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avenue, manhattan beach - report

wow i'm a dog | Jun 12, 200511:23 PM

we've been little social butterflies lately and were taken to avenue in manhattan beach on friday.

the chef (owner?) is christian shaffer of chloe, playa del rey, who was quite visible in the dining room for our entire visit. i liked that our reservation meant an actual reserved table and we only waited a few moments before we were guided in. it was pretty crowded and the bar area is teeny-tiny, so i was relieved.

the overall ambiance is clean and sort of beachy in an east coast/pottery barn catalog kinda way. white white white, b/w photography, interesting chandelier focal point with little octopi dangling away.

our server, while smiley seemed insincere in her enthusiasm ("you say the words, but somehow the meaning is lost"). i was a little stumped as to what i wanted to drink and asked for suggestions, but she crisply replied she didn't know what i wanted. well, neither did i. that's why i asked. finally, she suggested some kind of martini with port in it. it was rimmed with sugar and was fine, not spectacular. since i'm a vegetarian, i also asked if the chef could prepare something special. i asked what he might have in mind and again, she (crisply) replied, "i don't know. i'll check." which would be fine if it wasn't for that same somewhat condescending smile.

anyway, the pace was a little off as we waited a tad too long for water, bread and cocktails. it seemed like it had that new restaurant kind of manic energy. my dining partner said it had been there for about nine months. i wouldn't have guessed that at all.

the menu is seasonal, which is so refreshing for this part of town (is the term "culinary wasteland" too strong?). i started with the white gazpacho, green grapes, toasted almonds ($7) soup which was way too heavy for the portion size. it is made mostly of cucumber, but it felt like a cream-based soup (it's not). my companions enjoyed their roasted eggplant, rocket, burrata cheese ($10) salads (that is one hefty hunk of cheese) and soft shell crab, succotash, sweet corn sauce ($13). we weren't dining with chowhounds, so they weren't that into discussing the food or maybe it just wasn't worth discussing?

the rest of the table had maine sea scallops, pea risotto, bacon, pea tendrils (the kitchen did smell a little fishy while they were cooking) - the standout in this dish was the risotto, "done perfectly" ($29); bone-in veal tenderloin, maitake mushrooms, veal jus ($28) - "excellent;" and lamb osso bucco, stewed tomatoes, saffron, roasted garlic ($24), of which there "wasn't enough."

since i'm not a fan of risotto, didn't feel like eggplant, i opted for a vegetable plate. i always hope for something interesting (like i get a josie or joe's) and figured i may be lucky since it's a seasonal menu, so i took the plunge. i was greeted with way overdone carrots (are we making baby food?), a delicious, large maitake mushroom, a smattering of peas and fava (?) beans, cherry tomatoes with an oily (but good) potato pancake in the center. i wished for some kind of sauce that would make this special. the veggies were so overdone, i speculate that someone forgot my plate.

during dinner, smiley got a little warmer and even offered up some dairy-free desserts all on her own. that made me forgive her and make friends. unfortunately, i didn't partake, but maybe next time.

our friends enjoyed their desserts though: an assortment of three cheeses ($9), which seemed pretty diminutive to me, but i wasn't eating them; and the hot chocolate cake with toasted marshmallow spoon ($7). served in a coffee cup on a saucer, this was cute factor five. since my husband ate the entire thing that he was allegedly "sharing," i suspect it was fairly tasty.

we enjoyed a dessert wine immensely after the chef allowed a tasting of three of their offerings (well done!), however i did not note the name. i believe it was around $100.

as we left, i noticed cards for chloe which i thought cheapened the experience a little.

all told, my husband and i agree that it is the best "fine dining" option in manhattan beach and we would return. i hope they get a little more organized, a little more friendly and a little more attentive in the ol' vegetarian department. but hey. we'll take what we can get. especially around here.

avenue restaurant
1141 manhattan avenue at manhattan beach blvd.
manhattan beach, california 90266


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