I cannot eat often enough at Manhattan Beach Post. In less than a year, it has gone from South Bay newcomer to So Cal institution. The most recent of their many noteworthy accolades was the announcement that Chef David LeFevre and his very popular “social house” are up for two 2012 James Beard Awards (“Best Chef, Pacific” and “Best New Restaurant”). Unlike at one of their newer neighbors with an ocean view, the food at MB Post is the center of attention, and rightfully so.
That said, the drinks are a a worthy compliment to chef David’s consistently kick-ass cuisine. GM Jerry Garbus has put together a lengthy, eclectic wine list, with an extra 30 labels available by the glass as 3- or 6-oz pours. There’s a strong beer selection too. In addition, the folks behind the bar (Beau du Bois, Greg Westcott, and Sais Roses have been the mixologists) offer a constantly changing array of “hand-crafted cocktails” (their description) that invariably involve them putting their own spin on classic drinks. For example, there is “Virgil’s ascent:” negroni w/ hendricks, aperol, pomegranate seed, clove (it was good, not great).
For the most part, I’ve found their cocktails to be somewhere between pretty good and very good, though none of them have depth of flavor that the best ones can have. I will give them credit for going well with the food, and if the objective was specifically to create drinks that would pair with Chef David’s food without overpowering it, then mission accomplished. The one cocktail I’ve had there that could stand on its own was the “Manhattan Avenue” — a Manhattan w/ Sazerac rye, vanilla, caramel, and bacon dust — now that was good stuff.
The first time I ever ordered a drink at Milk & Honey in NY, I asked for something scotch-based and they brought me a Blood and Sand. I’ve had a soft spot in my heart (and liver) for it ever since, so last night, I decided to try the “Sun Also Rises” — a riff on a Blood and Sand with Compass Box “Oak Cross” scotch, rhubarb, and blood orange. Compass Box seemed like an extravagant, if tasty, choice as the base. In the end, the whole concoction was enjoyable, if a bit one-note. The rhubarb and blood orange matched up together nicely, but I would have preferred a little more scotch flavor coming through.
I’ve also tried having them make a Penicillin for me once, but it wasn’t quite right. I wondered whether or not they had actually used any Islay scotch because there was no hint of peat or smoke whatsoever. Moreover, the honey and ginger flavors were a bit cloying and out of balance.
Next time I’m there, I’ll probably go back to drinking wine or beer — at least until they change the cocktail menu again.
Photo credit: CK Dexter Haven