The beach communities of Los Angeles – outside of Santa Monica and Venice, that is, is sometimes a desert. A food desert that is, although that’s certainly changing, one great restaurant at a time, with a growing range of restaurants that offer superlative cuisine. Manhattan House is one.
What’s not to love about Manhattan House? This is a restaurant that features produce grown seed-to-plate in local community gardens, making the veggies and herbs always fresh and fine. Organic and GMO-free ingredients compliment seafood, vegetable fare, and meat dishes – creating a dining experience that’s delicious for everyone. And, one that is ever-changing. Nightly specials and a menu that varies with the season means you could dine here often and never get bored.
With a chic but rustic feel, the dining room itself is comfortable and stylish, with both booths and tables, as well as a friendly bar. And – it’s just blocks to the beach – with it’s own parking lot.
The menu changes regularly, but always on hand are excellent craft cocktails, a solid beer and wine list, a plethora of fine vegetarian and seafood options, and specials that sing with inventive touches. Chef Diana Stavaridis creates surprisingly beautiful dishes, including many ever-changing, seasonally-based specials.
These included our starter, squash blossom with Dungeness crab, stuffed with lemon zest, pea tendrils, and avocado mousse, a terrific blend of flavors that was both delicate and satisfying. Perhaps even better was our salad, asparagus with large and lovely Fava beans, fingerling potatoes, and Parmesan cheese on spring greens.
Our carnivore tried the lamb meatballs, which she pronounced succulent and juicy; we went with toast. Not just any toast – but the house-made sourdough, a bread so good the restaurant sells it as take-home fare.
The wild mushroom toast is a potent, rich, and fragrant dish. Don’t be afraid to share. It features shiitake mushrooms and Taleggio cheese and it as hearty as any meat dish.
Something lighter? The English pea toast combines delicate pea tendrils and basil pesto with ricotta and Parmesan. I’m sure it, too, is shareable – most of Manhattan House’s menu is designed to be shared over a series of smaller and larger courses – but personally speaking, this one was all mine.
Pan roasted scallops with eggplant, pine nuts, breadcrumbs, and sun-dried tomatoes for me, with Spot Prawns & Polenta for my partner.
On another occasion, we went with vegan entrees that are truly a garden of taste: the roasted cauliflower, a dish often overdone and over-fried in far too many eateries these days, was a much more refined dish here, with buckwheat, celery, tangy pomegranate, pine nuts, and a lemon-caper vinaigrette. Keeping it simple, the warm market vegetables, which varies seasonally, featured eggplant, asparagus, rainbow heirloom carrots, and zucchini.
For dessert, of course we had to try the S’mores, unconventionally served as if the dish were a parfait, and here it is: layers of marshmallow brulee, dark chocolate, and gluten-free graham crackers in a lovely glass jar. The house cake the evening we dined was olive oil. I was skeptical, but with kumquats, candied pistachios, the cake was surprisingly light as air. Coffees are fine, too.
Manhattan House is hugely popular – so do make a reservation, although bar seating, with small treats available on the menu such as nuts and olives, is a pleasant way to wait for a table should one arise. Can’t wait? The restaurant is now offering local home delivery.
Manhattan House is located at 1019 Manhattan Beach Blvd. in Manhattan Beach. Dinner is offered 7 nights a week, with a Sunday brunch. The restaurant is participating in Dine LA so don’t miss the chance to check out the innovative dishes.