Richard Foss

Yellow Vase opens two, P.F. Chang’s closes, Big Wok gets bigger, and more dining news

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A La Carte column for 13 September 2018

Common Complaint, Technological Response… Look at any survey of diners and one of the top complaints will be uncomfortably noisy restaurants. Since my email is at the end of each of these columns I hear this a lot, often with admonitions that I should tell people how loud restaurants are. I frequently do mention this, but after several recent dining experiences where it was almost impossible to communicate with restaurant staff or my companions, I decided it’s time to include this information in every review that I write. Since my phone has a decibel meter app that tests within two percent of a professional unit, you’ll have enough data to decide whether that delicious sounding menu item is worth the possible hearing damage and general annoyance. (And that isn’t hyperbole – one restaurant and bar in Manhattan Beach regularly tests at over 100 decibels, comparable to being 100 feet under a jet aircraft at landing.)

And for those who might say, “But wait, restaurant owners can’t do anything about noise,” allow me to note that they certainly can. Turning down the volume of their music is a start, and there is plenty that can be done to also reduce the reverberations and echoes that contribute to making communication difficult. I have been in a restaurant immediately before and after the owners hung a thick tapestry along one wall, and the improvement was remarkable. One creative owner made a mosaic out of bright carpet scraps – it was beautiful and made the room much more comfortable. There are things that can be done in almost any environment, and if painfully loud places annoy you, tell the manager or owner, not the poor server who is doing their best despite the challenging environment. Servers already know better than anyone else that there’s a problem, so take your comment to the person who can fix it. If the owner doesn’t make changes after repeated complaints then they don’t care very much about your business, and you should go someplace that does…

And Now The News… El Segundo has had a pretty amazing couple of weeks when it comes to new restaurants. There was one change to a popular recent arrival too. Some people who drove by and saw the sign down at Workshop Enoteca, which has been in business for less than three months, assumed the place has closed. It hasn’t, but they had to make changes because of a dispute with a Palm Springs restaurant by the same name. The new name is Jame Enoteca, and by the time you read this they may have the new sign up. The other news in town begins right next door where the South Bay’s next Thai restaurant is under construction. It’s called Jetta and will serve Bangkok-style food; watch for an opening within a month… The former Beach Mex on Grand has a new tenant too, Ali’i Fish Company. The name is Hawaiian for “royalty,” and if you guessed that poke will be a specialty, you’re right. Their original place in Downtown LA is highly regarded for simple seafood at a reasonable price, and they plan to serve an expanded menu here. They’re not serving yet, but hope to be open by the end of the month…The other action is on Rosecrans, where the P.F. Chang’s is being replaced by Chin Chin, a similar Chinese fusion operation based in Los Angeles. I haven’t visited any of their other locations, but the menu options at their other locations look a bit more traditional than the place they’re replacing… Just down the street at the Apollo Landing development, Calo Kitchen and Tequila will open on September 17, featuring over 100 varieties of tequila and a menu of slightly modernized Mexican food. When I first heard the name, I thought the name was “Kahlo” after the famed artist, but the name comes from Hispanic hipster slang from the 1940s and has something to do with being stylishly casual… The adjacent Pier 76 Fish Grill is scheduled to open by the end of the month, which will complete the development, and if my guess is correct will more than overflow the parking lot. Spaces were rare at 2:30 p.m. when I stopped in to snoop around, and I can only imagine what it will be like at lunch when so many eateries are in full swing…

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Is There Life Beyond El Segundo?… Yes, there is, but lately it moves at a slower pace unless you work for the Yellow Vase Cafe. The new location in the former Pinkberry in Hermosa looks ready to start serving now and is only waiting for their permit approvals to open, and they will soon be opening another at the corner of Marine Street and Highland in Manhattan Beach. Their upscale casual style could be a good fit in a space where several more ambitious operations have folded. Watch for both openings within a week or two…

Big Wok Goes Bigger… The Big Wok Mongolian barbecue in Manhattan Beach is packed almost every night and parking can be challenging, and the owners sensibly decided that finding a bigger space is in order. They found one within walking distance: the former Cantina Real space at the corner of 10th and Sepulveda. They are reportedly planning to expand their offerings and add Korean barbecue to the menu, which will thrill those who have been going to Torrance or Gardena to get their garlicky grilled meat fix. No opening date is proposed yet, but I’ll let you know when I have one. As for their existing space, the owners aren’t letting it go – they are considering converting it to a breakfast and lunch spot. That’s an interesting strategy but seems sensible, given that there isn’t another place with that focus in Manhattan Beach outside downtown…

Event Alerts!… Chez Melange has the area’s longest record for bringing in wine experts for events, most of whom work for wineries or are winemakers themselves. Their next guest, Chris Coon, is a Master Sommelier and wine instructor in the University of California system, and on September 17 he’ll be hosting a “Taste of Napa Valley” event. Six courses with wines to match will run you $100 plus tax and tip – check the Chez Melange website to see the menu or just reserve at 310-540-1222…

Looking Ahead… I’d happily tell you something about the new Little Sister location in Riviera Village, but I haven’t yet been able to get in because the wait has been too long each time I tried. That alone should tell you how well they’re doing, and they’re not alone in this area. Riviera Village has been sizzling, and with all the new restaurants coming in it’s on track to do nothing but get hotter. The only thing that could derail this is the lack of parking, a problem that nobody in a position of authority seems to be considering. Can we have ever-increasing commercial density without providing either improved public transit or a place for people to park? It’s a question that should be asked of the city council until someone gives an answer…

And In Conclusion… The South Bay is a big place, and I can use all the help I can get spotting new restaurants. Seen any new signs going up, any big menu changes, any notices of events? I’m at richard@richardfoss.com… ER

 

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