which makes the food overall a bit more expensive. I didn't really mind though, because I like being able to fit my sushi in my mouth. Also, to my disappointment, we didn't get fresh wasabi. Guess that's reserved for the big spenders.

Along with any semblance of service.

Everything was fine, until we were ready to order seconds (I always order seconds of sushi, rather than ordering everything I think I want at first, since sushi is so perishable and definitely should never ever ever be taken home as leftovers). No server came our way or even looked at us for what must have been at least 15 minutes, if I'm being generous. When we finally ordered more, it took at least another 15 minutes for our very small order to arrive (again, I'm being generous on the time).
The restaurant wasn't busy, and it didn't seem understaffed. No one looked rushed or overworked.

Then they brought us the wrong check.
If it had been my first visit, I probably would have left an insulting tip in protest at being overlooked almost completely during at least half of my meal (people around us were being seated and served, no problem). I couldn't figure out what to attribute our flagarant lack of service to (I say flagarant because apologies ranged from meager to nonexistent), unless it was because our total bill, including tax and tip, only came to about $75.

I thought The Hump wasn't like that. At least when they brought our final bill, the shishito peppers had been knocked off ($5 in my pocket), but I had a feeling it was an accident, not an apology, based on the rest of the evening.

Now I'm not sure what to think about one of my formerly favorite restaurants.

The Hump
3221 Donald Douglas Loop S
Santa Monica, 90405


eatdrinknbmerry said...

hi amy, this review was written so nicely. I actually felt like I was in the restaurant "watching the small planes land in the dark". I have heard of the Hump before and would love to try it very soon. So many good sushi places in the Westside, too little money haha. Nice job.

joanh said...

I have heard good things about the hump, but have never managed to make it out there.. I hate it too when I have a bad 2nd visit to a great 1st visit.. Then I'm not sure if the the anomaly is the 1st or the 2nd.. I guess it's worth it to give it a 3rd try to break the tie-breaker... if it's just service (and not the food) then maybe it's just an off night in terms of getting a bad waiter?

Anonymous said...

hi~ I am planning to visit The Hump with my girlfriend on her birthday, I would like to ask where should I sit in order to have da best view?? Thx alot

Foodie Universe said...

Asking to sit at any table by the window should do the trick. That will allow you to see the planes taking off and landing.