Chinois on Main

By Carole Dixon

In 1983, a groundbreaking Asian fusion eatery opened in Santa Monica, serving one of the best Chinese chicken salads in the country—by that guy from Spago. Thirty years later, Wolfgang Puck’s family-style version of Far Eastern fare with a French-California twist is still packed on any given night. Your eye immediately gravitates towards the giant copper updraft hood over the open-air kitchen—one of the first in town—then to the buzzing dining room, where your table might just be parked next to a giant crane bird made with cloisonné. Front of house manager Bella has been onboard since the doors opened, and her warm, infectious personality is clearly a draw. She dotes on locals as if they’re in her own home, while serving signature martinis with pear vodka and St. Germaine, or the giant lobster entrée that has been featured on Food Network’s “Best Thing I Ever Ate.”

... on the side

the crowd
You’re in for a people-watching treat, as many celebrities still frequent the restaurant. On any given night you might see anyone from Betty White to Suzanne Somers, alongside young couples, families, and older regulars from the neighborhood. A few lone diners sit at the kitchen dining counter or settle in back for the full kitchen view.

for design
Wolfgang Puck’s ex-wife and business partner Barbara Lazaroff designed the restaurant, and it still retains the original tile floors, mosaics by the kitchen, and exposed brick in the main dining room—with the odd Buddha head popping out from a wall niche or a large paper fan. Many regulars have been waiting for a revamp, but the feel of the room still works after all these years.



lunch: Wed–Fri 11:30 AM–2 PM
dinner: Mon–Thu 6 PM–10 PM; Fri–Sat 6 PM–10:30 PM; Sun 5:30 PM–10 PM

price range

$9 (steamed boa) to $45 (grilled Szechuan beef)