Asian arrivals in MB, familiar face at Sea Level, robots on parade, and other dining news

California Pizza Kitchen is experimenting with using robots to serve food. Photo by Richard Foss

Asian Arrival: Manhattan Avenue will soon have two modern Asian restaurants where previously there were none. After what seemed like years (because it was) the paper is off the windows at Dash Dashi, and the “now hiring” signs are down. The owner hasn’t returned emails about when they might be serving, but the interior looks complete – all they need to do is stock the bar and fire up the stove. The announced concept was Hawaiian/Japanese, so I’d expect poke will be on the menu somewhere… A block or two south of there, the former Costa is now Pa-do dumpling and noodle bar, a new project by 900 Club chef Al Kim. Pa-do is Korean for “Sea Wave,” but while there will be a Korean influence in some items this will not be a traditional restaurant. Kim cites inspiration from David Chang’s Momofuku, the New York restaurant that helped jump start the movement toward seasonal and local produce in modern Asian restaurants. Pa-do will have a full cocktail list that fits the theme, and is scheduled to open by the beginning of December…

Not Leaving, spawning: Multiple readers had contacted me to ask about a rumor that rotisserie chicken landmark Poulet du Jour was moving from Hermosa to El Segundo. I had wondered about this myself, since I had seen a sign on PCH on a day when the Hermosa location was unexpectedly closed. They’re not departing their current digs, but will be opening a second location in the restaurant mall near Mariposa…

Addicted To the business: Locals who stop in at Sea Level in Redondo have been surprised when they recognized the person who is now running the place: Michael Franks, famous for his tenure as co-owner at Chez Melange. The Sea Level job was curious because Franks has been vocal about his involvement with South Bay Food Company, a catering business that opened last year. He’s still involved with both, and since Sea Level doesn’t do outside catering there’s no conflict. Asked why he did this rather than remain comfortably retired, Franks said that after a year of enforced relaxation due to Covid, he felt energized and missed the personal contact. Don’t you wish you loved your job as much as he loves his?…

Coming Attractions: In a recent article, we covered the closure of the original El Gringo in Hermosa, and the owner speculated that the space wouldn’t stay vacant long before something more upscale replaced it. Truer words were never spoken, because restaurant veterans David Slay and a group headed by Hilary Condren are teaming up for a new venture there. The name will be Slay Beach Grill, featuring seafood at a moderate price point — watch for an opening in 2022… Optimism about renewed tourism with the control of the pandemic is having an effect on restaurant real estate. The Redondo Pier area is likely to see new life in some long-vacant spots, with offers coming in on the pier spaces and for an adjacent restaurant that hasn’t served a meal in about a decade.

Event alert: There’s a wine dinner on the calendar, and if you like the classics this could be the one for you. Mama Terano will be serving a menu that includes clams casino, stuffed pork loin, braised short rib, and lasagna with two sparkling wines and three reds. Date is September 5. Price $70 plus t&t. Reservations can be made at (310) 377-5757…

Server’s dystopia? I have been a lifelong reader of science fiction, and I think that I first read a story about a robot restaurant server in the 1960s. I first encountered a robot restaurant server yesterday at the California Pizza Kitchen in the Manhattan Mall. It looks a lot like a small shelving unit on wheels, because that’s basically what it is. Radar enables it to move around obstacles, and I know about that because I was one – I stood in the middle of an aisle and it maneuvered neatly around me rather than running over my foot. The company has deployed two of them, and the manager was at pains to say that the robots have not displaced any servers. She noted that like everybody else, the company is having difficulty filling job vacancies. The robots only deliver food, leaving the servers more time for the more personal job of taking orders. The machines have a limited vocabulary of recorded messages like “your food has arrived,” and the people I watched receiving plates seemed amused by the novelty. I talked with a pair of human servers, and apparently the robots don’t have nicknames, having too little personality to inspire them, despite the cute cat faces on their main screen. I asked one robot for a wine recommendation, and it said that the power from the outlet in the corner was particularly delicious…

Odds And ends: Goodboybob Coffee Roasters is open on Highland, adjacent to the Manhattan Beach library and city hall, so if the clerk seems unusually animated when you stop in to pay your water bill, you know why. They offer coffee, naturally, and also a small menu of chapati wraps and salads. (1300 Highland #109, MB)… Most Americans haven’t taken to absinthe, the strongly herbal French spirit flavored with wormwood, but those who do will be delighted to find that a new expression is available. It’s crafted by R6 Distillery in El Segundo, and available only there, so stop in and have a sample of the spirit that Van Gogh enjoyed. Contrary to popular belief it doesn’t cause hallucinations – that was a lie spread by wineries that were trying to suppress its popularity (909 E. El Segundo, ES)… Tacolicious in MB has taken being dog friendly to new levels. If your canine is looking a bit hungry, they may select from the “pup provisions menu,” which includes housemade dog foods and a churro-flavored dog chew. Bowls of water are complimentary, of course…

In closing: Have you seen a new culinary business that I haven’t heard about, a local event either live or virtual? You can reach me at richard@richardfoss.com…

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