BALEENkitchen recently celebrated its new space, new culinary team, and new seafood-driven menu. (Courtesy photo)
Tucked at the end of one of the peninsulas that are the gateways of Basin #2 of the Redondo Beach Pier & Harbor stands the Portofino Hotel which is housed in a three-story, rather nondescript building that faces the breakwater channel. It is one of those places that are under the radar for most visitors but hides a very sophisticated interior lobby with an outstanding two-story sitting area with a fireplace, tall windows that face the ocean, all in an elegant, classic decor.
Across the parking lot from the hotel, facing the Portofino Marina side is a smaller structure of the complex that hides a culinary and ambiance secret. As soon as you enter this split-level, two-story building you will be entering the sophisticated realm of the BALEENkitchen restaurant which specializes in “a seafood-heavy American menu”, but is way more than that.
Headed by Chef de Cuisines Vasili Tavernakis and Paul Dinulescu, this jewel of a restaurant is comprised of two levels which house the main restaurant spaces with a bar/lounge on the main floor along with specialty areas on the marina ground level that includes a covered lounge and an open air bar with adjacent seating around a fire pit. On this lower level you can also find the kitchen with a chef’s table area that for those who do not know, is a VIP table located inside the main kitchen where guests can enjoy a specialty menu served by the head chef.
On Wednesday, July 11 the restaurant held a special reopening event for press, friends and special guests to “celebrate the new space, new culinary team, and new seafood-driven menu”. As part of their new look, the areas on the main floor have been redesigned in a much lighter and modern manner and the continuous band of windows facing the marina, that also wrap the end facing the hotel entry, have been replaced so as to make them all operable. This makes the visual and physical connection to the adjacent boats seem even more intimate.
The main entry into the restaurant which is the middle of the building puts you in a mid-level foyer, so you have two choices, one is to take the left side stairs down to the kitchen and outdoor spaces facing the marina or take the right side stairs up to the main restaurant level and lounge. As you reach the upper level space you are greeted by an expansive, open space open on both ends of the building which is wrapped by a band of continuous windows with beautiful views of the docked boats.
For the event the menu included delectable ahi tuna tacos (a house specialty) which are on a fried shell with guacamole and a sriracha aioli that gave the fish a sophisticated taste. I paired that with a light and fruity Drumheller chardonnay which is a brand by Ste. Michelle Wine Estates from the state of Oregon, only available to restaurants. Another excellent seafood sample was the Peruvian Scallops on the half shell with a citrus chimichurri which was light and delicious and went very well with a glass of a sophisticated Mionetto Prosecco from Treviso, Italy which I understand is available on the weekend brunch as part of an endless mimosa choice.
On the “American side” of the menu there was an incredible BALEEN burger slider which had guacamole, bacon and friend onions with an order of very addictive truffle fries which was served on the bar/lounge as the incredibly talented, two-man house band of Brent George played acoustic versions of classic rock and folk covers. Mr. George impressed me with his arrangements as well as his unique, flexible voice that can pull off excellent covers from 60’s and 70’s classic which he performs there most of the days of the week. All in all, it was a great mini vacation to a culinary, ambient and acoustic paradise at BALEENkitchen and without having to leave the Los Angeles area.