Kevin Cody

Barfly: Good restaurants go, Blake’s back

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by Deb L
Bad News First: The South Bay began the year with the loss of two restos Brix, PCH, HB and Le Saint Raphael, PCH, RB. Neither were a surprise but for very different reasons. Brix’s owner had heart, soul, ideas, visions, friends, a great chef, and a sommelier but it wasn’t enough. The space was way too big and as the economy tanked, seats weren’t filled. Unable to pay the big salaries, the pastry chef was let go, the sommelier was let go, and the shifts once overstaffed became understaffed for a fine dining establishment. The front of the house reminded me of Houston’s with the dark booths and open kitchen, which didn’t impress me. The back, however, made you feel as if you were walking into a wine cellar somewhere deep underground in France with its brick vaulted ceilings and archways. The term Brix is after the 19th century German inventor A.F.W. Brix, who discovered how to measure the sugar content in wine. Owner Gene Shook had a great concept but the timing was off and the obstacles too many. The other resto we lost, Le Saint Raphael, PCH, RB went under not because of skimping – until the very last day owner Joelle LeGrand and the head chef she kept since day one used the finest of the fine. Joelle has experience running restaurants in France and her son Bruno is the king of the crepe, with five Crème de la Crepe restos under his belt, three in the South Bay. What went wrong? Some say location, but that spot was Le Beaujolais, a sister restaurant to La Rive Gauche, PV for 30 years. I think the combination of the sinking economy, which shrunk the crowd, which shrunk the till, which left less money for advertising. Advertising is an absolute must. Think of the most successful companies – Bud? Nike? Coke? Why is that? Because they bombard us with ads. I was personally vested in Le Saint Raphael so I am tres sorry to see it go, but as a supporter of local biz, I am just as disappointed for Brix. I wish everyone involved in those ventures well…
New News: I went to Sharkeez Hermosa for happy hour last week and as usual grabbed a table outside and rock-paper-scissored it with my friend to see who would go inside to the bar to order when out of the abyss sprung a smiling sprite ready to take our order, put it in at the bar and bring it back to us! That joint just keeps getting better. Way to turn up the class Newmans, well done…
The Eagle Has Landed: Mr. Martini, Blake Donaldson who turned the “shaken, not stirred,” concoction of gin and vermouth into an art form, first bringing to perfection its pure simplicity, (a martini is gin, vermouth and gin), combining the temperature of the liquor with the temperature of the glass, adding the perfect amount of ice so his shake shake shake produces thinner than thin crystalline slivers afloat, visible only when looking at the meniscus, (think Paulie from, “Goodfellas,” slicing garlic with a razor blade), then he complicated the hell out of it by adding smoke, mirrors, food coloring, flavored gels to decorate the inside of the glass, colored sugars to line the rim, multi-level pyramid formations of empty glasses he would then pour using three shakers at once to create the “stop light,” (yep, you guessed it, red, yellow green), and sometimes even implementing, (gasp), vodka. The Drink Chef made his mark at Michi, Manhattan Ave, MB, (now home to Mucho, which I find funny as does everyone because of the, “Michi, Mucho, Uma Oprah,” but it also reminds me of Dad L when I was back in high school. My three closest friends, Tina, Gina and Trina would call, I’d get a note saying, “One of the ‘inas’ called, I got no idear who’s from who,” that’s proper English if you’re from Brooklyn. Since the closing of Michi in 2006, Blake has bounced around from Upper Manhattan to Brix to Chez Melange to Terranea and can now be found behind the bar at Mangiamo’s, Manhattan Beach Boulevard, MB every Monday night. Join him for Happy Hour until 6:30 p.m., (or so), for those Martini thingies, or wine and selected appetizers. (310) 318.3434 or check out for more info…ER
Questions? Comments? Contact Deb L at


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