During a recent swing up-and-down the SoCal coastline I made a point to find unique spots to dine and stay. I travel so often I wanted to experience things other than chain hotels and eateries that dot the rest of the U.S.
The South Bay of Los Angeles is a beautiful place to play on white, sandy beaches and watch the sun fade into the Pacific Ocean. It’s even better when you have a cold cocktail in hand and delicious food to begin a breezy, summer evening.
Redondo Beach can be a busy place this time of year with visitors, beachgoers, boaters and traffic, but just a few hundred yards off N. Harbor Drive – across a basin filled with eye-popping private boats – sits the Portofino Hotel.
My plans to stay at the waterfront property were scuttled at the last-minute but I wanted to experience the area and see the premium luxury hotel for myself. Part of the Noble House family of hotels and resorts, the Portofino boasts breathtaking scenes of the water from almost view.
Around 5 o’clock in the afternoon I heard some commotion a few yards away from the hotel’s grand entrance. The open windows of a restaurant were inviting me with laughter, chatter and the smell of fresh seafood. So in I went into BALEENKitchen.
The open-air setting and light mood first led me to the large bar. Good looking, happy people (are there any others in SoCal?) were lounging in comfy chairs holding colorful drinks. Happy hour was in full swing and I helped myself to a Pineapple Express.
Justin King, General Manager of the restaurant, wanted to personally make sure my drinks was made to standard, so he popped behind the bar and started pouring and shaking.
Plantation pineapple rum, Bacardi coconut rum, ginger liqueur topped with coconut, lime and basil. I closed my eyes and thought I was in the tropics.
After opening my eyes Justin led me into the spacious dining room to a white-clothed table by the window. I knew at that point I wasn’t going anywhere for hours. I certainly did not want to miss that west coast sunset.
The menu offers a lengthy list of small plates and shareables. Ahi tuna tacos with fresh guacamole was my first stop followed blistered shishito peppers and then a beautiful charcuterie and cheese board. By the time I was halfway through the olives and grapes on the board I was sipping on a Pat’s Ol’ Fashioned.
As a bourbon lover I make sure to sample specialty drinks made with that Kentucky brown water. Angel’s Envy bourbon is the base along with demerara sugar and orange bitters. I got my Uber app ready as I finished two of those.
The presentation was exemplary as heads turned when the waiter placed a plate of pan-roasted diver scallops in front of me. Surrounded by pee wee potatoes, mushrooms and blistered cherry tomatoes, I wanted to savor this for a while. Alas, the miso-glazed salmon was coming.
It was cooked as perfect as can be atop a bed of soba noodles and baby bok choy. Justin snuck back to my table with a serving of sweet potatoes as he wanted me to know that was one of the more popular side dish choices. I quickly realized why.
As the sun began to fall into the water and I finished snapping 3 dozen photos of the gorgeous view, a sampler of bread pudding, apple tart and gelato was within reach of my spoon. Perfect desserts to finish a perfect evening.
BALEENkitchen offers a top-notch waitstaff who readily answer questions about the menu and who owns which boat just outside of the expansive restaurant.
My only wish would have been to walk back across the driveway into what I believe would be a glorious hotel room and quickly drift into a deep sleep dreaming about those scallops.
Alas, my Uber arrived to take me up the coast a bit, but I vow to return one day for the full Portofino experience.
260 Portofino Way
Redondo Beach, CA 90277