Monday, September 26, 2011

MB Post

One of the things I've tried to show in three and a half years of blogging is that simple food can be the best food. Yes, sometimes I go out to fancier restaurants or cook intricate recipes, but by and large the food I try to showcase here is simple and yet outstanding. My friend Christina has been singing the praises of a newish, simple, but outstanding restaurant for months, but honestly the thought of going to Manhattan Beach was very off-putting. Long time readers will know, I rarely travel out of my comfort zone to eat, but now I have an excellent reason to break my ridiculous, self-imposed rule.

MB Post

Last Tuesday, I carpooled with Ben to discover the South Bay treasure that is MB Post. Housed inside an old post office. Chef David LeFevre, formerly of Water Grill is churning out stunning food at affordable prices, in a casual setting.

Kitchen at MB Post

We pulled up to the restaurant a few minutes late for our 8:15 reservation. The place was bustling and our table wasn't quite ready yet so we decided to try a couple of cocktails at the bar. Ben and I each had the Mo-Pho-Jito ($12). It's a fragrant take on a mojito with kaffir lime, mint, ginger, and coriander honey. Not to sweet and it comes in a cool glass.


We decided that instead of picking dishes, we would have the chef send us whatever he felt like. The only thing we specially requested was the soft shell crab. Well the chef felt like sending us a lot and for that I am eternally grateful (my waist may beg to differ). To start, we were presented with a trio of bread. We agreed the bacon cheddar buttermilk biscuits ($5) were pretty much the best biscuits ever and reason enough to make the trip alone. The biscuit is light and fluffy with a crunchy exterior provided by rendered bacon fat and a sprinkling of fleur de sel. They don't contain huge chunks of bacon, but the flavor is in there. The maple butter that the biscuits are served with provides a nice counterpart to the salty bacon and cheese. The fleur de sel pretzel served with horseradish mustard ($4) is as perfect a soft pretzel as you can expect and we also enjoyed the grilled flatbread with harissa yogurt ($4).

Bread Plate

Along with the bread, we were presented a lovely selection of charcuterie, cheese, and various spreads. For the cheeses we enjoyed the Challechooker ($9) and the Mycella Blue ($10) and on the meat side we had the 12 month aged Jamon Serrano ($11) and the Picante Salami ($10). The plate also contained apple slices, more horseradish mustard, plum-thyme jam, and marcona almonds. To go with the meat and cheese was a lovely selection of sauces and honeys and nibbles. Picked vegetables ($3), marinated olives ($6), a honey selection (honeycomb, truffle honey, and chestnut honey) ($3), mustard selection (pink peppercorn, stout, redwine) ($2), and fruit spreads (rhubarb-ginger, plum-thyme, apple-fennel) ($3).

Cheese and Charcuterie

Mustards, Honey, and Fruit Spreads

By this point, I thought we would just have a couple more dishes. I totally thought wrong. Next we had the pomegranate couscous salad ($9). This is easily the best couscous salad ever. It has a punchy lavender feta, marcona almonds, mixed melon, and mint. It's fresh, it's lovely, and I totally need the recipe so I can make it at home.

Pomegranate Couscous

The Australian Hiramasa ($12) is fresh and light. It's flavored with yuzu koshu, and served with avocado and puffed forbidden rice. It's wonderful, but we're more in to the couscous.

Australian Hiramasa

The marinated cucumber salad ($8) is so pretty to look at. Ben wishes that everything was cut the same size, but I don't mind. The vegetables are so perfect. It's like everything was picked that morning and sent directly to the restaurant.

Marinated Cucumbers

Now we are ready for more cocktails. I opt out of the hard stuff in favor of a glass of Bodega Colome Estate Malbec 2008 ($13.50). Ben tries the Manhattan Avenue ($12). It's the restaurant's take on a Manhattan and a nod to the fact that they are located on Manhattan Ave. It has buffalo trace, vanilla, caramel, and bacon dust. It sounds like it would be cloying and sweet, but it is wonderful and smooth. The bacon dust isn't overpowering and adds a touch of smoky and salty flavor. Christina has the Southern Hospitality ($12). It's a punch with eagle rare, grilled peach, cinnamon, and charred white oak. Like the other cocktails, it's not too sweet and therefore great.

Manhattan Avenue

Southern Hospitality

Back to the food. The soft shell blue crab with Singapore chili sauce, grapefruit, apple, and coriander puree ($15) was handwritten on the menu so it probably won't  be around much longer. Go get it while you can and savor the sweet and spicy flavors.

Soft Shell Blue Crab, Singapore Chili Sauce, Grapefruit, Apple, Coriander Puree

Christina says the Steamed Mussels with green curry, Chinese sausage, and sticky rice ($14) are the best she has ever had. I'm still partial to Jitlada's green mussels in spicy broth, but these are pretty good.

Steamed Mussels

Hawaiian Walv (Escolar) grilled over white oak, summer vinaigrette, basil, and kalamata ($15) isn't as assertive as some of the other dishes, but it was hard to ignore. The fish was perfectly cooked and we ate the whole thing.

Hawaiian Walv Grilled over White Oak, Summer Vinaigrette, Basil, Kalamata

I was so happy to get the Blistering Blue Lake Beans with Thai basil, chili sauce, and crispy pork ($9). I had been eying the dish when we scanned the menu earlier in the evening. The vegetables are firm and crisp. The dish is sweet, but not cloyingly so and the pork adds a richness to all the green beans.

