Vegan Italian in Redondo, Middle Eastern to Mexican in Hermosa, Fusion at Manhattan Mall

A La Carte column for 04 March 2021

A vote of confidence: Six months ago malls were closed, and some people questioned whether they could survive. Restaurants in these developments are betting on a brighter future, because work has resumed at stalled projects. One eatery is scheduled to open on the day that you read this — Joey in the Manhattan Mall. The Canadian chain is noted for flamboyant interiors and an eclectic, multicultural menu. This will be their sixth location in the US. (3120 N. Sepulveda)…

What’s Italian for “Vegan?” If you ever thought, “What Redondo really needs is a vegan Italian wine bar,” you’ll be thrilled to know about Pura Vita, which recently opened on Catalina Avenue just south of the Redondo Pier. They’re serving Italian classics that are free of animal products, and there are gluten-free options for just about everything. I haven’t visited yet, but have heard it’s a showcase for how good plant-based cheeses and meat substitutes have gotten. And in case you’re wondering about the question I opened with, the Italian words are vegano or vegana, depending on gender. Yes, there are still gendered languages, and that may take a while to change (320 A. Catalina)…

Coming attractions: Changes are coming to the Pier Plaza — there is plywood over the windows at Rebel Republic, the former Mediterraneo. No word yet on who the new tenant is or how soon they’ll be up and running. Other downtown projects are moving forward quickly. The former Standing Room has remodeled into Agave Azul and may open this month. From what I can see of the interior, it’s beautiful… Decadence hasn’t remodeled but has undergone a major change in concept with the arrival of new chef Chuck Kallal, who most recently cooked at Sea Level. Decadence opened with Vietnamese fusion, became a steak and seafood house, and now is multicultural, and based on one experience this is the most successful incarnation… Up on the highway, word is that Beirut Mix has been sold and will become a branch of a small Mexican food chain based in Torrance.

Elsewhere around the South Bay: The Rex Steakhouse in Redondo was scheduled to open last year but won’t fire up the grill for another four to six weeks. They have their permits but are waiting for a bit more certainty in the local dining scene. Nearby RocknBrews will open again soon, despite rumors to the contrary. Management decided that as long as they had only limited service, they’d remodel the place so when indoor dining opens, they’re ready. The owners at Dash Dashi in Manhattan Beach must envy both establishments, because they have been hung up in a seemingly endless squabble with So Cal Edison about connecting their electric service. That monopoly has been drawing fire from local politicians including the mayor, but even so it may be another month or two before the work will be done and they can start serving.

A haunted take-out box… Redondo has a new, delivery-only option, courtesy of a celebrity who is more famous for his haircut than his food. Guy Fieri’s Flavortown is a delivery-only “ghost kitchen,” with a menu of jumped-up bar food like heavily sauced burgers and fried pickles, both of which seem unlikely to be delightful after a while in a take-out container. They’ll also be happy to sell you a canned soda for two bucks, in case you have never figured out where else to get them. Ghost kitchens like this are mushrooming across the country and competing against genuine local restaurants. This is Fieri’s 18th in California. I didn’t see anything on the menu that thrilled me and don’t expect to order from them any time soon, but you can’t say I didn’t tell you about them because hey, it’s my job…

Chef on the mend: Moving to a genuine local restaurateur, David Slay is well known in downtown Manhattan Beach thanks to his outgoing personality and his habit of dashing between his two restaurants every evening. He might be moving slower when you next see him, because he caught a bad case of COVID including pneumonia. Family members are handling things for him while he is on the mend, and he will be back soon. By the way, in case nobody else mentioned it lately, wear that mask and get that vaccination so this doesn’t happen to you…

Dine LA, Dine South Bay: Dine LA Week started on Monday and will end on March 14, which technically makes it Dine LA Fortnight, though that doesn’t sound quite as catchy. As always there are deals on multicourse meals from restaurants all over the area, though the list is somewhat shorter than usual. Apparently no restaurants in Hermosa decided to participate this year, though Manhattan and Redondo are represented. Check the list at discoverlosangeles.com/dinela to see who is offering discounted menus. There are bargains from some of our best…

Can’t believe everything on the internet: You would think restaurants that are scrambling to attract new customers would pay a lot of attention to their online presence. Unfortunately, many have stopped updating their websites, so menus that are months old are displayed next to inaccurate opening hours. When I called one place to ask about this, the host said their updated menus are on Instagram and Facebook and I should have looked there. I pointed out that I had no reason to doubt that the one on their site was correct, so why would I check elsewhere? A message pointing diners to whatever site they actually update would have been easy to upload and would have reduced the confusion. Many people who have experiences like this will just find a restaurant that values communicating with prospective customers and will take their business there…

Final Thoughts… Have you seen a new culinary business that I might not know about, a local event either live or virtual? Do you have a favorite kitchen that hasn’t died and become a ghost? You can reach me at richard@richardfoss.com…  ER

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Written by: Richard Foss

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