Navigate To A Fine Meal At R10 Social House [restaurant review]
Product and restaurant names often include numbers, sometimes meaningfully, sometimes not. Would products labeled WD-57 and Heinz 40 sell as well as they do with the numbers reversed? It’s a fair bet that people who buy those products don’t know the reason for either number, or even if there is one. (To save you looking it up, in one case there is, in the other it just sounded good.)
There’s a good but somewhat arcane reason that the R10 Social House in Redondo has its name – a buoy with that designation is a landmark for boaters and surfers. Since the seals that hang out on that buoy are notoriously social animals, it even makes sense at a zoological level.
Once I understood the reason for the name I expected a nautical or surf themed interior, but the restaurant and bar at the south end of Harbor Drive has a very minimalist décor. Not a surfboard or yacht anchor is to be seen; there are a few posters in one alcove, but otherwise a wall of weathered wood is the only ornament. I understand that they didn’t want a kitschy atmosphere like some other pier-area places, but they may have taken it too far.
Though the restaurant has changed chefs several times, the general concept has remained eclectic and contemporary. There are a few starters meant for sharing, some simple dishes like roast chicken or fresh fish, and curveballs like a seasonal vegetable hash and fried chicken with a mild curry in the batter. That chicken is probably the best known item here, and it’s very good, the batter fragrant with spices though not very peppery. Other dishes that have been on the menu since the beginning include tasty fried olives, a beet salad, and a kale Caesar.
That isn’t to say there haven’t been changes, and as far as I can tell they’ve all been for the better. The menu is a bit more wide-ranging, portions on some items seem to have expanded, and the service is more confident and professional. At a recent meal our server Maureen was a wealth of information, advising us when we were about to over-order and generally making us feel welcome.
At her suggestion we started with mac and cheese topped with lamb bacon and an order of the wild boar sliders with tomato jam. The mac was very creamy with a moderate sprinkling of parmesan and would have been unexceptional without the lamb bacon, a two-dollar upcharge that is absolutely worth it. The smoky, slightly gamey crispness was a fine foil to the rich cheese; if I had been making these I’d have added a dash of green onion, but they were fine as they were. The boar sliders also had a tangy edge thanks to the delicately spicy tart jam, but the potato chips that were served on the side weren’t crisp (it was a cool, rainy evening and chips do lose their edge quickly).
R10 is a cocktail-oriented place that features some classics, so we ordered a Sazerac and an Aviation, both of which were well made with premium ingredients. They use St. George absinthe and gin in these two, which I regard as a sign they’re keeping high standards. For dinner we switched to wine from their surprisingly extensive list, and Maureen offered tastes of a few to see if they matched our palates. We settled on glasses of Predator zinfandel and a Vielle Ferme Rhone blend and were quite happy with them.
I chose the root beer braised short rib over cauliflower puree, while my wife picked the catch of the day, fresh mahi mahi.
The fish was mildly seasoned and cooked in a brown butter vinaigrette, served over celery root puree with sprouting broccoli. It was a well-considered combination that made me wonder why more local chefs aren’t using celery root, as it is a healthy and tasty alternative to starches.
My short rib was more unusual in concept and execution, a single meaty rib chunk atop a bed of pureed cauliflower decorated with onion rings that had been crusted with bacon. The only thing I wasn’t wild about was the bacon in the onion rings – I know people put bacon in everything including toothpaste, but the onion ring would have been better without it. (Yes, there is such a thing as bacon flavored toothpaste. I regard this as sign of the decline of civilization.) Cooking short ribs in either Coca-Cola or root beer has been popular for a long time in Central America, and it produces an amazing result; the acid in the soda tenderizes the meat and the sugars caramelize, and the result is magic. If you like tender, slightly sweet meat, this is a must-try.
For dessert we decided on a “souffled pancake,” which was baked in a small cast iron pan, then cut and mixed with strawberries in syrup and toasted oak ice cream. Wood-flavored ice cream was a new one for me but it worked in this context, the cool creaminess a nice pairing with warm pancake and fruit. It was a light portion for two, a delicate finish to dinner.
Our meal with two cocktails and glasses of wine ran $96.00, which we agreed was reasonable. While we were finishing dinner the restaurant’s new manager was making the rounds of the room, and we asked about whether any changes were planned. He mentioned adding a bit to the austere décor, which we agreed with, but seemed inclined to leave the food as it is, which is also a smart move. The R10 Social House is on a good course now, and deserves a look from even those local residents who rarely visit the waterfront. The view is good, so is the food and the place deserves support.
The R10 Social House is at 179 North Harbor Drive, next to Captain Kidd’s. Open daily at noon, close 10:30 pm Mo-Fr, 11 pm Sa-Su. Parking lot with validation, wheelchair access good to downstairs area, some vegetarian/vegan items. Slightly outdated menu at r10socialhouse.com, phone (310) 798-2500.