Restauration brings good food and vibe to Retro Row in Long Beach
It would be too easy a cliché to refer to Long Beach’s Fourth Street, “Retro Row”, as the city’s best kept secret. It is equally easy to fall for similar clichés of the area’s hipster culture, artsy vibe, and smart, sassy people. While Retro Row is all of those things it is so much more. A recent crop of new restaurants – and “new-to-me” restaurants – bears out the promise that Fourth Street brings to Long Beach.
We walked into the newly opened Restauration for dinner on a Saturday night and I was reminded of how different and how welcoming my new neighborhood was. Charla and I finally finished our move into our new house. While for her it was a move just next door, for me it was a leap from Long Beach’s epic Second Street in Belmont Shore. Barely a mile away, Second Street is nonetheless a different universe with brighter street life, brassy food, loud bars, weekend partiers sprinkled with a few fake ID’s (we suspect), and no parking. While Second Street is fun, I was relieved to find myself in the chillout Belmont Heights where we can walk or ride our bikes to places like The Attic, Lola’s, Viento y Agua, and so many more.
In its few short weeks in business since it opened in July 2014, Restauration has firmly taken its place on the culinary map in our new neighborhood. The name cleverly mixes “restaurant” and “restoration”. Get it? Fair enough. I am much more excited, though, by its concept as a gastropub. That word may just be another concoction of the foodie culture, however I believe that a “gastropub” is what a “brasserie” was originally meant to be: a local brewery with good food and a neighborhood joint.
Almost all of the seating at Restauration is outside behind the building. The outdoor terrace is framed by market lights, triangular sun shade sails, and smart lighting fixtures on the walls. A living wall on one side is lined with planter boxes housing new shoots of fresh herbs and vegetables which, we are assured, are for use in future dishes.
A pot of fresh rosemary sits on our table, softening the decor with its spiky, forest-green leaves. When our server is not looking, I tear off a few of those rosemary leaves, crumple them in my fingers and enjoy the intense aroma bursting out. Smells are triggers of deeply personal memories: My childhood home sat next to a hill covered in rosemary where our family cat romped daily. She brought the smell of rosemary into our home every night. Luckily, we loved her. Unluckily, she ran out of each of her nine lives, one by one, in various incidents over the years until she left us with little more than rosemary-scented memories.
The menu at Restauration offers a number of pizzas, cooked in the outside brick pizza oven just steps away from the lucky diners who are sitting nearby. However on our first night we opted for a trio of corn ravioli, fried white shrimp and chorizo-stuffed clams.
In fact, that last dish should have been chorizo-stuffed squid however they had run out of squid and had to improvise fast. Where a less creative restaurant, newly opened and still finding its feet, would have fallen flat, Restauration made good with the house-made chorizo combined with clams, fingerling potatoes, and braised bell peppers, all dusted with smoked red paprika.
The corn ravioli had a creamy richness to it, and acted as a foil to the crunchy fried shrimp. With a glass of wine to go with our dinner, we felt good.
We felt good enough the next morning, a Sunday, that we went back in for breakfast and told the staff, “We’re still hungry.”
That problem was quickly solved with a creative take on huevos rancheros and something called the Whitson Omelet: bacon, short rib, white cheddar, caramelized onions, house potatoes, grilled toast.
When a new restaurant opens, it can take several weeks for the kitchen and wait staff to settle into a routine and work out their best recipes so that diners keep coming back. It is a difficult task in the best of times, and Restauration is rising to the challenge. Check back periodically to see which dishes come and go, what emerges from that pizza oven, and how the fresh herbs and vegetables from the living wall will be used.
2708 E. 4th St.
Long Beach, CA 90814