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Dominique’s Kitchen in Redondo Beach is far enough away from the water to put their money into their food instead of their rent, and with their very low corkage fee of $10, locals are flocking to this place like seagulls. There is a tiny lot, but plentiful street parking, and the dining area is warm and inviting. Make reservations if you want a seat because even on a weekday night, it is fully booked.

Some of my friends have known me since I was too young to drink (in the US) and as we have grown up, our tastes have evolved, as well as our skills in the kitchen. Finding a place we all like wouldn’t be difficult if we had unlimited resources, but part of the fun of eating out is finding a hidden restaurant gem that doesn’t cost as much as a car payment. Six of us ate all of the dishes below for about $40 per person including tax and tip (we brought our own wine). At prices like this, do not expect perfection; some of the flavors were muted or mangled, and the plating left a lot to be desired, but there was definitely value and some well executed dishes.

An amuse bouche of kale with cannellini beans and Parmesan started off the evening. Fresh flavors using local and classic ingredients, but with an overwhelming ratio of cheese to the kale and beans.

The generous serving of house made chicken liver paté was delicately seasoned and served with a nice handful of mache in a light vinaigrette, toasted baguette, and crunchy cornichons.

My favorite appetizer was the lamb sausage over a bed of organic quinoa. It was well executed with a nice blend of textures and a savory accent.

The garlic perfume from the escargots was enticing, but it needed a touch of coarse sea salt and I was disappointed by the lack of actual garlic pieces in the garlic butter.

The salmon special was the best main course I tasted. The skin was perfectly crisp, the fish was moist and the flavor of the relish added zest to the fish without detracting from it.

The filet of sole was a close runner up to the salmon, with a beautiful buerre blanc and an enormous serving!

Several people ordered side Caesar salads and although they were freshly made, they were not noteworthy, but for only $2 with an entrée it was a very good value.

The braised short rib was the best of the meat dishes. There was depth and complexity in the flavors of this dish, and the beef was tender from the long slow braise in Pinot Noir.

I ordered the lamb chops and the meat was tender, but I was underwhelmed by the garlic and thyme au jus which tasted of neither and lacked seasoning. I did not eat any of the polenta that came with this dish because it tasted like it was made with MARGARINE! The restaurant contacted me to say they do not use margarine, so if it was butter it was awful. For a place which uses local and fresh ingredients in other dishes, I was very disappointed by this incredible faux pas.

Grilled steak with fries is the classic French bistro dish, and they offer the classic version, as well as a ribeye with green peppercorn sauce. The night we went there was also a skirt steak on special with sweet potato fries. The meat was done to order (very rare) and if you like a rich sauce on your meat, this would fit the bill.

The chocolate mouse was a good choice for people who like their chocolate flavors light (since it was only $4.99, do not expect it to be made with Valrhona).

Since I rarely see it on a menu, I ordered the floating island. The crunch of sliced toasted almonds added nice texture to the fluffy meringue and light Creme Anglaise.

My favorite dessert of the night was the panna cotta with berry compote. The fresh berries added color and tang to the smooth base, providing a good ending to a great night with old friends.

Dominique's Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Rita’s is opening today in Redondo Beach and I was invited to a sneak preview yesterday to try out their unusual blending of Italian Ices and frozen custard with mix ingredients. Italian ices were a childhood staple during the Summer in New York City. Italian Ices were as ubiquitous as hot dog and pretzel pushcarts, offering a colorful and refreshing bit of cool when temperatures and humidity climbed past the 80’s.

This small shop located in a mini mall with Whole Foods, has a pleasant patio and a very friendly staff. The sign over the cash register embodies the attitude of this new dessert place:

There are two screens on the wall which show you the options available.

Unlimited toppings means you can literally order all 20+ toppings in ONE Sundae!

They have name brand candy and cookie mix ins.

