Until chef David LeFevre bravely opened MP Post, slap-bang in the middle of Manhattan Beach, LA’s south bay never really contributed much to the culinary scene beyond beach-boy burger joints and beer bars. Surely a long time protégé of Charlie Trotter’s, or a Michelin star winning executive chef of downtown’s famed Water Grill who wanted to open his first solo foray in the heart of a sleepy surfer town must have been barking up the wrong lifeguard tower. But we all have to hand it to him – not only did he ace it, but he started a tidal change of popular foodie hotspots up and down the Pacific beachfront.
LeFevre’s concept was to simply recreate a few sharable comfort food dishes that reminded him of his roots. Who knew this would turn into reservation riots and valet parking apoplexy as he drove his neighbors nuts with addictive tastes and textures well beyond their Baywatch comfort zones.
There’s an über-emphasis on chilled, laid-back informality in the vast, open space. The wooden walls and concrete floors feel cool but intimate, and the odd lifeguard tchotchke here and there feels reminiscent of old school corn-dog shacks. The sand colored envelope addressed to you (a nod to the restaurant’s former life as a post office) contains the list of robust offerings of local and selected small batch wines, ten cocktails with a few unique twists and shakes, and a region-free menu categorized by ingredients rather than courses.
As if by socialist decree, there seems to be a mandatory serving of a Bourbon sour at just about every table. The sneaky switcheroo of Kentucky Bourbon for Pisco with frothy egg-white-whipped lime-juice seems to have become the Tequila sunrise of the new generation. And right beside them, like a couple of sun tanned, liver-spotted beach bums – the wave stopping Bacon Cheddar Buttermilk Biscuits. These bad boys go down SO well with a thimbleful of whipped maple butter, that I would like to nominate their recipe for inclusion into the next time-capsule. Why shouldn’t archaeologists, a thousand years from now, relish in the delight and pleasure of millennials, who paid currency for this incomparably more-ish treat, after riding the surf with fin-shaped planks?
The cheese and cured meats cater to just about every appetite, from the simplest cheddar with honey, to salty slithers of dark red Jamon Iberico with a bracingly strong horseradishy mustard and tart pickles. I would also argue that there’s at least one vegetable with everyone’s name on it. Mine’s probably on those blistered Blue Lake Beans with the most wonderful Thai basil and chili sauce and a few dice of crispy pork belly. Or perhaps the creamy, dreamy Mac & Cheese with parmesan, mycella blue and fontina. Maybe the fruity, fragranty Pomegranate Couscous with lavender feta…? No. It has to be the caramelized Roasted Brussels Sprouts with crunchy hazelnuts and strips of emmentaler.
LeFevre offers an equally scrumptious choice of more serious eats. His Loup de Mer has the crispiest garlic-topped skin out of any fish in the greater 310 area code. It sits atop a birds nest of julienned cucumber and an almost green-papaya, mint and cilantro dressing.
The only oddity in a string of otherwise safe bets were the line of Shrimp and Pork Dumplings straddling an insipid ponzu sauce (rather than, say, a thick soy-garlic dip), but more incongruous were the lonely chicharrones, providing little more than punctuation. But the unsurprisingly popular soft-as-a-salt-water-taffy Meyer Farm Beef Rib-eye arrived nicely charred outside and perfectly pink inside, slithered into pencil strips and topped with a rich disc of melting black truffle butter.
And you thought you could only get a corn-dogs at the beach!