MB Post, Los Angeles review

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.

Menu - MB Post

You’ve got mail!

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?

Bacon Cheddar Buttermilk Biscuits - MB Post

Bacon Cheddar Buttermilk Biscuits

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.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts - MB Post

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

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.

Loup de Mer - MB Post

Loup de Mer

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.

Meyer Farm Rib-Eye - MB Post

Meyer Farm Rib-Eye

And you thought you could only get a corn-dogs at the beach!



Saxon + Parole review

Saxon + ParoleSaxon and Parole were two racehorses in the 1800’s, and they happen to be the inspiration behind the crop-and-bridle décor at Executive chef Brad Farmerie’s über-popular NoHo bistro. Horses are neither welcome here, nor are they mentioned on the menu in any way, but instead, the generous bar (serving ready-mixed, pre-chilled, ice-free Manhattans on-tap) leads to a couple of wood-framed dining areas teeming with dressage tchotchkes, amongst a spirited stable of regular diners.


Manhattans on-tap - Saxon + Parole

Manhattans on-tap

Chef Farmerie keeps the kitchen gimmickry to a minimum. His prowess is more evident in his confident broad-strokes menu featuring abundant favorites done impressively well, with a few whiplashing surprises mixed in. The raw bar items share space with a Razor Clam Egg-Salad or a Sea Urchin Muffin with bacon bits. See what I mean?

Brussels Sprouts with Poached Egg - Saxon + Parole

Brussels Sprouts with Poached Egg

The “First course” section offers a familiar variety of soup-salad-crudo options, with an obvious commitment to fresh, sustainable and fashionably de rigueur loco-moco-yoko ingredients like watercress and radishes, but the steamed Brussels Sprout Leaf Salad encircling a perfectly runny poached egg, covering smoky lardons with a zesty, salty and heavenly yuzu lemon hollandaise dressing combines everything I love about late autumn.

Grilled Berkshire Pork Chop - Saxon + Parole

Grilled Berkshire Pork Chop

Land and sea options are very well represented in the “Second course,” with some standouts including a simply seasoned, yet handsomely fileted Hangar Steak, revealing a dark-pink, marbled and juicy interior – in the shade of a marrow bone brimming with velvety Béarnaise sauce.

Farmerie’s perfectly measured use of Harissa provides just sufficient horsepower to spruce up the Crispy Roast Chicken (on a saddle of barley and faro wheat) giving it a marvelously Moroccan bite.

It’s hardly surprising that the supple, crisp and amazingly moist Grilled Berkshire Pork Chop has become one of the most loyally requested dishes. While it shares the plate with an all-too-safe glazed apple, the limelight is snatched by that creamy and pungent goat-cheese laden polenta.

The only under-whelmer of the evening was the offensively sweet, chili-caramel roasted Brussels Sprouts, which were soon forgotten by the arrival of desserts. As popular as they may be, the Warm Cinnamon Sugar Doughnuts with a trio of dipping sauces were left at the starting line by one of the most original S’Mores presentations in history.

Infusing the S'Mores with barrel smoke - Saxon + Parole

Infusing the S’Mores with barrel smoke

We insisted on a table-side demonstration as a ball-jarful of chocolate pudding, graham crackers and marshmallows were forced to inhale a few puffs of barrel smoke before the lid was tightly sealed, trapping an authentic bonfire flavor into the dessert, instantly rewinding me back to my pre-teen summer camp nights.

And so while some from the chewing police may have hemmed and hawed that Saxon + Parole hasn’t altered the culinary horizon enough, I would argue that Farmerie has carved himself an uncontested niche as New York’s torchbearer for reliable, enjoyable and above all impressive comfort cuisine – and let’s not forget those Manhattans on-tap!


Saxon + Parole

République, Los Angeles review



If reinvention is as American as Apple Pie, then the capital would have to be Los Angeles – where dreams are made, shattered and reconfigured between a jog through Runyon Canyon and a tall, wet, white, decaf, no-foam, percent, vanilla latte on Sunset Plaza. Like any other business, restaurants are hardly immune to the competitive pressures of new entrants and fickle loyalties – regardless of how unrelenting their meteoric success might have been. While cooking-show super stars were being created a mere mile up the road, no one noticed that the first darling of SoCal’s seasonal-sustainable discipline, Campanile, fell victim to waning interest. But the good news is that République has breathed brand new life into what was once the Charlie Chaplin building on the edge of Hancock Park. Walter Manzke (formerly of L’Auberge Carmel, Patina and Petty Cash Taquería) has performed a spectacular transformation, not only with tiles from the Philippines, wood from Thailand (for the lengthy communal tables and even lengthier charcuterie boards) but also by cracking the cloistered space wide open, and relocating Chaplin’s iconic tiled fountain to enhance the super-bistro’s curb appeal. Manzke and pastry-chef wife Margarita have created robust-flavored pan-European plates from France to Alsace to the Italian Riviera (and beyond) accompanied by an exclusively French yet approachable wine list with a handful of cheerfully curious cocktails that include Absinthe, Serrano chillies and Pandan leaves as ingredients.

Grass-fed Beef Tartare - République

Grass-fed Beef Tartare

As you walk in, a very respectable selection of bi-coastal oysters greet you (where the bakery used to be) along with a tempting glimpse of pre-baked dessert tarts and a row of imported tulip-bulb shaped dollops of fresh Normandy butter. The menu is broken down more by kitchen department than digestive courses, with separate sections for Bread, Steak Frites and Savory Tarts. Most portions are sharable and the wait staff shines at taste timing and course choreography. And here’s the best part, not only is the shelf-life for any menu item dictated by its availability, but many of the preparations are frequently reinvented (I assume due to diner indifference or kitchen fatigue or both) leaving a menu perpetually brimming with highly popular and difficult-to-make decisions.

Tasmanian Sea-Trout Crudo - République

Tasmanian Sea-Trout Crudo

Must-have starters include the pastry covered Escargot, the Thai-inspired Charcoal-grilled Prawns and two incredibly flavorful crudos: the impeccably balanced Hamachi with fire and freshness from pineapple, passion fruit and fresh jalapeño, and the lightly smoked Tasmanian Sea-trout in a wonderfully light (yet creamy) leak-and-potato mousseline (whipped egg-white sauce) with green apple gelée. Our waiter very accurately defined the Grass-fed Beef Steak Tartare as follows:  “They didn’t reinvent it or anything – they just nailed it!” And nail it they did with dill pickled onions and a take-no-prisoners mouth-watering tarragon aioli.

Nueske's Bacon Tart Alsacienne - République

Nueske’s Bacon Tart Alsacienne

The Nueske’s Tarte Alsacienne is a traditional, thin-crusted savory flatbread drenched in melted gruyere cheese over soft caramelized onions and heavenly strips of chewy bacon.

The rich, sweet and juicy Australian Lamb Rack is presented in a cast iron pot over nuggets of lamb shank and a wintry mix of beans, tomato and zucchini. As a side, we had to sample the irremovable menu fixture Wood Oven Roasted Brussels Sprouts, which are deliciously browned with apple-wood bacon and a soft poached egg.

Australian Lamb Rack and Shank - République

Australian Lamb Rack and Shank

Most of the desserts include seasonal fruits as inspiration around tarts, pastries and puddings, and the cheese menu includes local and European options with a couple of seldom-seen raw-milk choices.

Mirabelle Plum Tart - République

Mirabelle Plum Tart

And so while it’s tough to let go of my many recollections of Campanile and their impossible-to-get-into Thursday night grilled-cheese heyday fests, I couldn’t help finding myself in total embrace of brand new memories at République.