I ended up in Manhattan Beach at Love & Salt the other night after Lodge Bread Pizza earlier in the day, not a little driven by rumors of the Lowdown burger, which I recall reading about when Fiorelli was at Mar’sel, but never tried. At $20 including beer or glass of wine it’s not the worst deal in high-end burgers by any stretch of the imagination. It was a very large burger, and I was happy I split it with someone. It’s very soul-satisfying, and simple to the taste. This is the kind of high-end burger I could imagine pissing some people off because it’s not necessarily a novel set of flavors, rather it just gets all of the details just right: just right pickles, gooey white cheese, perfectly seasoned patties, light tomato aoili, caramelized onions, not-too-soft brioche bun toasted just so, etc…
Chicken Oysters have replaced their pigs ears. Extremely pleasant with rendered tissue providing a kind of lubrication and added savor to them. The house pickles and buttermilk aioli are dynamite.
I find it almost impossible to go to Love & Salt without having pasta either, and both of their latest additions did not disappoint.
A smoked rigatoni with rabbit meatballs and escarole in a parmesan brodo and burrata almost looked like a salad soup. Every element was just right though. Chewy al dente pasta graced with smoke, set against a properly musty broth, gooey burrata, immensely flavorful rabbit meatballs cooked with a lovely crunch on the “crust”, but perfectly tender inside showcase rabbit exquisitely against the lovely touch of bitterness from the escarole. There was both a tremendous amount of layering in terms of flavor sensations in this dish, as well as a deep clarity to each flavor, while still managing to result in a righteous gestalt from the melange.
Creste di Gallo with lamb ragu was the epitome of simplicity. There is little I can say about it. Pasta made exactly right, lamb showcased perfectly, with hints of cinnamon, and undertone of carrot coming through, the funk of the lamb not lost at all. The outrageousness is that there was as much ragu, like actual lamb meat, as pasta. I had forgotten about the fascinatingly overindulgent aesthetic of Love & Salt. Despite practicing the opposite of cheapness with their portioning, they are priced below comparable pasta places in LA, even though I can’t imagine Manhattan Beach is super cheap real estate.
I was saddened to see the place near-empty last night, but a lot of places were fairly empty, supposedly due to a big football game shrugs. Love & Salt remains one of my favorite places to return to because everything there seems to be just right. I’m not sure I’ve ever had anything I felt was even necessarily mediocre there. Somehow they achieve very high levels of overindulgence while capturing flavors sharply, and cleanly. I never seem to leave a place feeling so “light” after having just spent the meal stuffing down things like pasta, fried chicken, and burgers. It leaves me totally mystified more often than not. It’s an absolute crime that a place doing such hamfisted, over-priced pasta like Spartina is full, while a place like Love & Salt is not, but I digress.
Of particular note to those that don’t dine in groups, they are making the rabbit porchetta in a half portion now for only $38, as well as doing half roast chickens (used to only be whole ones).
The place is just an absolute joy to eat at, and their cocktail, and wine menu is also quite fun to explore (as are their increasingly creative non-alcoholic cocktails).