I love sitting at the raw bar and hoarding giant trays of sea creatures: Chef David LeFevre always surprises and delights not only with the quality of seafood but in their presentation as well.
Peruvian scallops ($2.50 each) on the half shell, enhanced with grapefruit and cilantro, dazzle not only for their taste, as if fresh-plucked from the ocean, but or the lovely visual fanfare as well.
The rest of my heart was easily won by the live Santa Barbara sea urchin as well - which Fishing with Dynamite had often sold out of, so I am glad for it every time I'm able to get it.
The times that I had them, they were not the most flavorful I'd had (I love that clean yet distinct and one of a kind ocean funk in uni!!) - but they were definitely among the biggest and plumpest. And at $14 each sea urchin (containing 5 pieces) - not bad of a deal at all! [Poppa's Fresh Seafood's uni is big, plump AND tasty, for $10 each, but they're not cleaned as well as FWD and if ambience is important to you as well, and/or you live in LA and don't want to drive all the way down to SD - FWD is a great option for not that much higher price.]
Dishes that are limited time or off menu will always get my attention as well - and on one of my visits last summer, FWD had a giant roasted scallop ($27.00) served in a giant pearlized half shell, gonad and all. It was gorgeously presented, but in this case, just like lobster, bigger isn't always better. Bigger means tougher muscles, so it's more chewy. And it comes at a price: more than an average entree. The Peruvian scallops, much more affordable, and to me much more delectable, remained my favorite.
Then there were the Santa Barbara Spot Prawns ($25 for 2): full bodied, split down the middle, beautiful smokey char marking the outside, gorgeous perfect roe adorning the sweetest, tender, juiciness to be discovered inside - this was one of the best preparations of SB spot prawns I could remember.
On other visits we've had specials like the Maryland Softshell Crab with Chilled Corn Soup, Weiser Melons, Serrano Aioli and Thai Basil ($16), like a deconstructed crab cake with a hint of asian flavor, and Lobstah Dumpling Pie ($25) which was the best lobster pot pie I'd ever had - and this said after being stuffed to the gills with a 1.25lb lobster feast elsewhere earlier in the evening.
Fantastic as the seafood at FWD is - the one unexpected dish that I will never leave without getting TWO of (one for dine-in, one to go), is their Key Lime Pie. At many restaurants which serve a spectacular meal - often the desserts are sadly neglected. You hear top chefs say all the time, (especially on shows like Top Chef, actually) - that they don't care about dessert and are at a loss when it comes to that last part of the meal (and you often see great chefs on cooking shows stumble when it comes to dessert, as they've not paid much attention to it, it's not something they would normally need to take care of - it's left to their pastry chef).
Which makes FWD all the more extraordinary for putting out such an incredible dessert - hands down the best key lime pie I've ever had. A sight to behold, with a small ocean of scorched meringue rising in peaks, a fiery but airy cover for the light only in consistency key lime filling (that announces its flavor identity with brazen zest) and a super crumbly, flavor-packed graham cracker crust. Apparently, to make the lime flavor even more pronounced, Chef LeFevre also added finely chopped kaffir lime leaf to the meringue.
The pie is simply perfect - and I don't go to Manhattan Beach often, but when I do, even in passing - I will always go back for the Key Lime. Oh and the seafood, too.
On a 7 point scale:
Flavor - 6 bites
Presentation - 6 bites
Originality - 6 bites
Ambience - 6 stars
Service - 6.5 stars
Overall experience - 6.5 bites
Price - $ (1 bite mark)
Probability of return visit - 100%
Fishing with Dynamite
1148 Manhattan Ave Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
Look for reservations (and rewards points!) at OpenTable.