Manhattan Beach finally has a destination restaurant, perhaps for the first time since chef John Rivera Sedlar cooked at Saint Estèphe. Okay, that’s a slight exaggeration, but M.B. Post, chef-owner David LeFevre and business partners and brothers Chris and Mike Simms (Simmzy’s, Tin Roof Bistro) have certainly captured the imagination of South Bay locals and outliers alike. They were already drawing crowds with seasonal, comfort foods like lamb belly, trotter tots, and the best biscuits of 2011, and to begin 2012, they introduced “bangin’ brunch” on Saturdays and Sundays.
M.B. Post features communal seating, banquettes with beaded swirls on backing cushions, a spacious bar with high top tables, exposed rafters, and an exhibition kitchen. A postal theme pervades the airy space, including worn blue walls with phrases like Rates By Zone, Local, Air and Parcel, and mailboxes by the entrance. The soundtrack included up-tempo songs like Could You Be Loved by Bob Marley, Joints & Jams by The Black Eyed Peas, and an obligatory Kings of Leon track.
By the second weekend, brunch proved so popular that M. B. Post already recommended reservations. We had one, since Chef LeFevre invited us to experience a meal on the restaurant.
A number of dishes both savory and sweet arrived in cast iron skillets, which kept the food warm longer than normal. We started with Sticky Buns ($6), with layers of buttery dough separated by cinnamon, submerged in bubbling brown sugar, and topped with crunchy pecans.
They presented an airy sesame-lined Belly Button Bagel ($4) alongside a circle of cream cheese with the kind of tangy red pepper relish that’s more likely on a cheesesteak.
Benedict ($13) cleverly incorporated the restaurant’s signature bacon-studded cheddar buttermilk biscuit. They cut the buttery base in half and layered crisp arugula, silky La Quercia prosciutto (yes, more pork), and finished with a Hollandaise. These clearly weren’t your run-of-the-mill poached eggs, since orange yolks oozed when we punctured the whites. Clearly, this was ridiculously rich dish, and by the final bites, it might have been preferable just to have a plate of those biscuits, unadorned, but we were both happy to have tried the Benedict.
This may have been my first Chimichanga ($13), which is basically a fried burrito, but instead of tortillas, LeFevre opted for pastry dough, which was a smart move, since the outer “shell” held up to the scrambled egg, chorizo-spiced pork cubes, pepper jack cheese and sweet cubed yam. They spooned on Jimmy’s mom’s tangy salsa verde – possibly referring to an employee – finished with cilantro, and plated with sour cream, guac, and firm black beans tossed with fibrous jicama cubes, red onion, red cherry and yellow teardrop tomatoes. This was a pretty fun take on a Tex-Mex classic, but it was heavy, and probably not something I’d re-order.
However, Nueske’s Bacon ($8), presented in a sizzling skillet, topped with stem-free rosemary, bathing in bacon fat, brown sugar and chile, was remarkably good. The bacon itself was smoky, meaty, and understandably renowned in pork circles. As LeFevre said on Twitter after our meal, “It’s from ‘Ze Olt Country’…Wisconsin!” It was easy to taste why he was proud to be from that particular state.
At this point, we were getting full, but Chef LeFevre continued to send skillets. Not that we complained. The Frittata ($14) may have been my all-time favorite, with egg supporting thin-shaved Weiser Farm potato, sprouting broccoli and white cheddar. The topping was a zesty piperade of shaved garlic, tomato and onion, and a tangy quenelle of sour cream.
Blueberry Lemon Skillet Cake ($11) was also pretty great, with fluffy pancake topped with plump cooked berries, a giant globe of butter that melted over the cake, and an accompanying pitcher of vanilla maple syrup. The lemon slices added some useful acidity, which helped to tame all that butter.
The only dish that really didn’t really work for me was the Truffle Honey Laced Fried Chicken ($15), which was fairly dry, and didn’t have much crunch, though it did come with a nice kohlrabi slaw.
Coughlin’s Law ($12) was a clever Bloody Mary derivative, garnished with a toothpick of peperoncini, pepperoni and hard-boiled quail egg, and a spicy tomato base touting Tito’s vodka, Pilsner, dill, and bits of floating garlic. Savory sea salt and bacon bit dust lined on the Mason jar rim.
Other beverages included fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice and lemonade, both tart, neither sweet.
With the check, we received a white book marked “Chefs I Met and Liked” a log book for diners to leave notes for LeFevre. No surprise: almost all the comments were positive.
Note: My meal at M.B. Post was complimentary.