Richard Foss

Marvelous Manhattan, Molto Italiano, and Oktoberfest in September

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A La Carte column for 12 September 2019

Scott McColgan of Sharks Cove and Greg Newman of Palmilla in 2016 when Newman acquired Sharks Cove. Newman is currently converting Sharks Cove to Esperanza, an upscale Mexican restaurant. Photo by Kevin Cody

Big news on Manhattan Avenue: The construction at Fonz’s was announced as a facelift for the old business, but this week it was revealed the space will become a new restaurant. Famed chef Josiah Citrin of Melisse will open a new seafood-centered restaurant called Coast. If all goes well they’ll be serving by the end of this month. Fonz’s had few changes to their menu in a 22-year run, so Citrin’s arrival is a big change from a staid old school steakhouse. They’ll have more high-end competition only a block away when a new trattoria opens in the former Jimmy’s Kouzina. That project is being run by David Slay, whose nearby steak and seafood house has been a huge success. No word yet on how ambitious the tratoria will be or when it’ll open… Around the corner, the closure of Shark’s Cove has made Manhattan Beach Boulevard unusually quiet because the din of pop cover bands and karaoke has ended. A server at a nearby restaurant remarked on how refreshing it is to actually be able to hear her customers’ requests. The new business, Esperanza, won’t open until next year, so she only has to deal with construction noise until then…

All Italian, all the time: Another project is much closer to opening. Mosa, which replaces Serve On Second, is almost ready to fire up the stoves. There have been considerable improvements in this space, most crucially on soundproofing. When I stopped in it was no longer an echo chamber. They’ve been able to get permission for limited hours on their rear patio, something the previous management couldn’t do because of the noise. Watch for an Italian seafood house to open in the next two weeks, based on passing final inspections…

I keep mentioning building permits in a dining column because they’re such a hurdle on any construction job. In recent months delays have skyrocketed. This has been blamed by some people on a shortage of inspectors in the city and county. Health inspections that used to be available in 10 days now take a month to schedule. An industry professional said there is a shortage of qualified inspectors, so even if the departments wanted to hire more experts, they can’t find them. As a result, restaurateurs who have hired staff in anticipation of an imminent opening are paying them to do nothing…

Local Offers

Event alerts: Chez Melange continues its popular event series with a “Best of Oregon” wine dinner: I hope it’s cool enough to wear Pendleton shirts in order to get in the mood. Five courses with wines and the company of sommelier Kim Beto will set you back $89 plus tax and tip. On September 23, The Chez will also be offering another “Trust the chef” dinner, at which you don’t know the menu until you arrive. Food is $39 per person and corkage is waived. Guessing what to bring when you don’t know what you’re eating is left as a challenge for diners… In other news, someone is finally doing Oktoberfest right, or at least in the right month. In Germany this starts in September and ends at the beginning of October, while Americans tend to take the name literally and start late. Abigaile will host theirs on September 21 with raffles, games, prizes, and a magician, whom I presume will have a better trick than making beer disappear. (I can do that one myself.) It’s family-friendly from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m., 21+ after. A German menu will be served. Check Eventbrite for more info… If your tastes run to Champagne instead then you should be at Shade Manhattan Beach on that day.. They’ll be offering a bubbly tasting with hors d’oeuvres from 4 p.m. until late. Unlimited sparkling wines with appetizers will set you back $60, which is a good deal – check the Eventbrite page for details…

Intimate, Italian, and rare: Primo Italia in Hillside Village doesn’t host wine dinners often, and when it does, they tend to sell out quickly. That’s why you should reserve for an event with Contucci Vineyards on Sept. 24 now. An intimate dinner with the winemaker paired with Tuscany’s best vintages will set you back $125 plus tax and tip. That’s pretty remarkable for an experience like this. If they’re sold out when you click the link on their website at eatprimo.com, you might think ahead and reserve for their Barolo dinner on October 1…

Softly tooting my own horn: I have two lectures coming up soon, one local. This Saturday I’ll be talking on “Food on the Westward Trail,” about how the pioneers survived on the long trek to California. That’s at 10:30 a.m. at the Mark Taper Auditorium in the Downtown LA library. The next is more local, when I present “Seven Gifts From LA Kitchens to the World,” the story of the waves of immigration to Los Angeles and how they inspired seven items we all enjoy today. That’s at the Torrance Civic Center Library on September 25 at 7 p.m. I promise an enjoyable time for those of you who enjoy learning about why we eat the things we do…

An Opening in Riviera Village: Hook & Plow is one of the ones that has gotten past the starting gate.Its new operation opened in Riviera Village last week. The menu is about the same as the Hermosa operation, the space much larger. Their farm-focused California cuisine is something of a novelty for this eclectic nightlife neighborhood, and it will be interesting to see how well it goes over (1729 A. Catalina, RB)…

A Sudden Unretirement: After 48 years of slinging fast food, Louis Burgers on Artesia was all ready to change hands. The closing of the business had been announced and a retirement party was scheduled, and then came news that the buyer had a heart attack. The sale came unglued, so those of you who have been wanting one more of their gyro omelets with a mountain of home fries have a little more time to get it…

Short Takes: Things change so rarely at Thai Dishes in Manhattan Beach that even a minor addition to the menu is a shock. Such an innovation happened last month when they started offering “Thai street food” at lunch. I’ve tried the Issan-style combo, and the papaya and dried shrimp salad with Thai-fried chicken was a winner. The South Bay’s longest-lasting Thai restaurant is keeping up with the times, and that’s a good thing… Over in El Segundo, Smitten has announced they’ll be leaving their space at the Point in fall, to be replaced by an outpost of Brooklyn-based Van Leeuwen ice cream. It’s one specialist replacing another. Smitten made theirs to order using liquid nitrogen, while the newcomer offers seasonal specials and vegan frozen desserts…

And In Conclusion… Your tips help me keep up with what’s happening around the neighborhood. Any openings I missed, any events, anyplace else for great German food? Please send an email to Richard@RichardFoss.com. ER

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