Identifying itself as a gastropub, the Yard (119 Broadway, near 2nd St. in Santa Monica) has nothing for vegetarians among its entrées, but with an assortment of small plates and appetizers, non-meat-eaters can assemble their own mini tasting menu of Top Chef contestant C.J. Jacobson’s carefully and creatively prepared dishes. We ordered the gently grilled corn on the cob, tender, sweet, juicy, and rolled in a buttery garlic sauce, with Irish coolea cheese and a dash of paprika; a combination of sweet (albeit slightly mushy) peach slices and creamy, pleasantly salty burrata; smooth, garlicky warm hummus, with roasted red pepper, sweet cherry tomatoes, parsley, and slices of crusty bread; and, the heaviest of our small plates, arancini, a reinvention of the Sicilian dish as crispy, golden balls with a creamy, cheesy risotto core and a Romesco sauce that had a slight, nutty crunch under the bright tomato flavor. Part of Yard’s shtick is to put together apparently incongruous but actually harmonious elements, and we saw this strategy most clearly with our dessert, chocolate cake with peanut butter ganache, charred marshmallow, and pretzel ice cream. The marshmallows, it turned out, were not charred at all but slightly toasted to bring out caramel notes echoed in the ice cream and peanut butter, while the subtle deployment of pulverized pretzel added a touch of salty texture like fleur du sel sprinkled on a fine caramel ice cream. The cake itself was moist, with a deep chocolate flavor and not too much sugar; the peanut butter ganache luscious; and the ensemble simply delectable. Like every dish we ordered, it was a winning combo, even if sluggish service sometimes made our dinner seem like the longest yard.
Update: As reported in Grub Street, the Yard closed in January 2013, a year after chef Jacobson left.