The menu of Spanish tapas and Italian fare is going over just fine with a crowd that doesn’t seem to be the usual bar-hoppers; while the restaurant has a lively buzz; it never seems as raucous as its more party-hearty neighbors. This is a good thing if you ask me, as I happen to like dining in places where I can converse with my companions without shouting. I prefer to dine on the front patio, which is both the quietest area and has an enviable view of the local streetlife.
There is almost always a wait to get into Mama D’s, though by the mysterious mathematics of such things it never seems to be a long one. It is a wait that some people actually look forward to, because while you stand or sit outside and chat with friends you can enjoy complimentary chunks of garlic-herb focaccia. The fragrant bread being passed around only one example of Mama D’s olfactory advertising – the other is the scent of garlic, which can be detected over a block away when the wind is right.
Before I even discuss the food, though, there’s the matter of the décor – you will love it or hate it. The restaurant calls itself a “Bohemian bistro,’ which in this case involves an almost surreal use of bright colors, leopard print furniture, glass ornaments, and odd art. Most people find it delightful and creative, a few find it garish, but everyone has an opinion. I’m in the camp that enjoys it; it’s playful and is s sign that nothing here is to be taken too seriously. The menu carries that over nicely – real country French items are interspersed with Gallic interpretations of other cuisines. I’ve tried the traditional and the wild side on several visits, with mixed but generally positive results.
The biggest gamble on the local dining scene is Kincaid’s, the large and lavishly decorated restaurant which is envisioned as the anchor tenant for the Redondo Pier. Cynics speculated that the place would be mobbed in summer and deserted in winter, a new tourist trap that everybody in the South Bay would go to – once. Optimists claimed that so much money wouldn’t be spent unless there was a winning concept behind it. Realists gave odds that the place would be good, but not great – another corporate place with a good view but not much character.
Teriyaki and tempura aren’t entirely absent at Redondo Beach’s Japonica, but they definitely aren’t the focus. Japonica is one of the new Tokyo-style restaurants that reinterprets Japanese regional cooking, and it is one of the most interesting of its kind in Los Angeles.
Though there are many Chinese restaurants specializing in vegetarian cuisine in the greater Los Angeles area, most are in the large Chinese communities in Monterey Park and Alhambra. One of the rare exceptions is here in the South Bay, a quiet and upscale restaurant called House Of Vege.
These days more Cubans dream of moving here than vice versa, but Americans continue to enjoy that Caribbean cuisine at places like the famous Versailles chain and El Segundo newcomer the Havana Sandwich Company. Except for a few reproductions of travel posters from the 1920’s the Havana Sandwich Company is short on atmosphere. But the food is generally very good and the prices modest
Gambrinus opened with a very limited menu and service that was amiable but frequently uncomprehending. The restaurant changed hands about six months ago, and both the selection and the service have changed for the better. The Galickis family all speak fluent English and seem to enjoy explaining Baltic dishes to customers whose knowledge of this cuisine is small to nonexistent, and their preparations of traditional recipes are the best I’ve found in Los Angeles.