Gargantua, LA’s latest Pop Up Dinner Series you don’t want to miss

Slated to stay open til the end of 2017, Garrgantua brings you a five course menu after dark at Santa Monica’s small, unassuming, neighborhood restaurant OP Café. The menu is exquisite, challenging your taste buds to reach new levels of flavor sophistication. Chef Nick Barainca orchestrates dishes with unexpected flavor combinations and new food medleys you may have not thought possible. “For us, it’s about the integrity of an ingredient and the morality of the method.” Gargantua wants to offer food that hints at familiarity but is pursued by curiosity. And, it does just that.

The scope of the menu is to explore the raw materials and landscape of California by offering “a collection of plates,” consciously constructed of five courses intended to be shared amongst the table. Chef Barainca showcases what California and it’s climate truly has to offer by using produce strictly from our region and from farms no farther than Santa Barbara County. The chef’s experience comes from time working with the Four Seasons Group and most notably as Chef de Cuisine at Mattei’s Tavern in Los Olivos. After working in the Santa Barbara area for some time, Nick found himself back in Los Angeles to consult on the latest PB Hospitality project, Liaison, which opened earlier this year in Hollywood. Nick seems to have come full circle as a he commented he began his culinary arts training two blocks away 14 years ago at The Art Institute of Santa Monica.

For $47 per person, the culinary experience included dishes like Four Melon Ceviche with trout roe and cream poured over the greens leaving a sweet and salty savory flavor I have not known before, but love. To start our meal, we were presented with a circular black garlic bread with an aged beef mushroom glaze, the right amount of salt crystals, and just churned kefir butter. It felt like we were eating ‘art’ or an item created with such care and love. Each course felt this way. A beautiful bowl of Ancient Grains came out as our third course consisting of five grains, grapes, lavender beans, eggplant cream, and forbidden rice prepared to give the dish a nice crunch. It was marvelous! I had never tasted anything like it!

The most expensive dish of the tasting menu was the Pork Collar cooked for 36 hours over almond wood. The melt in the mouth pork atop caramalized onion powder (oh so yum!) was prepared with young ginger and sunchokes.

The final dessert bite called Nude Oat Financiers was like an ode to a Madeline, but topped with a jam, Satsuma plums, and meant to be dipped in the buttermilk scoop. Every course was presented in these artful ceramic bowls and plates.

This is exactly how I like to eat, shared plates of stellar measure, not leaving feeling like you have gorged yourself but instead savoring the finest ingredients prepared beautifully in unlikely combinations. I’ve experienced more expensive multi-course tasting menus from some of the best chefs in town that were not this mind blowing, and the price for this experience would be three times the amount in other cities like New York City.

“Gargantua started from the idea of cooking within a new set of boundaries, really getting back to an understanding of why I started cooking in the first place. This was an opportunity that came out of frustration and pure necessity to do something totally uncontrived. Setting up shop at OP cafe seemed impossible at first glance, but as time went on it really posed a lot of new challenges that have inspired us creatively in the kitchen” says Chef Nick Baranica.

When asked what was my favorite plate, I couldn’t decide. They all blew me away with their culinary creativeness. The approachable menu items change often and a la carte options for walk-ins are available. Drip coffee from Beacon Coffee Co, Loose Leaf Tea from Mad Monk, sodas, sparkling water, and signature drinks like an elderflower concoction can be ordered, but if you want wine or alcohol, you have to bring your own booze.

While Nick has taken over the kitchen at The OP Cafe (which currently serves breakfast and lunch), his impressive dinner series “g a r g a n t u a”  will operate with his team from Thursday – Saturday. Reservations are highly suggested and can be made by visiting or by downloading the reservation app, Resy. Street parking is available and free after 6 pm.

Enjoy a memorable night with an innovative collection of plates. Impress a date or come with a group of food loving friends. Satiate your appetite g a r g a n t u a – style!!


g a r g a n t u a 

Thu – Sat | 6:30 – 11:00

3117 Ocean Park Blvd.

Santa Monica, CA 90405

310.452.5720 |









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