When Los Angeles locals and visitors need a break from the city, they flock to the beach — especially South Bay’s Manhattan Beach. Once written off as a sub-par L.A. dining destination, Manhattan Beach is now the hot spot for revered chefs to open restaurant outposts. Here are five Manhattan Beach restaurants to put on the top of your reservation list this summer.
Hearts sank when chef David LeFevre left the beloved Water Grill seafood restaurant in downtown L.A. But soon after he opened M.B. Post (the original pioneer of the Manhattan Beach dining scene) in April 2011, foodies flocked south to eat LeFevre’s selection of eclectic dishes like Vietnamese pork jowl; housemade cavatelli with tomato and lamb ragout; and steamed mussels in a green curry sauce with Chinese sausage and coriander rice. The menu is seasonal and changes often, but a few things remain constant — including LeFevre’s infamous bacon cheddar buttermilk biscuits that emerge in the form of a Benedict for brunch.
From the outside, Fishing With Dynamite looks like it could be a seafood shack in the Chesapeake Bay, but this lively jewel box of a restaurant is just blocks from the Pacific Ocean. Adjacent to M.B. Post, chef David LeFevre’s second Manhattan Beach outpost offers traditional and innovative seafood selections from a menu that is divided among the oyster bar, raw bar, “new school” (creative dishes like black miso cod with Japanese eggplant, adzuki beans and Thai basil), “old school” (East Coast favorites like New England clam chowder, poached half Atlantic lobster and Maryland blue crab cakes) and “no school” (a collection of land-centered dishes like confit pork belly with white corn grits, bitter greens and a spiced green tomato chutney and flat iron steak with shishito peppers). The cleverly named “after school” dessert selections like pretzel and chocolate bread pudding top off the menu, along with a selection of seafood-friendly beers, wines and craft cocktails.
Go to Circa to try the rich global flavors that make Los Angeles a unique dining destination. The tapas-style menu is dictated by the season, but could include selections such as whole crispy Baja sea bass served with pea tendrils and peanuts in a Sichuan pepper sauce; steamed chicken and shrimp shu mai dumplings; duck confit tacos with pickled jalapenos; and wood-grilled Korean beef short ribs with a spicy-root-Seoul slaw. Mixologist Julian Cox designed the craft cocktail menu that offers a barrel-aged Manhattan and housemade tonics that are perfect when mixed with either vodka or gin.
Although the name is French (meaning “at home”), the menu at Chez Soi is decidedly American, offering eclectic flavors with ingredients sourced from Southern California. The space takes full advantage of two patio dining areas and that airy ambiance extends inside. Menu musts from chef Mark Gold are Malpeque oysters served with a yuzu koshu; wood-fired octopus presented on top of crispy fingerling potatoes; an artfully presented salad of red beets, red berries, charred cucumbers and whipped burrata; and a comforting dish of Japanese udon noodles topped with tender poached Maine lobster and served in a yuzu-brown-butter sauce. Followers of chef Gold revere his fried chicken, so it comes as no surprise that Jidori fried chicken served with hot-sauce butter is a menu staple.
Expect expertly prepared cuisine in a beach-house atmosphere over jaw-dropping views of the Pacific Ocean and Manhattan Beach Pier. Master chef Neal Fraser and executive chef Greg Hozinsky source fresh ingredients from local farms to create modern interpretations of traditional seasonal fare like Chesapeake Bay soft shell crab tempura served with hearts of palm and picked fennel; purple asparagus salad accompanied by local fava beans, heirloom cherry tomatoes, arugula and ricotta salata; and selections of fresh seafood, steaks, charcuterie and cheeses. In addition to the cuisine, ambiance and views, The Strand House is celebrated for its Culinary Masters Series — a regular one-night culinary extravaganza that features collaborations among Strand House chefs, acclaimed visiting chefs and wineries.
Photos Courtesy of Daniel Hennessy, Fishing With Dynamite, Ryan Tanaka and Christina Xenos