Photo by Dylan + Jeni

Jessica Koslow (Sqirl in L.A.) and Gabriela Cámara (Cala in SF, Contramar in Mexico City) have opened a buzzy Santa Monica restaurant in the Proper Hotel

Ellen Fort  – October 30, 2019 | Updated November 8, 2019

There’s a stunning new restaurant in Los Angeles that merges the talents of two superstar chefs: Jessica Koslow of L.A.’s line-drawing breakfast spot SQIRL, and Gabriela Cámara of SF’s Cala and iconic Mexico City restaurant Contramar. Together they’ve created Onda, a restaurant that’s  “rooted in Mexican cuisine,” and shaped by the influences of Southern California.

Onda is now open for dinner, serving a menu that marries the cuisines of the two chefs, from Koslow’s emphasis on fermented foods to Cámara’s deep knowledge of Mexican cuisine. Chips and Dips comes with a fermented chile guacamole and black beans, plus corn nuts made from nixtamalized heirloom Mexican corn and dusted with jalapeño-sauerkraut salt are just one example of that blending of cuisines. Elsewhere on the menu are smoked trout tostadas with trout sauerkraut, Castelvetrano olives, carrots, braised tomatoes, and thick slices of avocado, jackfruit sopes, and a koji-marinated sweet potato (Cámara has a fondness for sweet potatoes; the charred sweet potato with bone marrow salsa negra at Cala has become iconic).  Check out the full menu for Onda here

Photo by Dylan + Jeni

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Onda is the first collaboration between the two chefs, both of whom have established themselves as leaders in the restaurant industry. It’s been an unusual progression for the two chefs, however: After the project began, Cámara was asked to serve as an adviser to Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrado, subesequently moving herself and her 10-year-old son to Mexico.

Cámara debuted her first cookbook,  My Mexico City Kitchen: Recipes and Convictions (Lorena Jones Books; $35), in the spring, with recipes like Crab Tostadas, Prawns with Green Rice, and a Summer Squash and Asparagus Salad dressed simply with olive oil, lime juice, and salt. Koslow’s food shares a similar ethos of simplicity—check out this recipe for Tomato Salad with Crispy Potatoes and Creamy Feta. 

Together, the two chefs have managed to create a menu that speaks to both of their strengths. It’s epitomized in the name Onda, meaning “wave” in Spanish,  intended to convey “the shared wavelength between the chefs’ perspectives.” And given its location in Santa Monica, it’s a fitting title for a restaurant serving a healthy amount of seafood by the seashore. It resides within the newly opened Proper Hotel, bringing a minimalist, primarily white-walled dining room to the stylish, Kelly Wearstler-designed space.  Eventually there’ll be breakfast and lunch (it is a hotel, after all), but for now diners can enjoy dinner seven days a week. www.onda.la700 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles