Charles Phan (The Slanted Door)
1142 Manhattan Ave
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
Dining date: 8/12/13
Manhattan Beach Post (M.B. Post) has been a hot spot in the area since opening over two years ago (helping to spawn another restaurant, Fishing with Dynamite, earlier this year). Chef David LeFevre hosts a recurring guest chef series called “Can You Dig It?” that benefits partner charity Common Threads. For this iteration, he teamed up with chef Charles Phan of San Francisco’s The Slanted Door.
Charles Phan is one of the old school notable Asian chefs in America; he’s best known for his flagship modern Vietnamese restaurant, The Slanted Door, which opened in the mid-1990s. His mini-empire now spans 7 restaurants in the San Francisco area. I don’t think he can be found in The Slanted Door kitchen as much nowadays, so this was an opportune chance to sample some of his cooking straight from the source. Chef LeFevre’s food has a lot of Asian influences and I was curious to see if he could adapt his cuisine to seamlessly fit in with Phan’s.
The menu for this evening was a collaborative effort, with 5 dishes being prepared by Phan and 3 by LeFevre for $75. Phan brought a couple of notable The Slanted Door plates as well as a few new ones. As far as I know, LeFevre’s dishes were making their first appearance here at M.B. Post.
Hamachi crispy shallot, thai basil (Phan)
Gramona Grand Cuvee Cava Brut, Catalonia (Spain)
The meal began with a favorite dish at The Slanted Door. Tender slices of hamachi were topped with crispy shallots and thai basil. The flavors were subtle and delicate, but worked very well together.
Clams pork, chili, heirloom tomatoes, ginger, thai basil (Phan)
2010 Ferdinand Vista Luna Vineyard Albarino (Central Valley)
The clams were another delicious dish, featuring the juicy shellfish in a warm and savory broth accented by ginger and thai basil. Sweet baby heirloom tomatoes added a punch of fresh flavor.
Ginger Shrimp Dumplings black sesame, chili oil, scallions (LeFevre)
These steamed dumplings made up the first dish to come from the home LeFevre side. They showed off a delicate skin with ginger and shrimp flavors coming through brightly. I didn’t catch too much of the black sesame sauce, but didn’t mind.
Crispy Fragrant Duck watercress (Phan)
2003 Calabretta Estate Rosso Sicilia (Italy)
These ducks were air-dried and then fried twice to ensure a very crispy skin. The effort appeared to be worth it as the bird displayed an exceptionally crispy skin, while still keeping the meat pretty moist. Bitter watercress provided a fresh bite to counter the rich duck.
Confit Pork Belly spring onion strewn wild rice, sweet corn, padron pepper (LeFevre)
The tender, fatty pork belly was slathered in a chile glaze, slightly sweet and slightly spicy. A base of sweet corn, wild rice and peppers were a flavorful accompaniment.
Shaking Beef (Phan)
An off-menu dish, Phan surprised with one of his most well-known dishes. The beef was better than I remembered it at The Slanted Door, with a very well-caramelized exterior and juicy medium-rare interior. A lime sauce provided some nice acid to go along with the beef. I’m not sure if there’s a wok station at M.B. Post, but this was really well done.
Classic Soft Serve stone fruit, olive oil, streusel (Phan)
Cerreto Santa Stefano Moscato d’Asti (Italy)
Thai Tea Panna Cotta lychee, puffed forbidden rice, white chocolate (LeFevre)
Each chef put together a dessert to complete the meal. Phan’s soft serve was very soft, almost melting, but featured sweet slices of stone fruit and a crunchy streusel. LeFevre’s panna cotta was rich with Thai tea flavor without being too sweet, complemented by crispy rice puffs and sweet lychee pieces.
I really enjoyed this meal. I expected some strong food from Phan in this Southeast Asian realm (and he delivered), but I was impressed to find LeFevre’s dishes to be right there with him. The entire menu showed off a wide range of Southeast Asian flavors, while keeping California’s summer season in mind. My favorite dishes had to be the shaking beef, duck, clams and dumplings but nothing disappointed.
Note: This was a hosted meal.