Flying Solo The Night Before the Opening of Santa Monica Place

Flying Solo The Night Before the Opening of Santa Monica Place


An invite to the opening party for CB2 at the new Santa Monica Place provided a perfect opportunity for some independent singular reporting on this new dining and shopping mecca.

A view from the third-level dining deck, quiet and serene, the night before the grand opening of the all-new Santa Monica Place.
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When I go out, I’m usually with friends or on a date – but there are times when I love to go out on my own – like on my recent “solo flight” to the new Santa Monica Place the night before its big grand opening celebration.

I had an invitation to the launch party of CB2 – a home furnishings store at Santa Monica Place that specializes in cool, but affordable house wares and furniture. It was the same night as Bloomingdale’s “Sneak Peak Access” party with goodies like a $25 money card – so even getting close to downtown Santa Monica and finding a parking place required Zen-like resolve.

From the size of the crowd, everyone in Los Angeles wanted to be the first to catch a glimpse of this $265 million renovation — including me — with its interesting mix of A-list retailers from Nike to Louis Vuitton, department stores (Bloomingdale’s and Nordstrom) and a third-level rooftop dining deck with an indoor/outdoor food court, six upscale restaurants and The Market, with an assortment of independently owned shops, kitchens and cafes.

Pre-opening party at CB2: The store features two levels of trendy house wares and furnishings.
I finally found a parking spot (just 6 spaces left) in the public lot on 4th Street near Wilshire Boulevard and hiked in high heels to find the CB2 party. When I arrived, the 2-level store was jammed with revelers sipping prosecco and snagging dainty appetizers as they floated by on trays. CB2’s newly hired staff, stylish 20-somethings, added to the store’s eye candy, along with CB2 corporate, media guests, family and friends gathered to celebrate the second L.A. location of this Crate and Barrel spin-off.

But what I really wanted to do, being so close to this new singular playground, was sneak a peek at the third level dining deck. So I dashed out the “in door” (instead of exiting through the proper “to the street” out-door) and entered the inner sanctum: the main level of this gorgeous, sleek, retail haven, feeling like I’d just slipped through the stage door during dress rehearsals for the Academy Awards.

Since it was just me, it was easy to play, “Yes, I’m supposed to be here,” and being solo made it so much easier to explore incognito. I breezed past workers completing the finishing touches – adding greenery, adjusting the lighting – making everything perfect for the next day’s grand opening celebration.

I took the glass elevator to the third level dining deck and was met with a stunning, nighttime view of the sparkling lights of the Third Street Promenade and downtown Santa Monica. I strolled along, snapping photos, imagining the fun to come when all was open for business.

The outdoor patio at the Sonoma Wine Garden faces out to the ocean and the Santa Monica Pier.
One restaurant that caught my eye is the Sonoma Wine Garden that occupies a prime spot on the west end of the deck with views that overlook the Santa Monica pier. A security guard asked me if I had a silver wristband (nope) and stopped me from going to the balcony to take in the full impact of the panorama. Not easily dissuaded, I walked through the open door of the Sonoma Wine Garden, past restaurant workers unpacking pine boxes packed with bottles of pinot grigios and chardonnays.

This is a wine lovers’ paradise, with an enormous glass wine “cellar” filled with a treasure trove of vintages, redwood plank floors that give off a delicious scent that makes you feel like you’re in the wine country, and a relaxing yet elegant indoor/outdoor design that is perfect for enjoying the Santa Monica “Riviera.”

A private party was in full swing at Ozumo, one of the six chef-driven restaurants on the dining deck.
With more to see on my whirlwind tour, I was off to the other side of the deck, past the requisite Food Court, and onto the next of the six “chef-driven” restaurants on the dining deck: Ozumo, open that night for a private party and filled with rocking singular types. Even though I didn’t have the required “silver” plastic bracelet, no one seemed to mind having another blond in a red dress join the party.

This elegant, San Francisco-based Japanese restaurant has a huge cocktail bar on one end, and a dining room and sushi bar on the other. Sushi chefs were whipping up sushi bites as fast as their razor sharp knives could slice and chic guests hovered nearby, ready to pounce. I did some pouncing myself and the sushi was some of the best I’ve ever tasted. The delicate flavors were incredibly fresh and seemed to melt in my mouth.

I glanced at my watch – and like Cinderella, realized I needed to head back to my coach before it turned into a pumpkin. I dashed out of the party, wondering which of the 21 food destinations I’d try on my return visit. By the time I took the glass elevator back to CB2 the last of the goody bags were gone and the prosecco bar was closed – but no problem. I’ll be back to Santa Monica Place soon – very soon!

La SandiaLa Sandia
The upscale, modern Mexican concept from chef Richard Sandoval derives its bright flavors from “old ways, new hands.”
Ozumo brings its acclaimed concept to Santa Monica, offering contemporary Japanese fare in a casually elegant setting.
Pizza AnticaPizza Antica
Stylish but comfortable, Pizza Antica lures the modern family to the table with Roman-style wood-baked pizzas and more.
Sonoma Wine GardenSonoma Wine Garden
Wine country in the heart of the city. Try the extensive wine list or refined small plates amidst a unique indoor/outdoor setting.
This striking space offers a sophisticated, new take on classic Chinese cuisine, created by noted chef Chris Yeo.
Hip, fun and vibrant — all perfect descriptors for Zengo’s eclectic vibe, and its mix of fresh Asian and Latin flavors.
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