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Unofficial Kings of the South Bay, the father and son team of Greg and Ron Newman have brought another gem to Manhattan Beach, footsteps from the pier – Esperanza Cocina de la Playa – a blend of glamorous and local beach town charm.

Esperanza is the latest modern Mexican restaurant from the Baja Sharkeez Restaurant Group team behind Palmilla in Hermosa Beach, Baja Sharkeez, Sandbar, Panama Joe’s, Killarney’s Irish Pub, Tower12 (named after the lifeguard tower at the Hermosa Pier), Palmilla Cocina y Tequila and Esperanza Cocina de la Playa.  

The 2,000 square foot dining room designed by Icelandic architect Gulla Jónsdóttir is dotted with ceramic light fixtures imported from Mexico in a breezy open-air space inspired by the Cabo San Lucas coast and Mexico City.

Upstairs lounge at Esperanza Cocina de la Playa (Michele Stueven)

Sunset at Esperanza Cocina de la Playa (Michele Stueven)

Upstairs is an outdoor patio and indoor lounge that feels like you’ve walked onto the set of Narcos. Modeled after the cliffside apartment of Arturo Valdez, a legendary confirmed bachelor of the upscale set in Mexico, the plush and intimate lounge reflects the vibe of the hotelier’s exclusive parties that often cater to the country’s most popular Telenovela stars.

Beginning Friday, July 30, Esperanza transforms into EZ After Dark every Friday and Saturday from 11:00 p.m. – 2:00 a.m. beyond restaurant hours with small bites and post-dinner craft cocktails.

Chef Ray Alvarez’s diverse and extensive menu is seafood heavy but offers plenty of options for carnivores as well with a variety of filet mignon, New York and aged mesquite ribeye steaks, which also appear in the street tacos with tortillas made in-house on the comal. And speaking of tacos, the fresh halibut frito is a bright combination of chipotle aioli, garlic mojo, guacamole and queso fresco.  

Tacos de Halibut Frito (Michele Stueven)

For starters, try the massive jumbo shrimp taquitos or any of the crudo del mar. The Ceviche los Cabos is made with local sea bass, green olives and avocado in a red jalapeno broth and the Ceviche Pineapple Camarones combines white prawns and mango in a chamoy broth. Or just try a trio from the long list, all are served with crispy plantain chips.

In addition to traditional enchilada, crispy grilled burrito and taco choices, seasonal pan-seared fish of the day comes in a variety of preparations including ranchera, veracruzana, pacifico or blackened, with your choice of sides.

Esperanza is footsteps from the beach (Courtesy Esperanza)

And then there are the drinks, possibly the crowning glory.

Head Mixologists John Fox and Kevin Williams’ bar program is a fresh and playful delight, featuring what might be the largest tequila list and mezcal collection in the South Bay. Having scoured all throughout Mexico, Baja, the Yucatan Peninsula and Oaxaca, the team has curated a range of small-batch producers, from Clase Azul and Mal Bien Tepextate, to more well-known favorites like Patron and Casamigos. 

On the cocktail front, handmade shrubs, mists and mixers put a twist on traditional tequila cocktails like the La Rosa and 11 variations of a Margarita from spicy to sweet. The muddled fruit mojito made with fresh strawberries or watermelon is sublime refreshment and the Rico Suave, which comes with your choice of Grey Goose vodka or Henrick’s gin and St. Germain, organic sweet & sour, muddled cucumber and jalapeno is hypnotic and perfect for an Alta California sunset.

 

The downstairs bar (Michele Stueven)

LA Weekly