Fishing with Dynamite is iconic seafood chef David LeFevre's pursuit to create not only an iconic seafood restaurant but a sustainable one.
As of right now, FWD has been celebrated for serving pristine and sustainable seafood with accolades such as "Best Oyster Bar" as well as a Michelin Plate in 2019.
I've heard many stories as to how challenging it is to get a reservation at FWD, as it's only a 1,100-square-foot space with only around 30 seats in the cozy restaurant, but after hearing all the buzz of the incredible seafood being served, I knew I had to fight for a spot.
I can confidently tell you that Fishing With Dynamite is one of the best seafood restaurants I've ever stepped foot in, and living in Los Angeles and essentially being surrounded by incredible food, that counts for something. So that with that being said, let me tell you all about this quaint and iconic seafood spot that you're going to want to keep coming back to.
Chef David LeFevre is a native of Madison, Wisconsin. He developed his passion for cooking when he was a child helping his mother in the kitchen, saying, "I loved the food my mother made and realized that if I knew how to cook, I wouldn't have to wait for someone else to cook for me."
However, as a teen, David decided to dive into Industrial Engineering at the University of Wisconsin, forgoing his culinary passions. It wasn't long before he decided to leave the world of Engineering and enrolled at the Culinary Institute of America. During his time there, he interned at Chef Charlie Trotter's restaurant in Chicago, and he made such an incredible impression that he landed a job as tournant at Trotter's Las Vegas, where he worked until it closed in 1995.
Deciding he wanted to expand his culinary career and hone his classical skills in some of the world's most distinguished restaurants, David decided to travel to France, which allowed him to enhance his resume with a list of apprenticeships such as La Côte d'Or, Restaurant Jean Bardet and Roger Vergé's Le Moulin de Mougins.
In 2004, LeFevre was recruited as Executive Chef at Water Grill, and under his six-year culinary leadership, Water Grill earned a coveted Michelin star in 2007 and then again in 2008.
In 2011, David LeFevre opened his first restaurant, Manhattan Beach Post, and then in the Spring of 2013, he opened Fishing With Dynamite right next door, a sustainable seafood spot just a block from the beach.
"I've been thinking about this a long time; seafood has always been a really important part of my life. I remember being a kid visiting my grandfather in Chesapeake Bay. He'd tie a string with a pig's ear to my wrist to catch blue crabs."
You can expect a fantastic raw bar filled with oysters, lobster, sea urchins, crab as well as local fish.
"We just want the seafood to be the star of the show. It's not what we can do to the fish, but what we can do for the fish. High-quality fresh seafood simply prepared in an interesting way. We want people to be able to come in and have an inexpensive dish and beer. Or if they want lobster and a great bottle of wine, they can have that too. We'll have traditional items, nostalgic items with an interesting twist," says LeFevre.
The space was designed by F.C. Studio of Chicago to reflect East Coast meets West Coast. LeFevre describes it as "Kind of East Coast cottage-y, shingled, wood-ceilinged, whitewashed, sea-weathered and mix that with a West Coast vibe of endless summer."
Fishing With Dynamite prioritizes one specific thing: sustainable seafood. Despite the fact that we live by the sea, L.A.'s residents rarely eat fish from our own Pacific waters, and sustainable seafood is incredibly hard to come by. In addition to that, sourcing sustainable seafood requires a few extra steps.
In an interview, LeFevre shares his tips on how to source sustainable seafood:
"Buy from sources you trust. Santa Monica Seafood and Manhattan Grocery (just down the street from M.B. Post) have excellent relationships with fishermen that they pass along to their clients."
LeFevre says while not everyone asks about the sustainability of his restaurants' seafood, most people do want to know where they source from and who supplies their oysters. The answer to that is they get them directly from farms.
"People care about how fresh the product is; that's the most important part. Just last month, I worked at Moro Bay oyster farm, went on a Dungeness crab boat, went out on a shrimp boat. Next month I'm sending four cooks and four managers out there to see what it's like, to see what it takes." - David LeFevre.
