Nautical & Nice
Our food and wine editor sinks a hook into David Lefevre’s new eatery, Fishing with Dynamite, and gets more than just a fresh catch.
- CategoryEat & Drink
- Written byBonnie Graves
Before we talk seafood, we need to talk ice cream. We NEED to speak of the mascarpone ice cream, particularly, that topped the chocolate-pretzel bread pudding at the conclusion of a recent meal at David Lefevre’s new outpost, Fishing with Dynamite. Other wonders preceded this moment at: the wonder of the beach sunset; the wonder of 25 years of friendship shared with one of my guests; the wonder of this same guest eating seafood for the first time in his 40 years. So let’s talk about seafood—what it is, and what it isn’t—as interpreted by the chef who honed his skills at LA’s iconic Water Grill.
I like that Lefevre’s abbreviated menu matches the abbreviated, nicely nautical space. Housed in the old Thalia spot just steps away from the much larger MB Post, FWD holds maybe 30 toned tushies on a good night, with an impressive number of servers and hosts and bartenders and bussers cheerfully navigating the crunch.
Chef Lefevre’s menu is concise, and the emphasis is on raw. For a beach town, Manhattan Beach has always oddly skewed toward pizza and tacos. So for lovers of all things shellfish, you have a new heaven. The night we dined, the “Mothershucker” featured 15 oysters, six littlenecks, 16 shrimp and 20 mussels served alongside an entire lobster, a crab and a hand-harvested Santa Barbara sea urchin in all its briny glory.
Instead of going raw, we chose a few items from each of the menu’s categories: “old school,” with seafood classics like Maryland crab cakes and New England clam chowdah; “new school,” with ethnic touches like a Thai shellfish soup and black cod done with miso and pickled ginger; “no school,” a catch-all for French fries, pork and a few other earth-bound items; and “after school,” a trio of winning desserts.
As we nibbled and shared and sipped, I watched Chef Lefevre’s bandana-covered head bob in time to the very good soundtrack as he shucked and seared and sautéed. Rhythm is a hard thing to teach, and Lefevre has it, in both of his restaurants and on the dance floor … but that’s another story.
Rhythm is innate, and I think it might well be the secret sauce ingredient that partially accounts for Lefevre’s successes in the South Bay. The rhythm at Fishing with Dynamite was hummingly high-speed but not at all out-of-step on a very busy Saturday night for a barely-opened restaurant still working out its kinks. Hostesses cheerfully corralled the waiting crowd outside whilst servers, genuinely nice ones, worked the tiny room in concert with smiling bussers and bartenders.
People are having a good time working for this chef and for Jerry Garbus too, Lefevre’s operations guy who has developed into quite the wine buyer. The list at FWD rocks and is perfect for the food. Try the Lioco rosé of old-vine carignan grown in Mendocino, my top pick for a single bottle that can complement everything from raw shellfish to salmon to tuna tartare to pork.
Just be sure to save room for the ice cream.