Friday, August 5, 2011

Dock for Lunch at Baleen, Portofino Hotel and Yacht Club (Redondo Beach, CA)

Not so long ago, Redondo Beach in my mind consisted of a crowded beach and the pier (which has Izakaya Bincho and Quality Seafood, both great). Enter Baleen Los Angeles at the Portofino Hotel and Yacht Club, a much quieter, less touristy spot away from the pier.

The Chefs Burger at Baleen
The Chef's Burger
The restaurant's layout seems a strange one when you walk in. Instead of a big dining room, there's only one row of tables, all of them provide a view of the marina and yachts.
Baleen recently launched a new lunch menu. I wasn't able to come to their media lunch so they invited me over on another day - a beautiful Saturday afternoon, perfect for dining al fresco by the water. Judging from the customers coming in while I was there, seems like this is the spot for local residents to have their casual lunch and family reunions.
The lunch menu ranges from full size salads, to sandwiches, five different burgers, to fish tacos and pastas.
We decided to let the chef, Jesse Souza, bring us whatever he wanted us to try. We started with two full-meal-sized salads: Grilled Shrimp Salad, baby tomato, grilled bread, arugula, olives, cucumbers, feta, white balsamic vinaigrette ($17), and Caesar Salad with Steak ($16)
Grilled Shrimp SaladSkirt Steak Salad

His goal with the salads were to fill you up without weighing you down and they both worked well. We loved the sweet, grilled shrimp with the tomatoes and cucumbers, the medium rare hanger steak and crispy potatoes on a bed of crisp lettuce. Simple and with fresh ingredients, the combinations work together nicely (especially the crumbles of blue cheese on the steak caesar salad).

If you're looking for a heavier, more satisfying lunch, get The Andrew Jackson Burger, aka The Chef's Burger. Actually, you should probably try this burger no matter what.
Not your ordinary burger, it is topped with braised short rib, candied bacon, fried egg, aged cheddar, crispy onion, cole slaw, and burnt sugar bbq sauce ($20)
The Chefs Burger at Baleen
The list of ingredients is either impressive or frightening, but Chef Souza had put just the right amount of each thing so that it isn't overwhelming or over-sauced. My companion was quite impressed and deemed it one of the best burgers he's ever had. The problem with most dressed up burgers is that they become so massive that they're impossible to eat with your hands, defeating the purpose of a burger to being with, but it's not the case here.The stack of onion rings didn't make it harder to hold, and we had to take half of them off, but otherwise even with all the ingredients, the burger maintained its compact structure while keeping all those bursts of flavors.

For the more health-conscious one, there are the Grilled Fish Tacos (local pacific snapper, avocado, pico de gallo, jalapeno, cabbage slaw) - $16
Fish Tacos
The fish was moist and fresh, and the pico de gallo wasn't really spicy but still had a nice kick to it.

Tea and OJ at Baleen
Fresh OJ, Tea Forte

For dessert, we had a lemon meringue pie with raspberry and passionfruit sauce.
Lemon Meringue Tart

I loved the creamy lemon filling (though just a tad sweet for me), the soft, crumbly crust. The sweetness of the sauce and meringue nicely balances the tartness of the lemon filling, though I don't think they needed to put as much sauce as they did.

I had come in with no expectation, having never heard about Baleen before, but we were both very pleasantly surprised. (Incidentally, the name Baleen doesn't actually come from Baleen whales, but apparently some old lore about a monkey-inhabited island called Baleen.) I can see the allure of a summertime lunch at Baleen. A nice, quiet lunch overlooking the water, with solid options to please everyone.

You won't find anything particularly adventurous items on the menu, just familiar food, done well. Oh, other than the burgers, Chef Souza gets rather creative with those. You should try the Chef's Burger with the short rib and candied bacon and egg, and I still have to return to try the "Frenchy" burger - topped with duck confit.

Baleen Los Angeles
260 Portofino Way
Redondo Beach, CA 90277
(310) 379-8481
Baleen Los Angeles on Urbanspoon
Disclosure: this meal was hosted



Glad you were able to try their new lunch menu. I was at the preview lunch in June and my mouth still waters for that steak salad, as well as the fish tacos! I also felt silly when I found out they pronounce it Bahleen, not Bayleen. Oops!

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