I showed up at Fishing With Dynamite an hour before my reservation, traffic had been light, fortunately, and as I talked with the smiling hostess, I noticed that FWD not only offers indoor seating but outdoor as well, and they'd brought out a long and spacious tarp filled with several tables beneath it.
For an outdoor dining space, they did an excellent job of making it look lush and green, and I later found out that the outdoor seating was also being shared with their sister-restaurant, Manhattan Beach Post.
I'd requested to sit inside for a full ambiance experience; everything I read online suggested that the space was cozy, and in an interview, I read on L.A. eater, I learned that David LeFevre had a very solid vision of what he wanted the space to look like. He picked all of the artwork, he wanted very specific bar stools, he designed the oyster bar, the skateboard trucks for purse hooks under the bar — he picked it all out and essentially served as creative director for the whole thing.
We sat at a small table near the window, and as I reviewed the aesthetically pleasing and thankfully paper menu (is anybody else tired of scanning menus?) I realized we had a huge problem.
The problem was resisting the temptation to order absolutely everything.
In the front and center of the menu, there are a few cocktails listed; Agua Vida caught my eye, it's a white negroni made with Nosotros Blanco tequila, salers aperitif, and grapefruit infused Dolin blanc. I noticed several tables both indoors and outside with a light-looking drink that, upon asking our server, he said was The L-Word, a French 75 with gin, prosecco, lavender, and lemon. And at the bar, which only seats four people at a time, I noticed a couple sipping on tiki looking drinks, which our server also said was a popular cocktail called My Oh Mai, their spin on a maitai made with star rum, pink guava, orgeat, Mata Hari absinthe, and allspice dram.
Orgeat is a fantastic cocktail syrup that is traditionally made from a combination of almonds and orange flower water, and it has a distinctive nutty flavor with a hint of citrus. It adds complexity to drinks, and it's incredibly unique, so you can't find any other substitutes.
FWD also has a great selection of bottled wine, beer, and wines by the glass. I scanned the menu and settled on a Sancerre from the Loire valley, and it was spot on – crisp with an apricot finish.
Now, onto the food. I'd like to start out by saying our experience was amplified due to the service we received; his name was John, and he was also the bartender. The moment he learned it was our first time there, his eyes lit up, and he helped us review the entire menu saying, "a great meal at Fishing With Dynamite is one that starts with oysters."
We didn't argue that because, of course, oysters are the gateway into a fabulous experience. The oyster selection changes daily, and we got half a dozen. Two Pickering passage, two sapphire, and two misty point, per John's recommendation.
The oysters are served with fresh horseradish, cocktail sauce, onions, and a citrusy mignonette on the side.
The oysters are fantastic: fresh, crisp, briny, and served in their liquor. I'm not a purist, so I enjoy the sauces that they came with.
In terms of other raw items, you'll find Peruvian scallops, jumbo shrimp cocktail, live Atlantic Maine lobster, Alaskan King Crab legs, and lastly, littleneck clams. You can also order a raw bar platter, which includes all of the above-mentioned, and they're supposed to serve multiple people; however, oysters are always my go-to. I was curious about the littleneck clams, which is why I asked our server, John, what they were and how they tasted. He gave me a little history of them, showed me the clam itself, and then let me try one on him. I'll admit, I'm not a littleneck clam fan, but it's always good to try new things, and the experience was fun.
Next, we moved on to appetizers. There's Grilled Wild Spanish Octopus made with a spicy tomato salmorra, Marland blue crabcake made with house-made pickles and whole-grain mustard remoulade; a shaved brussels sprouts salad compliment the menu with a truffle vinaigrette, toasted hazelnuts, crispy sunchokes pecorino and tangerines, there's also a fan favorite: Clam chowdah' made with nueske's bacon, Weiser Farm potatoes, and house-made oyster crackers; LeFevre does everything in house he can do in house.
