Review: MB Post, Manhattan Beach CA

Mbp1

Photos by Peden + Munk

These french fries are insane. I’ve been binging on french fries almost daily for the past couple of decades, and I have never come across anything quite like these. First off, they’re huge. Colossal. Giant. I’m not exaggerating. The first time I see a waiter carrying an order of these beasts through the dining room, I mistakenly think they’re some sort of mini baguettes. Each fry measures about eight inches long with a girth as fat as a carrot. I can’t begin to imagine what one of these potatoes looks like whole before it’s carved into six or seven of these truly monstrous frites. Normally, I’d balk at a fry of this magnitude, thinking it will be dense and undercooked, but these are utterly perfect. I take a bite. It’s crispy and golden, giving way to a cloudlike inner core. I can tell by their color that they’ve been cooked at least twice, possibly three times. I still can’t stop eating them, dipping them into some sort of ketchupy-mayo-pickle concoction that’s downright addictive. I cannot recall a single memory from any stage in my life when I’ve been happier eating fried potato 

Manhattan Beach Post is a fantastic new gastropub in downtown Manhattan Beach, occupying what used to be the post office—and it’s currently one of the toughest reservations in all of L.A.  The reclaimed-wood, exposed-brick, industrial-loft-like interior reminds me a lot of Gjelina or Red Medicine or even The Spice Table, but of course everyone’s going for that look these days. In a nod to the address’ past occupant, the menus are delivered in envelopes. Kitchen towels act as napkins. The chefs’ workspace is framed like a hamster cage where all the culinary action is on display. Massive ceiling fans swirl in slow motion in the rafters. (If fans this large ever turned at full speed, the entire roof would lift off.) The music is cranked to beach-party intensity, pumping a mood-lifting soundtrack of Yes, Guns & Roses, Spacehog and unfiltered Cee Lo Green.

The chef/co-owner is David LeFevre, formerly of Water Grill. LeFevre previously spent 10 years at Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago, which is probably the longest tenure any chef other than Trotter himself has ever endured in that famously difficult kitchen. In between those two gigs, LeFevre took off around the world for an extended culinary journey that included stints in Thailand. The menu at MB Post appears to be a culmination of all those experiences. On the one hand, there’s a clear push toward locavorism, with the small-plates menu citing various California farms and independent ranches. But the kitchen’s cultural influences also span the globe from Vietnam (pork jowl with green papaya salad) to Morocco (lamb belly and pomegranate couscous).

Mbp2

Photo by Peden + Munk

The menu is crammed with so many amazing-sounding dishes, I’m overwhelmed trying to read every last detail. On my first visit, The Brunette and I tick off a dozen different items we want to try, but ultimately we lose track and forget to request the lentil soup. Fortunately, it’s on the menu again when I return—and it’s amazing, probably my favorite dish (after the fries). The soup arrives in a sealed pickling jar, and when the waiter opens the lid, the musky aroma of chorizo and cilantro gushes out. I dip my spoon into the jar repeatedly searching for the chorizo, and I can never come up with a single nugget of sausage. I fish up a few shrimp. I’m rewarded with lentils. And even though I can’t actually find any, every bite tastes subtly of chorizo.

It always kills me whenever I see an egg listed on a menu as a “hen egg.” I mean, what other kind of egg would it be, a rooster egg?  I guess it doesn’t matter when it tastes this amazing, poached the old-fashioned way (not that newfangled sous-vide approach) and served atop the season’s finest asparagus and mushrooms. It just doesn’t get much better than that.

The chef is clearly adept at seafood, and his raw Australian hiramasa is exquisitely counterbalanced with spicy yuzu koshu and sweet, creamy avocado. Daily additions are scribbled on the menu’s margins, and on my first visit, one of these additions is an salad of perfect California nectarines tossed simply with arugula, candied walnuts and whipped ricotta.

A waiter on one visit urges me to try the buttermilk marinated fried chicken, and he doesn’t have to twist my arm. It’s perfectly cooked but the corn-flake crust is globbed on way too thick—literally half an inch of crust in some places. With some bites, I’m wondering if I’m eating fried chicken or granola. And there’s also a terrific skirt steak from Meyers Farm, a generous portion slathered with a mild red chile sauce.

Desserts, sadly, are just terrible—not a good one in the bunch. There’s a strawberry shortcake made with a biscuit so greasy it would have been rejected at IHOP. And there’s one of those ubiquitous molten chocolate cakes, but for some reason the chef chooses to top the warm gooey center with cherry granita, which halts the lava flow and causes the shaved ice to melt into an annoying puddle, sullying the entire plate.

Although this is essentially a gastropub, I’m happy that a good portion of the restaurant is made available for reservations. But in what’s become typical fashion, about half the restaurant is first-come, first-served at communal tables. And this is why I loathe communal dining: On a night when I’m sitting in the communal section, I end up spending half the evening making small take with an obnoxious telecommunications saleswoman from San Luis Obispo. I learn that she’s 46 and a grandmother three times over. She’s formerly a Morman and is originally from Newport Beach. She loves Botox and denim-colored diapers. Too much information, and that’s barely scratching the surface. She won’t leave us alone. She wants to talk about college, horses, golf, and all sorts of ridiculous crap she thinks I gave a shit about—when I’ve come to dinner not with her but with an old friend who I really want to catch up with. Not a chance. Our new, unwanted bff won&rs
quo;t give us a break.

Manhattan Beach Post
1142 Manhattan Ave.
Manhattan Beach, CA
310.545.5405

Rating
3 stars

Hours
Sun.–Thurs., 5pm–10pm; Fri.–Sat., 5pm–11pm.

When to go
For the best service and comfort, eat as early as possible. All hell breaks loose come 8pm.

What to wear
T-shirts, sailor’s tan, designer jeans, plastic shoes, gigantic diamond rings 

About the noise
Beware. Decibel levels can reach jackhammer loudness.

What it costs
Breads, $4–$5; charcuterie and cheese, $9–$12; salads, soups and veggies, $5–$11; fish and meats, $11–$17; desserts, $5–$7; valet parking, $5 (after 7pm); corkage, $15

What the stars mean:
0 = poor, unacceptable

1 = fair, some noteworthy qualities
2 = good, above average
3 = very good, well above norm
4 = excellent, among the area’s best
5 = extraordinary in every detail
My star-rated reviews are always based on multiple visits. Ratings reflect my overall reaction to food, ambience and service.

I invite you to follow me and join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter. 

Kiva - loans that change lives

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: