Dynamic chef David LeFevre and the Simms brothers (Chris and Mike) have clearly tapped into what Manhattan Beach denizens want. The partners debuted M.B. Post in 2011, and two doors down, they added Fishing With Dynamite in 2013. Despite the explosive name, the kitchen actually focuses on sustainable seafood
The experience is a whole lot of fun, with playful decor that extends from tiles underfoot to custom art on the walls. The staff also seems to feed off a high-energy soundtrack that could include Montell Jordan’s “This Is How We Do It” and Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It.”
FWD occupies the northwest corner of a multi-purpose building on one of the city’s namesake streets. The small space features a central raw bar, black-finished countertops, soon-to-be-iconic tile floors, and decorative art, including sea-worthy lanterns that LeFevre salvaged from an Orange County thrift store.
Japanese style pop art panels depict ingredients like lotus root, sea urchin and tomato.
Messaging on fun FWD signs include a declaration of love. There’s even an album cover branded with the Fishing With Dynamite logo, in case you couldn’t already tell the staff’s really into music.
Even the menu is playful, with categories consisting of Old School, New School, No School and After School (dessert), which LeFevre balances with flavor and texture at almost every turn.
Chef David’s Mom’s Cape Cod Squash Rolls w/Rosemary Butter ($4) and fleur de sel balanced sweet and savory elements in a napkin-lined cast iron skillet.
LeFevre’s Maryland Blue Crab Cake ($16) made from “colossal lump blue crab” was damn near definitive, with plump meat, a panko crust, punchy in-house dill pickles, crunchy purple cabbage slaw, and whole grain mustard remoulade.
Spicy Albacore Tuna Tartare showcased premium fish and generated good textural contrast with Asian pear, kimchi furikake, shaved scallions and shrimp chips, but the dish still could have used more pop.
New England Clam Chowdah ($10) was a pleasantly light version of what’s typically a gut bomb, combining cream, onion, celery, buttery sliced skin-on Weiser Farm potatoes, yellow broth with hint of smoky Nueske bacon, and house made oyster crackers for crunch.
Steamed Manila Clams ($15) – “Chef LeFevre’s favorite old school dish” – featured plump shellfish in a flavorful broth of linguica, tomato, and vermouth. Toasted slices of house made focaccia, aka “croutons,” completed the experience.
Crispy Sword Squid reminded me one a single creature fritto misto, with tender tempura-battered squid deep fried with tangy lemon wheels, baby zucchini, and cauliflower. The complimentary condiments consisted of yuzu kosho mayo and spicy harissa mayo.
A thick, tender tentacle of Grilled Octopus joined earthy cranberry beans and rich date-tomato ragu that didn’t quite meld with tart preserved lemon and kalamata olive tapenade.
Crisp skinned Sea Trout ($15) touted a rosy center and joined vivid lemongrass yogurt turmeric cauliflower, tangy capers, sweet sultanas, crunchy Marcona almonds, and mint.
Key Lime Pie ($7) with Graham cracker crust is the second FWD dish that I’d consider world class thanks to creamy, sweet-tart custard, torched Kaffir meringue peaks and lime zest.