I usually don’t like custard (aside from creme brulée) and the thought of blending it with Italian ice did not evoke any thought other than “huh?” But their “Misto” was delightful with enough creaminess to satisfy those who like that texture, with enough freshness from the freshly made fruit ice to make it taste like a light milk shake (which they call a “Misto”shake made with frozen custard).

Italian Ice made fresh daily with real fruit.

There is a large assortment of flavors of Italian Ice from the blue cotton candy (the one flavor I thought tasted terrible) to the Alex’s Lemonade made with fresh lemons (wonderfully refreshing).

Yes, of course they have the perennial favorites like chocolate and cherry, as well as the bright yellow “Birthday Cake” which tasted just like yellow cake.

 

If you need a birthday cake, you can get one to go.

Open from 11am-9pm everyday, this is a new and easy choice for a sweet treat or refreshing break on your way to or from the beach.

Zazou, in Redondo Beach, was one of my favorite restaurants when I lived in the South Bay, and one my first night back, I decided to go with a place I knew, even if it had changed. I chose the 8 hour braised short ribs with mashed potatoes and sauteed spinach for $29. It was a beautiful LARGE plate and I looked forward to my first taste, but unfortunately the meat was not as tender as an eight hour braise should have made it. The flavors were good, not outstanding, but a decent blend of reduced beef stock. The fresh spinach saute and potatoes were both fine side dishes and the carrots and onions from the braising liquid added a nice textural component to this dish. This plate was so large, I could only eat half of it! My waitress was so wonderful she laughed when she asked if I wanted dessert, seeing I had left so much of my main course on the plate. I told her no dessert, but a decaf espresso would be great.
The decaf espresso was great, with perfect crema and made with excellent Lavazza beans.

Zazou on Urbanspoon

I went to Paciugo Gelato, in Hermosa Beach, for my dessert since it gave me time to drop off my leftovers and walk off some of my dinner. I love gelato and to have a place in Hermosa that does it well was one of the changes I loved finding in my old hometown. A small cone or cup can hold up to three flavors for under $5, with exotic options like strawberry lavender, wedding cake, and black pepper olive oil, you can chose something new or in my case, two old flavors, like coconut chocolate rum and extra dark chocolate. The perfect way to end a day is with a stroll along the beach and a cone of excellent gelato!

Paciugo Gelato Caffe on Urbanspoon

A new day meant finding a great coffee place to start my day and it looked like Two Guns Espresso in Manhattan Beach was THE place to get something called a “Flat White”. They use 3 shots of espresso and 6 oz of steamed milk (I got soy) for this smooth nonfrothy drink. I loved it. I especially loved the friendly baristas and the fact that they use Caffe Vita beans from Seattle which emphasize Fair Trade and Organic beans. If you frequent the area (or their shop) get a frequent user card and get a free drink after buying nine. The first Tuesday of every month is Ducati night when you can  drink free coffee as you peruse the latest models of this classic Italian motorcycle.

Two Guns Espresso + Coffee on Urbanspoon

After my Flat White at Two Guns Espresso, I really didn’t need anymore espresso, so even though they had organic coffees and teas, I opted for a light but sustaining breakfast, so I went to Planet Earth in Hermosa. I chose their house made granola with soy milk for $5.95. It was delicious, with bits of dried unsulfured apricots, cherries, coconut, and almonds. They have plenty of options for vegans, those who are dairy or gluten sensitive, and anyone who wants their food to be organic, free trade, and home made. The only drawback to the place is that they are so disorganized they had trouble keeping up with orders and ran out of ingredients like bananas for my granola by 10 am. One customer waited 20 minutes for eggs, another waited 10 minutes for a quinoa bowl. Since most people don’t have the luxury of time for breakfast, especially on a weekday, they need to work on their executions and supplies so their mises (preparation of their ingredients for the dishes) are en place (ready). No matter how good their intentions and supplies, they will not survive without better organization.

Planet Earth Coffee and Tea on Urbanspoon        More Beach Bites tomorrow 🙂

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