Sunday, May 8, 2011

MB Post - 04/23/2011

1142 Manhattan Avenue
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
(310) 545-5405

Dubbed a "social house," David LeFevre's new restaurant is built into the husk of the city's original post office, hence the name MB Post. The interior is a rustic mix of warm earthy wood and bare cement with iron wrought windows. With a brightly lit show kitchen and bar area dominating the back of the restaurant. I first heard about the restaurant a month or so before it opened was intrigued to hear LeFevre's name attached to the project. I'd first run across Chef LeFevre at the Water Grill and found the experience to be a bit staid though I suspect that had more to do with the style of restaurant than LeFevre's cooking style. With a background built primarily under Charlie Trotter then honed at top kitchens throughout Europe, I was interested to see how he planed to incorporate that into a more casual style of cooking.

MANHATTAN AVENUE - manhattan w/ sazerac rye, vanilla, caramel, bacon
Being in Manhattan beach I decided to start with the restaurant's take on the classic Manhattan. I found the heat and power of the bourbon tempered by the vanilla and caramel more to my liking though I wish the bacon played a bigger role.

OLD GEORGE - salty dog w/ chopin, grapefruit, basil, raspberry pepper jam
Kevin ordered this drink based on the recommendation of a friend, a derivative of the Salty Dog, which is itself a modified Greyhound, the classic grapefruit and vodka go down easy with a hit of lush raspberry on the finish from the jam.

The biscuits were easily the most attractive of the three bread options. Bacon and cheddar give the biscuit a seductive savoriness while the maple butter adds just the right amount of sweetness.

CHILLED ENGLISH PEA SOUP - olive oil poached tomato, creme fraiche
I've always found chilled pea soup to be inordinately delicious. This was a typically strong preparation, the cold creamy texture emanates with a bracing vegetal sweetness while the olive oil adds a soothing floral warmth.

AUSTRALIAN HIRAMASA - yuzu koshu, avocado, puffed forbidden rice
Another superb hiramasa crudo, yuzu kocho is such a brilliant pairing with white fleshed fish the citrus and spice are absolutely electric. The avocado plays a key role as well, accentuating the citrus element of the yuzu kocho and giving a magnificently creamy texture to the fish.

WOOD GRILLED SWORD SQUID - marinated gigande beans, lemon curd
Squit has become another consistent favorite of mine and this was right up there with the best of them. The snappy mollusk bristle with oceanic salinity. The beans and potatoes gave the dish some weight but what surprised me most was the impact provided by the sweetness of the grapes.

VIETNAMESE CARAMEL PORK - green papaya salad, lime
The stupendously rich pork came coated in a scorched lacquer of caramel giving the meat a pronounced sweetness. The green papaya was a bit overcooked which robbed it of the delightful crispness, but the salad still provided some relief from the weight of the meat.

BLISTERING GREEN BEANS - thai basil, chili sauce, crispy pork
This might have been my favorite course of the night. The bright crisp beans, coated in a sticky spicy sauce redolent of garlic vinegar, and soy, had a distinctly Asian flair to them. The pork was a nice touch giving the dish a meaty heft.

DIRGE: CORPSE REVIVER - corpse reviver w/ old raj, lillet, lemon, absinthe
The name of this drink hails from the time when it was appropriate to have a cocktail in the morning as a "pick me up" from the night before. Delightfully fresh the aromatics undercurrents of gin and absinthe are apparent but not overwhelming.

FESTERING BOROUGH - ny sour w/ eagle rare, lemon, cinnamon, framboise
This was a twist on the classic New York Sour using framboise instead of red wine which gives the drink a spiced-fruit sweetness to compliment the creamy boddy.

A flat disappointing fried chicken; the flavor was positively boring, aside from some salt all I could taste was a slight grain-like flavor from the batter. The best part of the dish was the green bean salad, the piquancy of the vegetable countering the weight of the chicken.

ASPARAGUS - poached hen egg, chanterelle mushrooms
This dish sounded fantastic on paper, the bitter asparagus coupled with earthy chanterelles and wrapped in a bubble of molten egg. Unfortunately the mix was sullied by an herbal sweetness somewhere between anise and brown butter that I could have done without.

Victory Prima Pils
A surprisingly forward pilsner, the Prima has a hoppy attack characterized by a floral herbaceousness.

Deschutes' Mirror Pond Pale Ale
The Mirror Pond Pale Ale was anything but pale, its reddish hue was followed by sweet bready malt balanced by a hoppy bitterness.

The slow cooked short ribs separated from the bones with just a sharp flick of the wrist. Tenderness aside, the meat was surprisingly lean for short rib, giving it a unpleasant sturdiness.

BELUGA LENTIL, SHRIMP and CHORIZO SOUP - yogurt, red onion, cilantro
The cohesiveness of this course far exceeded my expectations. The yogurt onion and cilantro give the soup a fresh vegetal tang while the lentils add a smoky mealy density to the soup. The overall effect is very similar to a burrito of all things.

ALASKAN HALIBUT CHEEK and CHIPS - meyer lemon remoulade
Halibut cheeks are considered the most prized part of the fish so it would have been nice to see LeFevre do something more with them.

MOROCCAN BBQ LAMB BELLY - creamy semolina, weiser farm tiny carrots
I've long had a soft spot for pork belly though this was the first time I can recall seeing lamb belly. Despite some concerns of the fat being overly gamy I felt compelled to order this. The meat proved to be quite heavy with the coating of sweet BBQ sauce effectively masking much of the lamb's gamy tang.

THREE POINT TART - macerated strawberries & rhubarb, buttermilk panna cotta
I was hoping for something akin to a strawberry pie. The combination of strawberries and rhubarb complimented the panna cotta nicely but the crust was oddly doughy and dense.

CHOCOLATE CHERRY PUDDING CAKE - black cherry granita, vanilla creme fraiche
The second dessert was a bit more effective the cake was expectedly dense though the cherry granita was a light twist on the typical stonefruit accompaniments, all of the flavor none of the calories.

It was a refreshing change of pace to see what Chef LeFevre away from the corporate environment of Water Grill. Though the two of us couldn't quite run the gamut I thought we got a fair representation of what MB Post has to offer. MB Post is off to a strong start; with the restaurant half full when we arrived at 5:45 and standing room only at the bar by the time we finished our meal around 8:00. No surprise given the lack of serious dining options nearby; given the culinary landscape I fully expect MB Post to establish itself as a local favorite.

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