Blistering Blue Lake Green Beans

The Fee Fi Fo Fom Fries ($6) are delicious and crisp all the way through which is rare for steak fries so large, but we didn't really need them compared to all of the other great dishes we had.

Fee Fi Fo Fum Fries

Up until now, I thought that the Ace Hotel's cotija corn off the cob was the best corn dish I'd ever had. I even tried to recreate it at home, but I was so, so wrong. The grilled sweet corn with roasted chilies, Fontina, bacon, and polenta ($10) is the best corn dish I've ever had. All of the melted cheese was perfect with the sweet corn and once again the bacon provided just enough smokiness to balance it out. That was actually something that we appreciated about the menu. Many dishes contain bacon, but it's not done in a gimmicky way. It's there to provide an essence or flavor that you just can't get anywhere else.

Grilled Sweet Corn, Roasted Chilis, Fontina, Bacon, Polenta

Meyers Farm "Never Ever" skirt steak with grilled broccolini, red chimmichurri ($17). This was one of my favorite dishes of the evening (have I said that about everything?). Even our waiter declared it to be his favorite. The steak is perfectly grilled and so tender, you hardly need a knife. The chimichurri provides a wonderful flavor punch and the broccolini was nice and charred underneath. I am so glad I ended up with the leftovers of this.

Meyers Farm "Never Ever" Skirt Steak

Confit pork belly with lemon braised swiss chard and corn agnalotti ($16) is a bit of a toss up. While we love the pasta that is bursting with a sweet corn puree, we don't really love the pork belly because it is a tad dry, but does provide a hint of saltiness to the dish.

Confit Pork Belly, Lemon Braised Swiss Chard, Corn Agnalotti

Braised lamb neck with tiny summer squash, crispy gnocchi, and Bianco Sardo ($15) is a more successful meat dish in our opinion. It's amazing how the gnocchi are perfectly light and crispy at the same time.

Braised Lamb Neck, Tiny Summer Squash, Crispy Gnocchi, Bianco Sardo

At this point, we were so full we could only manage a few bites of the last few dishes, but they insist we have dessert. We only request The Elvis ($7) which has chocolate pudding, peanut butter mousse, bananas, and bacon brittle. Once again, the use of bacon is very restrained and only used to add a salty and crunchy counterpart to the sweet dessert. The peanut butter mousse is to die for and pairs perfectly with the chocolate pudding.

The "Elvis"

I should have known we wouldn't get away with having just one dessert. We were also sent the lemon ricotta cheesecake with Regier farms peaches, cornmeal streusel, and the chef's favorite marcona almonds ($5). It's served in a jar which I tend to think is a bit ridiculous, but actually works here because of portion control. The cheesecake is light, but I would have preferred the punchier flavor of cream cheese.

Lemon Ricotta Cheesecake

Harries Berry's are by far the most superior strawberries in Southern California, so I put aside my dislike for whipped cream and dive into the Strawberry-Verbena shortcake ($7). This restaurant has a way with biscuits that just amazes me.

Harry's Berries Strawberry-Verbena Shortcake

The thing about LeFevre is that he's not throwing a plate of plain vegetables at you, charging you 20 dollars for it and saying you should enjoy it because they're the best tomatoes in the world. He's taking the tomatoes, preparing them in the least fussiest way, but doing something that is bold and exciting while highlighting the flavors of some of the best produce in the world. In a world when you only get either side of the spectrum, MB Post is a rare treat. I'm not even kidding when I say, we spent the entire ride home talking about how amazing a dinner it was. MB Post is the epitome of why I need to explore new areas, get out of my routine, and truly discover the vast eating ground that is Southern California. There's so much out there waiting to be explored and I've barely tipped the iceberg. I will say that my recent visit to my new favorite restaurant, will most certainly not be my last.

*Food and drinks were comped. Glowing opinions are my own. You can read Ben's glowing review here.

One year ago: Tomato Hand Pies in Bacon and Thyme Crust
Two years ago: Vaca Frita and Croquetas de Jamon
Three years ago: Oatmeal Breakfast Bars

MB Post
1142 Manhattan Ave.
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
(310) 545-5405

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vanillasugarblog said...

travel out of your comfort zone? yes woman you must do this more.
crazy rule indeed. you live in cali girl, so many fine places to eat and explore at.
and this one is definitely one of them. nice.

Erica said...

Wow! The chef did it up for yall! The fleur de sel pretzel, cucumber salad and fries look best to me!

Lucy Lean said...

Love David Lefevre - he's always fun on my fishing trips. Just wish MB Post was closer...

Joanne said...

Wow I'm really glad you decided to forge ahead and eat at this restaurant! Everything sounds like the perfect mix of exotic and yet comfort food.

Nancy said...

Hi Esi!
I met David on Lucy's last fishing trip and can't wait to try his restaurant... gonna have to starve myself for a week or so because I want EVERY SINGLE dish that you posted about... utter heaven!!

Esi said...

Lucy, it's definitely worth a trip!

Nancy, we got to meet him at the end of the night of the night. He was great!

Diana said...

Please take my back with you! I want that couscous!!!

marla said...

Want it all, especially the skillet & the charcuterie platter :)

Georgia Pellegrini said...

What I meal! I love the use of cast iron pots a lot... I have them at home and they made great individual servings.