If you’ve ever driven down Pacific Coast Highway in the South Bay and wondered about the huge mural of a boy snorkeling, it’s time to stop wondering and stop in to Hudson House. It won’t be your last visit to the intimate, friendly dining and drinking spot — you’ll want to taste everything on Brooke Williamson’s gastropub menu.

Joining the lively dinner crowd recently, we started with a creation called Dirty Tots, which  that some would call a guilty pleasure — tater tots, crunchy and warm, adorned with a shredded mixture of crispy chicken skins, yuzu aioli, pickled shiitake mushrooms, chili, sweet onion, unagi sauce and nori. We moved on to tangerine + white miso eggplant, the creamy vegetable flavored with dates, shishito and mint. The black shrimp rice, with tomato and kaffir lime leaf aioli, Serrano chili, scallion, fish sauce and lime juice, was both crisp and smooth, piquant and luscious. You’re probably seeing a pattern at this point — unique combinations with a nod toward Asian flavors and eclectic ingredients.

Pork cheek tacos; Credit: Patricia Doherty

Pork cheek tacos; Credit: Patricia Doherty

“This is the kind of food that I crave,” Williamson explains. She shies away from calling it “fusion,” but the dishes combine traditionally Asian ingredients and seasonal vegetables, with a careful eye toward balance.

The Filipino BBQ pork sandwich with hot nori mustard is served on a sesame brioche bun, and a side of sweet pickles is the perfect contrast to the richly flavored meat and soft bread. Pork cheek tacos come on blue corn tortillas with kimchi mayo, avocado and kohlrabi-cilantro slaw. The ginger brined chicken with “Unicorn Noodle Salad” is a colorful combination presented in rainbow-hued sections to be tossed at the table.

Road to Hana; Credit: Patricia Doherty

Road to Hana; Credit: Patricia Doherty

The updated cocktails are no less creative and interesting. Cleverly named, they use tea infusions, new-style bitters, bourbon, rye and fruit juices, served in attractive glassware with just the right garnishes. The Penny Sparkle incorporates Remy Martin 1738, Peche, allspice, honey, lemon and bitters with a bit of bubbly. The Road to Hana, not surprisingly, includes pineapple, but the bourbon and black walnut bitters remove it from the realm of the usual tropical cocktails.

A respectable choice of bubbles and wines is topped by an extensive selection of brews categorized by draughts, hoppy, “malty & dark,” “fruit & sour” and “blonde & Belgian.” Dessert choices are an Earl Grey hot fudge sundae and a kaffir lime/matcha panna cotta, which we reluctantly decided to save for our next visit while we dug into the last of the entrees.

Discussing the new menu, Williamson called it “bar food.” Yes, it is food in a bar, but calling it bar food is like calling a Lamborghini a car. The food alone makes it worth a stop along PCH in Redondo Beach to the oldest of the dining spots owned by Ms. Williamson and husband Nick Roberts. Their Company for Dinner Hospitality Group also includes Playa Del Rey's Playa Provisions, a four-part enterprise with a retail shop and ice creamery, as well as a seafood restaurant and casual eatery. Their other successful production is son Hudson, the snorkeling boy with the trident, swimming across the façade of the restaurant named for him.

Hudson House, 514 N. Pacific Coast Hwy., Redondo Beach; (310) 798-9183, hudsonhousebar.com.

LA Weekly