Last week I was talking about the glut of seafood restaurants that have come to Los Angeles recently. With a lot of the new LA restaurants, there tends to be a formula of small plates, communal tables and cavernous spaces. I do love eating local California cuisine, but can we please branch out from kale, poke and artisanal toasts?
Love and Salt opened in Manhattan Beach a few months ago and yes has some high ceilings, communal seating and thickly stacked starter toasts, but their California cuisine comes with an Italian twist. I was curious to see if there would be much difference.
Love and Salt's avocado toast does get a twist with crushed olives, pickled onions, and albacore tuna reserva. The fat and sweetness combined well and nearly melted into the buttery ciabatta toast. They may not have broken the mold, but this was darn good.
Then there was the caramelized fennel. I've mostly used fennel in raw settings like with my radish salad, but this preparation made me want to rush out and get some fennel to try a long, slow cook. The caramelization was pronounced and then layered with mounds of burrata, pepperonata and wonderful vinegary white anchovies that broke up the richness just a touch, but make no mistake, you could eat this dish for dessert. We were still talking about it the next day.
Continuing with the bread and cheese theme, we moved into a roasted mushroom wood oven pizza. Those mushrooms are nestled in a creamy taleggio with fontina and thyme. In my regular "non-restaurant" life, gluten and dairy don't make an appearance, so perhaps that's why I couldn't get enough of this pizza. The dough was chewy and salty, yes salty (see the restaurant name). I'm slightly upset to now know this pizza exists in the world for the sake of my diet.
Not giving up yet, we finished with the handmade bucatini pasta, mixed with fennel sausage, black kale, parmesan and bread crumbs. There was a nice bite to the pasta, but honestly, after all of the fabulous richness that preceded it, this was our least favorite dish. Next time: the bone marrow cavatappi.
Another thing Love and Salt is doing that I really hope other Los Angeles restaurants start thinking about is the option of a "quartino." The quartino is a glass and a half of wine, which is great if you don't want to commit to splitting a bottle. It's enough to have a white with starters and a red to take you through heavier plates, because no, sometimes a glass isn't enough.
Love and Salt is doing some fun twists on California - Italian cuisine. You can get a mortadella hot dog, a lamb tongue panini, crispy pig ears or a whole roasted glazed pig head. Or you can stay more mainstream and get a whole roasted chicken or Mediterranean branzino, but if I were you, I'd make sure to include a pizza and some fresh vegs in any order you make.
Love and Salt
317 Manhattan Beach Boulevard, Manhattan Beach