New dining destination comes to Promenade

On Friday, a gourmet showroom named The Market opened its doors on the third-story Dining Deck of Santa Monica Place, the upscale open-air mall capping off the beach city’s Third Street Promenade. The Market, which has been designed to evoke a conventional farmer’s market, boasts more than 10 different boutique-style stores.

The new establishment houses an impressive array of artisan shops, boutiques and restaurants to please the palate of even the most discriminating gastronome.  The building itself could pass for a gray-walled warehouse if not for the colorful shop displays lining the concrete walkway; purple and white orchids peep from the open storefront of Magical Blooms, while Röckenwagner Bakery’s glass display case tantalizes customers with stacks of baked goods ranging from colossal lemon bars to dark brown pretzel rolls.

With 11 different gourmet vendors, including a high-end wine shop and an organic ice cream sandwich stand, The Market leaves little to be desired in regards to the sweet and savory.

A little chocolate boutique called L’Artisan du Chocolat has to be the standout offering in the airy marketplace, though. A sleek glass case fills the majority of the shop’s space, but what else do you need in the storefront of a chocolate shop? Customers walk by and are drawn in by the artistry of the petite truffles, the detail of the delicate dipped strawberries and the timeless appeal of a simple bar of chocolate. Though the sweets are a little pricey, the treats are well worth it. The French chocolatiers use the highest quality ingredients, extending to the more avant-garde inclusions of bacon and Korean garlic (seen in the Santa Monica store as well as the company’s Silverlake flagship location). Some truffles even display dainty designs of gold leaf on their surfaces.

Not every shop in The Market, however, is so delicate. The Norcino Salumeria Cheese Bar serves up hefty plates of cheese and cured meats, thinly sliced and placed into sushi-style arrangements. In its selection of high-quality salumi (cured meats), the establishment certainly lives up to the name Norcino, which means “the butcher” in Italian. Served on thick cutting-boards, the salumeria evokes a feeling of old-world sustenance in a fresh Santa Monica location.

Closer to the windowed doors of The Market, a central island with a cheery logo is the home of Beachy Cream: Malibu’s Natural Ice Cream. The small Southern California-based company, which began as a mobile cart, serves up chunky ice cream sandwiches in a variety of clever combinations. Though the cart roams through several of Malibu’s most popular areas and the company chiefly serves markets in Malibu and Venice, the Santa Monica stand is Beachy Cream’s first fixed location. The sandwiches themselves are inspired by a certain California flair — the “Strawberry Surfer Girl,” for instance, is a scoop of strawberry balsamic swirl ice cream on a sugar cookie. As an added bonus, Beachy Cream’s products are completely organic, appealing to the more health-conscious California beach crowds.

Eater LA initially broke the news of Santa Monica Place’s plans for an open-air market in December 2009. Now, a year and a half later, The Market opens its doors to Los Angeles’ gourmet connoisseurs, with the first 500 customers receiving swag bags. Though The Market stands in stark contrast with the majority of Los Angeles’ food court concepts, it will certainly make an impression on every visitor to the Dining Deck of Third Street Promenade.