My vacation muscles are a bit weak, so I decided to train myself by acting like a tourist at the beach. The new Santa Monica Place Mall has just reopened and the new panoramic rooftop terrace houses some very nice additions to “mall food”, including the Sonoma Wine Garden. What better way to start off an inauguration than with a glass of champagne (Domaine Chandon $12)?

The restaurant space is like a huge outdoor patio fenced in with olive trees and planters, so you can see out, but you feel ensconced in a private area. The lively bar sits in the center, while lounge areas with tables are set out around the perimeter, giving the place a casual relaxed feel; I’m sure you would want to hang out all day here if you had no other plans for the day.

My plan was to eat a nice leisurely meal while enjoying the sunny summer day, so I chose one of the brunch options (brunch is as close as I get to eating breakfast) of Kobe Steak and organic eggs ($15). I asked for my steak very very rare and my eggs over medium; I was thrilled that I got both items prepared exactly as I had ordered them. The cherry tomato salsa added a nice acidic balance to the rich steak and eggs. A delightfully chewy piece of grilled peasant bread lay underneath the steak and some field greens; this meal was a wonderful way to start the day.

It is so good to find anyplace in Los Angeles which serves truly rare steak, especially important when the steak is Kobe beef.

If you want burgers, pizza, or salads, they have those too, along with some cheese and seafood bites if you just want to nibble while you sip. My waitress was a consummate professional, and the busboy was completely efficient, both added to my joy at finding good food with good service in a touristy location. This place is a definite find atop a mall, facing the ocean (yes you get a view of it too), with quality food and impeccable service.

Even when the tourists* leave in a few weeks, the locals will have this treat to enjoy without any crowds and that is why many of us live here in balmy sunny California all year.

*For all tourists who try to find this place through Google, the map is WRONG; Sonoma Wine Garden is IN THE MALL, not on Santa Monica Blvd.