Sunday, August 28, 2011

First Impression: The Strand House

The Manhattan Beach former home of Beaches has been completely remade into a new restaurant, bar and lounge called appropriately enough The Strand House, as it sits on the Strand at the intersection of Manhattan Beach Blvd.  The chef is Travis Lorton, formerly of Gjelina, and Neal Fraser of Grace consulted on the menu.  This is the second significant recent opening in the neighborhood, following the debut of David LeFevre's M.B. Post, perhaps leading to a renaissance in dining options for the South Bay.

As at M.B. Post, The Strand House has been popular from opening day; on my recent visit the wait for a table was an hour or more at prime time.  The Strand House has multiple levels, including a lower level bar (pictured above) that was busy when I arrived and only got busier.  During dinner (the dining room is above the bar floor), I noticed that the stairs leading to the bar now had a velvet rope and bouncer guarding the entrance.  The restaurant is very loud, which lead to some amusement when a waitress commented to us how much quieter the dining room was than the bar downstairs.

Braised Rabbit Gnocchi
The menu is divided into salads, appetizers, charcuterie, cheese, pizzas, mains and sides.  On my visit we began with the Braised Rabbit Gnocchi and the Margherita Pizza.  Neither could be recommended and we did not finish either.
Margherita Pizza
The chef appears to be a fan of nages, as the Sauteed Tai Snapper was served with a byaldi confit (a variation of ratatouille) and a basil nage (flavored broth).  The snapper was overcooked, which lead to a less than ideal texture and flavor.

Sauteed Tai Snapper
The one dish I sampled that I can recommend without reservations was the Hand Torn Pasta Rags, which were served with a house-made lamb sausage, roasted fennel, tomato and pine nuts and finished with generous shavings of cheese.  The pasta was well cooked, the sausage had oomph and the flavors all coalesced unto a unified whole which was greater than the sum of its parts.
Hand Torn Pasta Rags
The Brussels Sprouts were served in a lidded square pot.  The preparation involved brown butter, maple and caraway seed.

Roasted Brussels sprouts
The signature dessert may be the Butterscotch Doughnuts with Powdered Bacon.  We received ours with the bacon on the side.  The center of the doughnuts oozed gooey butterscotch.  This dish seemed more gimmicky than delicious.  If I am craving a butterscotch dessert, I know to head to Pizzeria Mozza for their budino.
Bacon donuts
The meal was disapppointing as there is evidently talent in the kitchen but it isn't showing up on the plate.  My dining companion had a dried out bacon-wrapped pork loin that looked unappealing on the plate (not pictured).  The team may be happy to fill the space with drinkers and have the food be secondary, but that approach would squander the ample resources that were evidently put into the kitchen.  The food here isn't cheap; a meal is on par or even more expensive than at M.B. Post, with entrees coming in between $24 and $39.  When we left the restaurant the velvet rope and bouncer had migrated outside the door of the building.  I wasn't sure if it was a nightclub or the second coming of Red O's infamous "door hosts."

Until The Strand House team executes on its proffer I can't recommend the restaurant as it is all potential, no delivery.  With a reported $10 million investment in opening it, I hope they decide what they want to be when they grow up.

This meal was hosted.

The Strand House: 117 Manhattan Beach Blvd., Manhattan Beach. Phone: (310) 545-7470. Website:


  1. hmm bummer I was looking forward to this Travis Lorton/Neal Fraser collab. Hope it'll get better once they settle down?

  2. I hope so, although with so much emphasis on the bar areas it depends... I think it is a wait and see situation. They are packed as it is, so they may not feel that they need to make any changes.

  3. Foggy sunset over the ocean, moon over Manhattan pier and great meals.
    Lamb rack, snapper, mussels, pate appetizer,& halibut with English peas with rissoto. Wonderful and worth every penny.