Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Special Foodventure #154: Cafe Pierre (Manhattan Beach)

As far as food goes, Manhattan Beach had never been high on my radar of destinations; if I was taking an association test, mention of the city will trigger 1) invites from high school & college acquaintances to join them on a drunken caravan and barhop all over the downtown district (invites that I've always declined, btw) 2) the 24-hour Kettle as a Plan B C D if I absolutely needed to grab grub in some crazy time of night in the LAX area 3) fond memories of coordinating and promoting my client's first booksigning when I did freelance PR and 4) a place that leaves me counting down to actual food destinations further south on the 405 such as the Torrance/Gardena Japantown.

Cafe Pierre exterior
So it was quite a surprise when I received a press release (and later, an invite) to Cafe Pierre, headed by Remi Lauvand smack in the middle of downtown MB, alternately between "Really? There?" and "Well, I guess if any neighborhood is need of a fine-dining establishment -- that'd be it!" Since I was no stranger to Remi's tasty creations when was working at Citrus at Social, I accepted the invite to check out the restaurant and what he's bringing to the menu.

Upon my arrival, I was a bit puzzled about why a throng of bloggers were invited to begin with - the place was packed on a Thursday! When I asked their PR about this, I was told that Cafe Pierre has quickly become a neighborhood favorite (confirming my "filling the fine dining niche" theory) but the restaurant is looking to expand their range of clientele, a.k.a. younger foodies from other neighborhoods like me, who wouldn't have been inclined to stop by Manhattan Beach to eat, let alone make a destination out of it. Taking another look at the tables, they do seem more of the olders, locals crowd.
Roasted Marrow
But, onto the food -- which there were lots of! Between family-styling six housemade meat jars, six appetizers, six entrees AND five desserts, I was left worried for my ever expanding belly, and didn't know whether the Cafe Pierre kitchen wanted to showcase a wide range of different things they do well, or if they're taking a scattershot approach and hope that a few good dishes will hit and stick (which sounds bad but is pretty understandable when hosting a diverse group of bloggers, all with their own taste preferences.)

With the exception of one dish (the jarred sardines, with pinbones galore that made it too troublesome to eat) the dishes I had were positive. Now, of the dishes I can't wait to return and order again . . .
Head Cheese
Jarred head cheese and pig trotters - while others were gaga over the foie gras parfait w quince confit and spiced bread (good, I'll admit) I was more impressed by these two jarred pork products: a great combo of savoriness, fattiness and tenderness - a profile I associate more with thick-cut pork belly.
Acorn-Fed Hog Two Ways
Jude Becker's acorn fed hog duo (sausage, short rib) - FoodGPS and Sinosoul did a better job at capturing what makes this dish so good, the only thing I'd reiterate/add is that this dish really reflects the quality and care that went into raising the pigs, resulting in beautifully-flavored and unbelievably-well-marbled meat (several at our table thought we got pork belly because of the striations of fat, but I already took note that what we got was boneless short rib.)
Black Sea Bass
Black sea bass with braised endives, glazed carrots and orange zest - this dish stood out primarily because it's so clean and light compared to all the other heavy dishes on the table, but I also love what the hint of orange did to jazz and brighten up an otherwise simple dish.

70-hour braised short rib (no photo, sorry) - Yes, braised short ribs are pretty easy to make -- but there are versions that are just good, and then there are stellar variety, and I fondly remembered the 36-hour version that Remi offered up at Citrus. While I can't tell whether doubling the braising time made the ribs twice as tasty, the version here was definitely solid, comforting stuff; the beef was remarkably tender, juicy and deliciously saturated with the red wine reduction. The fries were a nice spin and a welcoming textural contrast from the usual mashed potato that typically accompanys this dish.
Baba au Rhum
Baba au rhum w slow-poached pineapples - the most distinctive of the desserts offered, I also loved this best since it was light-yet-substantial, satisfying my sweet fix without weighing me down (as if all the meaty dishes beforehand haven't already done that.)

Thankfully, the price-point at Cafe Pierre is very reasonable (a typical dinner is ~$50/person,) especially with their ever-changing, market-driven prix-fixe, approximately $35 for three courses.

And with all the dishes I can't wait to re-discover, along with new ones I'm eager to try (wild boar ragu with papardelle and portabella! the braised rabbit with gnocchi and wild shrooms!) I do say I AM looking forward to this Manhattan Beach **destination** for future feastings. And maybe finally check out Simmzy's nearby too!

Full flickr set here - better yet, check out weezermonkey's post for some gorgeous photos; and here's LAist's take on the jarred meats

Cafe Pierre
317 Manhattan Beach Blvd
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
Twitter for restaurant
Twitter for Chef Remi


weezermonkey said...

Good to see you, and thanks for the link!

I want to go to Simmzy's, too....

Bianca @ South Bay Rants n Raves said...

It was nice to meet you! I love reading all these reviews & seeing different opinions & writing styles!

Kat said...

Mmm looks really good. I will have to try this out the next time I am Manhattan Beach. I always have a soft spot for MB ^_^


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