The items that immediately caught my eye was the Japanese Hamachi Sashimi made with apple ponzu sauce, crushed avocado, serrano chile, and shisho; it sounded delicious, and the Mexican White Shrimp Ceviche made with polito farms citrus and guacamole on a crispy tostada.
So we ended up ordering the Japanese Hamachi Sashimi, the Mexican White Shrimp Ceviche, the french fries, and the infamous squash rolls, which are called 'Chef David's Mom's Cape Cod Squash Rolls' and they're served with rosemary butter.
The rolls changed my life. I'm certainly not exaggerating, they were perfectly fluffy, and the butter was whipped and glorious. The Mexican White Shrimp Ceviche came out next, and that was a masterpiece in itself; the flavor profile was complex but incredibly light. Everything tasted fresh, and the tangerines provided a citrus flavor that wove all of the flavors perfectly together.
To be quite honest, I almost ordered a second ceviche, but the fries caught me off guard.
You know when you go to a restaurant and order fries, and they come out perfectly crispy, not greasy, and actually flavorful? That was the moment. They were served with a malt vinegar mayo, and they were devoured within seconds.
On the other half of the menu, you'll see a few entrees and handhelds. Handhelds include seafood rolls with either blue crab or shrimp, and those are served on a golden toasted bread bar milk bun with french fries, a tangy slaw, and pickles.
They also offer grilled rockfish or grilled shrimp tacos made with handmade corn tortillas, which are made in house, a harissa crema, salsa verde, and those are served with chips and guacamole; and lastly, on the handhelds, you'll see a crispy fried fish sandwich, which I noticed on several tables. The fish is wild haddock, and it's served on the best kind of bun there is, a brioche bun with mild cheddar, a dill pickle remoulade, and also served with french fries.
I was personally torn between tacos and an entree. They all sounded fantastic, and John recommended a few things, specifically the Koshihikari Rice, which is one of their staple dishes. It's short-grain Japanese rice, overnight slow-cooked chicken dash, shrimp, uni, blue crab, and cage-free egg yolk. It looked delicious, but being someone who loves fresh fish, I had to try their pan-roasted pacific striped bass. The bass is sustainably farmed in the open ocean in Baja California and served with market cauliflower, Fresno chili, and an anchovy battuto.
The bass melts in your mouth, the cauliflower was delicious, and combine it with the anchovy battuto, and you have a combustion of flavors you can't get enough of.
As we wrapped up our meal, John encouraged us to review the dessert menu, they have an infamous key lime pie with graham cracker crust and Italian lime meringue, and while it looked fantastic, I'm not a key lime type of gal, so we opted for the pretzel bread pudding which is equally as popular, and for good reason.
The pretzel bread pudding is one of the best things I've ever had; it has a brown butter salted caramel on top of the bread pudding, and then on top of that, there's a perfect scoop of mascarpone ice cream. There's really nothing better than something warm and delicious with ice cream on top. We devoured that in seconds.
I noted how pleasantly satiated I was after the meal, and I sincerely believe that it all comes down to the quality of the food you're consuming. Fishing With Dynamite is simply one of those restaurants that prioritizes sustainability, quality, and providing a genuinely impeccable experience for all of their guests, and I noticed that by how attentive everybody was.
I'll definitely be coming back for more, and I'm looking forward to trying something new next time, specifically the crispy skin ora king salmon and the chocolate chess pie with salted caramel, candied hazelnuts, and vanilla ice cream. You can't beat a good chocolate pie.
Fishing With Dynamite is located in Manhattan Beach, and its hours are from 11:30 am to 9:00 pm, Monday through Sunday. Last seating is at 8:30 pm. There's plenty of street parking within the area, and I'd highly recommend making a reservation as there's almost always a line to get a seat here.
Come hungry, and come expecting a fabulous experience and an even better meal.
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