Manhattan House Redux: The Sweet Summer Menu to Savor

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Chef Juan Torres, right,  restauranteur Brett Schwartz, left

What can we say about Manhattan House? Located in Manhattan Beach, this is a restaurant that as we’ve said before, could hold its own in DTLA, or the heart of the “other” Manhattan. Sophisticated, fresh, farm to table cuisine; a buzzing atmosphere; and a terrific, supportive staff combine to make a stellar dining experience.

We were delighted to meet the restaurant’s new chef, Juan Torres. His take on the restaurant’s cuisine will veer into the Italian-inspired, while keeping the focus on seasonal ingredients.

“We are going to be introducing six fresh pastas made in-house every day. We’ll also be including whole animal butchery twice a week. I’ve been training our staff on the pasta as we speak, eight hours a day we’ve been working on it,” Torres attests.

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We began our meal with cocktails: the gorgeous La La Land and the spicy The Thriller.  The latter features a heady mix of Karma tequila blanco, Cointreau, fresh kumquat and serrano chili, and lime juice, served on the rocks. I thought La La Land was something special, a smoky flavor permeating the Grey Goose La Poire, with lemon, vanilla, Chartreuse, and dill, served up.

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Each made a great companion to our first courses:  a lush heirloom tomato burrata salad, with balsamic and EVOO;  and a crisp, deliciously spiced yellow tail crudo, which thin shavings of fresh zucchini, onion, and red pepper.

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Both were beautifully presented.

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Gluten free and vegan never tasted as good as with the roasted cauliflower, a heady mix of the cauliflower with crispy buckwheat, celery, pomegranate, pine nuts, and a lemon caper vinaigrette. Light yet entirely fulfilling, it’s a perfect summer dish.

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The house take on beet salad is no slouch, either. A variety of golden and red beets accompanies pistachios, mixed greens, armidda, and a light balsamic dressing.

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But perhaps the most sublime dish is the saffron risotto with sweet corn and basil. Golden, delectable, and rich, it is not heavy, suffused in flavor, and wonderfully aromatic.  Truly something to savor – and I don’t say that lightly.

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Squid ink pasta with was an intense dish, earthy, hearty, and seemingly infused into the house-made spaghetti noodles. With it, we tried the La Vida Pura, another perfectly suited on-the-rocks craft-cocktail, this made with Del Maguey ‘Vida’ mezcal, grapefruit juice, passion fruit, mint, and Peychaud bitters.

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We finished with a whole branzino special. A perfect fish, rubbed with garlic salt and pepper, grilled over zucchini and a lettuce and tomato salad, it was flavorful, tender, simple, and utterly beautiful.

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But let’s not forget dessert: two very different dishes here. We had the restaurant’s signature Panna Cotta, creamy and smooth, a blend of vanilla, raspberries, and basil.

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And we were able to try a brand new desert, a light, fragrant granita, with rose’ jelly. Slightly astringent, it was both refreshing and unique, the rough texture of ice contrasting just about perfectly with the smooth jelly beneath it; the flavor sophisticated and edgy.

Be aware that because specials, fresh ingredients, and seasonal favorites come and go, you may not find the same dishes daily.  But rest assured, what you do find will be delicious.

There is only one more thing to say: no matter where in LA you live, you should spend an evening at Manhattan House. There’s plentiful, free lot-parking, too. Dinner nightly; brunch on Sunday.

Manhattan House is located at 1019 Manhattan Beach Boulevard, just off Sepulveda Blvd.

  • Genie Davis; photos by Jack Burke

Manhattan House: Beach Town Chic

Man house room

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.

Man house drinks

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.

Man house crab

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.

Man house asparagus

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.

Man House bread whole

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.

man house mushroom toast

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.

Main courses?

man house SCALLOPS

Pan roasted scallops with eggplant, pine nuts, breadcrumbs, and sun-dried tomatoes for me, with Spot Prawns & Polenta for my partner.

man house roasted cauliflour

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.

Man house smores

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.

man house olive cake

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.