Contributor Kara Lichtenstein is moving in with her boyfriend, Fishing with Dynamite, in Manhattan Beach, CA
I recently returned from a trip to California, and I must say… I kind of wish I hadn’t. Instead, I would have preferred to move right in to Fishing with Dynamite–Chef Dave LeFevre’s beachside seafood sanctuary. From the moment I walked in to the 30 minutes I spent digesting on the beach just a block away, a childish grin never left my face. I think I found… The One. I started with a simple yet perfect bloody mary. It was not a cheeseburger-topped, bacon-wrapped, let’s-get-everything-cool-and-throw-it-on-top bloody mary. Just a solid, honest one with a perfect horseradish kick and some castelvetrano olives to snack on. No bullshit, because none was necessary. At the time, I didn’t realize how much the No Bullshit theme would carry through the rest of my meal.
First up came the raw Peruvian scallops, kissed only by a grapefruit supreme and droplet of citrus pesto. Clean, unadulterated perfection. Anything more would be a travesty. And that’s what I love about LeFevre–he knows when to stop. Better yet, he stops. He adds just enough to enhance the ingredient without manipulating its integrity. Restraint is a beautiful thing…
My love affair continued as I sank my teeth into the plump, jumbo shrimp, dusted with fresh dill. “I wish I could eat this clean, fresh seafood every day,” I thought to myself… Hence the whole cot thing. I moved on to the nothing-but-meaty-crab crabcake, tuna tartare whose heat and sweetness from pickled pineapple took turns glowing throughout, fish tacos that tasted as beautiful as they looked (and they looked like rainbows), perfectly crispy, salt-studded arctic char lyonnaise… The list goes on. And every time a new dish hit the table, I had to pick my jaw up off the floor from the last one.
Dessert was no exception. I mean, pretzel and chocolate bread pudding. Are you seeerious? Just picture it. Bread pudding comprised of torn soft pretzels instead of bread (it’s one of those things that makes you ask yourself “why didn’t I think of that?”), chocolate, salted caramel sauce, and homemade ice cream. It’s a flavor combination everyone loves, reinvented into a sweettooth-stroking, soul-soothing dessert. That’s why it’s brilliant. Why didn’t you think of that? Because Chef LeFevre did.
Key lime pie–always good, never extraordinary. Until now. Now it’s perfect. Not only does it look like a gorgeous flower, with its perfectly toasted meringue peak petals, and paper-thin lime wheel leaves, but it tastes like the key lime pie you always fantasize about when eating other key lime pie. I’m telling you, it’s perfect. The balance of tart and sweet, the ratio of meringue to custard, the graham cracker crust… It is THE quintessential key lime pie.
Adding a layer of beauty to highlight ingredients at the peak of freshness, and then stopping, is Lefevre’s gift. No frou-frou bullshit… No bacon-and-butter-make-everything-better shortcuts. Just wonderful food, made better. And in my eyes, perfect. I left saying that if I had to choose one restaurant to dine at every day for this rest of my life, this would be it. I’m aware of the weight of that statement, and it stands. I told you–I think I found the one. Absolute restaurant marriage material.
LeFevre, my lease is up in a month. I think it’s time to take our relationship to the next level. Leave the key under the mat.