Seafood has been a large part of David LeFevre's life, beginning with childhood summers in Virginia to his repertoire as a chef at Charlie Trotter's in Chicago and Water Grill in downtown L.A. It was such that when he opened Manhattan Beach Post he noticed there was a very definite expectation for it to be a seafood place.
“Everyone was wanting me to open one, but I wanted to do something different,” LeFevre says.
But the idea of a seafood restaurant came up anyway, a few months later during a discussion that the chef, who lives in Manhattan Beach, had with his partners about the neighborhood and how well a raw bar would fit. This parked what became Fishing With Dynamite, which opened earlier this week on Tuesday, April 30 — about 20 feet from the M.B. Post.
“I don't think that we're guaranteed success, but opening a raw bar a block away from the ocean is like fishing with dynamite. It's kind of a no-brainer in that sense,” says LeFevre, explaining the origins of the restaurant's name. “It's a fun name that people will remember.”
Raw bar selections include littleneck clams, Peruvian scallops and a range of oysters paired with a guest's choice of two sauces, in the form of ponzu and mignonette.
The rest of the menu is organized by categories reflective of LeFevre's personal and professional background.
“There is a connection between the east coast and the west coast that meets at the bounty of the ocean. I wanted to combine that old school, east coast nostalgia feel of crab cakes, shrimp cocktail, and New England clam chowder with that west coast vibe of these new, contemporary seafood items,” LeFevre says. “We really wanted those two to meet somewhere in the middle in the whole concept of old school meets new school — whether it's the design, food, music, decor.”
On the old school section of the menu, there are steamed clams with linguiça sausage, poached Atlantic lobster and clam chowder. The new school is comprised of dishes such as a Thai shellfish and coconut soup with rice noodles; grilled octopus in date-tomato ragu; and Steelhead trout with lemongrass yogurt.
“It's very subtle with seafood. Our cocktails and wine list are meant to support that. You're not going to find these super huge bourbons, aged dark whiskeys, and ryes. It's going to be much more gin-driven and vodka-driven. Lighter alcohols like rums and tequila,” LeFebvre explains.
At Fishing With Dynamite, the chef will also have some non-seafood options: confit pork belly with white corn grits; a grilled flat iron steak in lime soy gastrique. “Maybe someone will come in as a guest who didn't realize it's a seafood restaurant. We'll have something for them if they don't want seafood.”
To explain his vision of east meets west coast, LeFevre made six storyboards — two each labelled Old School, New School, and In-Between — with various images of fonts, furniture, tiles, dishes and inspiring quotes.
“When I conceptualized the restaurant, I did six storyboards for our architects, graphic designers, partners, crew and general managers of what I was looking for. They're in my office right now,” he says.
LeFevre picked out Fishing With Dynamite's light fixtures, tables, chairs and artwork. He spared little detail in design, from putting up vintage letter flashcards that have the restaurant's initials to commissioning a logo made with a textural element similar to the pressed fiberglass of the Charles and Ray Eames chairs.
“Some of the artwork we had made by the graphic design team. Some of it is what I picked up going up and down PCH, down to San Diego and back. And then there's stuff that I picked up just from a couple of guys in Venice who have done some cool prints.”
LeFevre credits a number of people for helping him realize his vision for the look of the 36-seat restaurant. “I got a great team of chefs, front-of-the-house managers doing the beverage program and architects. I got a great contractor and graphic designer.”
Fishing With Dynamite currently offers dinner daily from 5 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. A lunch service will be added to the schedule soon. According to LeFevre, the menu will change often, in part to cover the variety of seafood dishes.
“There's so many great seafood dishes that it would be a shame not to change the menu fairly quickly. Within the next couple of weeks, I'm sure we're going to change a couple of dishes.”
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