To people who aren’t from LA it’s a common misperception that the people who live here spend all day at the beach. I mean, who wouldn’t? It’s sunny without a cloud in the sky for 300 days a year. Temperatures that don’t usually dip below 65 or above 85 degrees are enjoyed, theoretically, all year long. But the reality is that most people (especially non westsiders) just don’t make it to the beach or beach towns all that often if they don’t live there.
Why? We don’t want to brave the traffic and head past (gasp!) the 405. We’re lazy. We’re too hungover. We’re stuck in our own local micro neighborhoods. Whatever the reasons are, I’ve found that the finest dining in LA usually isn’t found on the coast and especially not in the beach towns so there is one less reason to make it all the way across town to the beach. For every fine dining restaurant (for example MB Post in Manhattan Beach) there are 25 Hennessey’s Irish pubs (no offense Hennessey’s or their possibly microwaved Irish nachos – yikes!) … the beach is more for drinking than eating in LA.
Don’t get me wrong. Beach drinking is delightful. Everyone loves doing it and they well should. But it just always seems like a waste in my mind to not pair the Pacific Ocean view with a top notch fine lunch or dinner in this great city of ours when we’re out in the sun.
Well that is all changing and changing in a hurry with Brooke Williamson (you may remember her as runner up in Top Chef Seattle) and husband Nick Roberts‘ new Playa Del Rey beach seafood restaurant, bakery, brunch space, bar, and general gathering place Playa Provisions. The outdoor open roof patio with a fire pit AND a fireplace is just a stunner.
Now full disclosure – I unabashedly love cooking competition shows. But I always take them with a grain of salt with respect to how it measures the skill of the chefs on the show. I mean, great cooking generally doesn’t have a 20 minute time limit with surprise (and sometimes just bizarre) ingredients, competition, judges, etc. So I often don’t flock to the places that these former show contestants’ places inevitably open after the show has aired with the highest of expectations. However, in this case, this Season Ten finalist who beat the competition week after week is one talented chef.
But let’s get to the food.
For starters we were treated to: 1) chicken skin chips (think pork rinds) with cornichon and egg salad, 2) crab pops with a snow crab claw coated in a blue crab/Dungeness crab croquetas style breading to be dipped in habanero chutney. Awesome. Each was balanced with fat, the right amount of acid, and a hit of familiar flavors combined to create a new appetizer experience.
At dinner we had: 1) raw oysters with habanero chutney, cocktail sauce, and traditional mignette with home cooked mini biscuits, 2) scallop crudo with kimchi juice and crunchy amaranth seed, 3) stuffed clams casino with quinoa prosciutto and spicy tartar sauce, 4) the best effing clam chowder ever (my name for it, not theirs) in a bread bowl with braised pancetta, 5) pan seared rock cod in chili oil, 6) porterhouse pork chop double cut in shallot cream sauce with carrots and yogurt, and on my goodness, a twice baked lobster baked potato.
And finally dessert was: 1) lime sorbet on granola for palate cleansing, 2) signature chocolate chip cookies with house made vanilla ice cream, and 3) “Grandma’s window sill blueberry pie.”
It was incredible. Just the right amount of amazing well thought-out food, friendly attentive service, minus all of the formality and pretense that turns a lot of people off from fine dining. This is not your typical swordfish steak, basket of bread, and steak a la carte beach fare. This is a chef driven menu with seasonal market bought ingredients… in other words, they give a sh*t.
So yeah. This place is great. Look for Brooke and Nick to take over Playa Del Rey (this place competes with their beloved gastropub up the street The Tripel for the title of best restaurant in town) and make it their own beach dining empire. They are real, serious chefs and they have definitely raised the bar for beach dining in this great city of ours. With summer on the horizon, this comes not a moment too soon. Get down to Playa, people!
119 Culver Blvd.
Playa Del Rey, California 90293
Playa Provisions Hours:
King Beach Cafe: 7:30am-6:00 pm, 7 days a week
Small Batch Ice Cream: 11am-10pm, 7 days a week
Dockside Seafood Restaurant: Brunch 11am-3:30pm, Saturday & Sunday
Dinner: Opened June 5
Grain Whisky Bar: 6pm-2am, 7 days a week – COMING in June
Brian Lee is a transplant from Canada who has been in LA since 2000 to attend grad school. After all of these years, there is no Canadian left. Only Los Angelino remains and he couldn’t be happier.