In September of last year I visited Baleen and photographed beautiful dishes from Executive Chef Jesse Souza’s dinner menu. I had so much fun and the food was absolutely beautiful and delicious. So when I was recently invited to a Blogger Luncheon to sample and photograph the Summer Breakfast and Lunch menu items, wild horses couldn’t have kept me away. We sat outside on the covered patio, looking out at the marina through gauzy curtains that were moving in the breeze, the sounds of the rigging on the boats and the little chop of the ocean in the background.
We started out with this Amuse Bouche, which to me initially looked pretty unassuming. But I was really hungry, so I took a bite. I was stopped in my tracks by the most amazing cheese that was on this crostini. I closed my eyes as it melted in my mouth. I asked someone if they knew what kind of cheese it was. I had my eyes shut, savoring, so I don’t know who answered, but someone said “Boursin, I think.” Probably everyone on the planet has tasted Boursin, but I must be culturally deprived. I confirmed with Chef Jesse that it was the Boursin with Garlic and Fine Herbs, and I went to Ralphs the next day and bought some. I had to have it. So Good. Also on the crostini was smoked salmon, avocado, capers and arugula. What a great start.
While we were being served this Chinese Chicken Salad, Chef Jesse stopped by our table and announced he had ten dishes he was preparing for us to taste. My fellow bloggers and I looked at each other, grinning in anticipation, and groaning because we knew we were going to be stuffed to the gills by the end. Actually, we were given one serving of each dish, which we split four ways, so we could each have a small portion. This poached chicken salad with cabbage and udon noodles, with orange segments, wonton crisps and almonds had a perfect Soy Honey Viniagrette with miso, Dijon and rice vinegar. It was so good, but I had to stop myself from eating too much, because I knew there were eight more dishes to come. What sweet torture.
Next came this Grilled Shrimp Panzanella Salad. The shrimp were perfectly grilled, soft and sweet. No rubbery shrimp for this bread salad, which also had the interesting flavors of arugula and feta cheese, with a white balsamic vinaigrette. I had to make my table-mates wait to divide up the dish so I could get some good photographs. I’m sure they wanted to slap me on the knuckles with their forks. Sorry.
The third salad placed before us was a Grilled Hangar Steak & Crispy Potato Salad with Blue Cheese Buttermilk Dressing. When I was showing my photographs to my husband, this was the one that elicited the big “Ooooh! That looks really good!” You know… men, carnivores, chunks of meat. (I’m rolling my eyeballs.) I have to admit it looks pretty darn good to me, too, actually. The nuggets of blue cheese sprinkled over the top were really good.
Next, the sandwiches, beginning with the BALEEN Burger. The presentation, with the cup of fries and bun hat tilted on the side, was so photogenic, I wanted to take tons of photos. This may have been the best burger I have ever eaten. I distinctly remember the soft toasted buttery sesame brioche bun and the wonderful bacon flavor along with the definite umami of the beef patty. And then, of course, there was the cheddar, guacamole, chile mayo and crispy fried onions. They may have had something to do with it. My mouth is watering right now.
And then they came out with the BBQ Pork Sandwich with slow roasted 8-hour pork shoulder, the sesame brioche bun and burnt sugar BBQ sauce. That was it. I was in love. This sauce, which Chef Jesse makes, is the most amazing stuff. Just listen to the ingredients: carmelized sugar, tamarind, ancho chiles, roasted tomatoes, onion brulee, beer, orange juice and soy sauce. See what I mean? Then add the coleslaw and crispy fried onions and you’re in BBQ heaven.
We were getting pretty stuffed by this time, so when they brought out the Huevos Redondos from the Eggcetera section of the Breakfast menu, I took a small portion. Just enough to sample the black bean quesadilla, fried egg and avocado surrounded with romesco sauce and topped with feta and cilantro. Such an artistic presentation with the perfect circles of color.
The last entrée before the desserts was Steak Frites, a beautiful grilled hanger steak with arugula salad, french fries and housemade steak sauce (aka burnt sugar bbq sauce, see above). When you go to BALEEN, make sure you order something with this sauce. Even if you get a little side to dip your French fries. You will be so glad you did.
To make this Pain Perdu, the original french toast, long slices of La Brea Bakery baguette are dipped in a royale mixture (egg, milk, cream, sugar and vanilla) and griddled with butter until golden. It’s served with brown sugar mascarpone, sliced strawberries and warm maple syrup. You can eat this for your breakfast, or as we did, for dessert. The texture of the custardy bread was so delicious.
And finally, the coup de grace, Lemon Meringue Pie with Raspberry / Passionfruit Sauce. If you hadn’t eaten nine previous courses, you could easily eat the whole pie by yourself. Or cut it in half and share it. I love the torched swirls on the meringue. Almost makes you not want to cut into it. Almost.
Take a look at the first post I did about BALEEN to see the inside of the restaurant and the marina outside. And the photos of the dishes from the dinner menu. Mouthwatering.
The prices at BALEEN for breakfast items are from $8 to $18 and lunch from $9 to $20. Monday through Friday Breakfast is from 6:30 am to 11:00 am and Lunch is from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm. Saturday and Sunday Breakfast is from 7:00 am to 11:00 am and Brunch is from 11:00 am to 2:30 pm. Don’t forget that there is free valet parking also.
Thank you Chef Jesse Souza for inviting me to sample your breakfast and lunch menu, and for letting me photograph all your beautiful food. I will be bringing all my friends to eat at BALEEN and I will be telling everyone I know to come and visit. Soon.
BALEEN at The Portofino Hotel & Yacht Club
260 Portofino Way
Redondo Beach, CA 92077