Newest Treasure in the South Bay – Baleen

After days of record-breaking heat and thunderstorms, we decided to explore Redondo Beach for a weekend getaway.  I’ve heard good things about a new chef at Baleen restaurant at The Portofino Hotel. Since the hotel is offering accommodation and dining specials, we decided to reserve one night.

Walking into Baleen, I was pleasantly surprised by the romantic and sophisticated décor. Situated upstairs with lovely views of million-dollar yachts, we sat next to a window and near a roaring fireplace. The guests sitting next to us exclaimed to their server, “We love your new menu.” I eagerly opened the menu, and to my surprise, it is backlit and easy to read.  During the evening when lights are low, this is pleasing to the eyes.

Executive Chef, Jesse Souza arrived four months ago to revamp the menu and add some new recipes. He is a charming and personable young man, who shared his restaurant experience with us. He started as a dishwasher as a teenager, and worked his way to garnish chef. Since then he has perfected his craft while working at restaurants in the Oakland, Maine, Miami, Naples and the Florida Keys.

One of his favorite dishes to prepare is the Dungeness Crab Cake.  Instead of bread for filler, Chef Jesse whips up a shrimp mousse and adds big lumps of crab.  The cake is placed in a pool of lobster lemongrass sauce and a dollop of tomato jam.  It tasted rich with a hint of shrimp. The warm asparagus and mushroom salad with shaved and slightly melted reggiano was a wonderful surprise.  Underneath the salad is an “egg in a hole”. When I cut into the salad, warm egg yolk bathed the brioche bread.  Another appetizer is the beautifully cooked duck carnitas served with apple slaw, chipotle blackberries, and cornmeal crepes.  We spooned the dark carnitas meat and apple slaw onto the crepe and placed a chipotle blackberry on top before folding it into a taco. It was superb.

Some of Baleen’s signature dishes are seafood and we ordered two for our entrées.  The Ahi tuna is flown in from Hawaii and immersed in cane sugar before it is briefly seared. It’s placed on top of sugary coconut rice with a slightly spicy papaya salad and a little green mound of avocado wasabi sauce.  My favorite dish was a twist on surf and turf — the scallops and short ribs.  A plate with three large, sweet Mexican scallops on a bed of vanilla parsnip puree and glazed carrots is accompanied with two brochettes of tender short ribs in a mustard pan sauce.  Both please the palate with sensuous flavors.

The bread pudding had a hint of Anjou pear and wasserved with vanilla ice cream and a vanilla spiced anglaise.

Experience Chef Jesse’s creative dishes from October 10-15 during dineLA restaurant week.  He will prepare a three-course dinner for a terrific value of $34.

Some of the appetizer choices are roasted pumpkin soup with a smoky crème fraiche and rye croutons or oyster fricassée with spinach, garlic, pernod, parmesan and buttered toast.  For entrées you can’t go wrong with the braised short ribs in a red wine-chocolate sauce or the seared salmon with butternut squash risotto and herb salad. The sour cream gelato with strawberries, the buttermilk panna cotta, or flourless chocolate cake all seem to be a delicious ending to a wonderful dining adventure.  The South Bay offers some fine dining options. Baleen is now the best in Redondo Beach.

260 Portofino Way, Redondo Beach (877)225-3365 dining@hotelportofino.com

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