July 29, 2016
Open for the past two and a half years, the Hook & Plow restaurant in Hermosa Beach features farm-to-table, ocean-to-plate cuisine. Founded by four friends who have worked together at various South Bay restaurants, Brian Kelleher, Bre Kelleher, Lauren Copelan and Lisa Cassity have succeeded in creating a destination restaurant that quickly became a local favorite. The Hook & Plow has won awards from Easy Reader’s ‘Best of the Beach’ to CBS’ ‘Best of LA’.
I’ve walked, driven my car and ridden my bike past the Hook & Plow dozens of times (likely hundreds), and while I’d consistently heard good things and wanted to eat there, I’d never found the time. There’s no shortage of things to do in the South Bay and sometimes, many times, things slip through the cracks. So when they extended me an invitation, I made a point to find the time.
Hook & Plow is centrally located on upper Pier Avenue and has that perceptible South Bay casual, beach vibe. The indoor/outdoor space is conducive for people watching and relaxing over a leisurely meal. My friend Nikki and I were greeted by proprietor Bre Kelleher – they try to have at least one of the partners on site at all times – and because we arrived late in the afternoon, we were able to claim a prime patio table.
Our server was attentive, friendly, knowledgeable and patient. We took our time going over the menu and peppered him with questions. When he returned with our drinks, we still hadn’t made up our minds because every dish description appealed. We asked for recommendations and he obliged with what he considered the most popular menu items.
We ordered a couple of the house cocktails to start – the Lemonade of the Day (strawberry $8) and a California Mule ($8). The Hook & Plow doesn’t have a full liquor license so they use wine based vodka (20% alcohol) for the mixed drinks. The Lemonade was incredibly refreshing, just the right balance of sweet and sour. The mule was a little watery but that was probably because we didn’t drink it quickly enough and the ice melted…..that tends to happen on hot summer days. The Hook & Plow also offers a nice selection of craft beer, beer flights and a well-curated wine list at very reasonable prices. I switched to a crisp white wine ($11) once our meal arrived.
Nikki chose the Ahi Poke starter ($12), which is large enough to share with a few people, or enjoy as an individual entrée. The striking presentation didn’t deter us from digging right in. The dish consisted of sushi grade ahi, avocado, cucumbers and julienned vegetables flavored with a mild chili sauce. It was amazingly light, the fish was super fresh and the flavors and textures melded beautifully.
I ordered the Panko Crusted Avocados ($8) because I’ve never before seen it on a menu. Again, this was a good dish to share – three or four pieces of fried avocado dusted with cheese flakes and served with a lime-cilantro dipping sauce. The sauce is the star of this dish – a creamy blend of tangy and savory. Without it, as you would imagine, the avocado was bland (as avocados are wont to be) which makes it the perfect delivery system for the dipping sauce. When our server tried to retrieve the empty plate, I asked him to leave it since there was a bit of sauce left that I wasn’t ready to let go of just yet. Surely there would be something else I could dip in it!
We then moved on to one of the most popular dishes, the Roasted Peach & Burrata Salad ($14). Hook & Plow offers seasonal menus, showcasing the freshest produce available, and peaches in peak season are one of my favorites. Roasting or grilling concentrates the flavor of many fruits and the peach slices in this dish were bursting with flavor. The creamy, mild Burrata was a perfect counterpart to the peaches and peppery arugula and I especially enjoyed the unusual addition of hazelnuts. It all came together with apple butter and lemon/truffle oil. This is a seriously complex dish and it works on every delicious level. Hook & Plow offers three salads that stand on their own, but diners have the option to add a protein to the mix – you can choose from the catch of the day, organic chicken, diver scallops, flat-iron steak or tofu.
It was too early for the dinner menu, so we ordered the Braised Short Rib Dip sandwich ($14). This sandwich is a monster! Piled high with tender, juicy meat and crisp lemon/poppy seed coleslaw on a French roll, this hearty sandwich begs to be shared. It’s served with au jus for dipping and a side of pickles and like every other dish we sampled, the flavors and textures of each ingredient balanced the others beautifully. Has anyone ever used the word sublime to describe a sandwich? This could be a first.
We also ordered the perfectly cooked Furikake House Fries ($7.50) made with homemade seaweed seasoning, parmesan cheese and truffle oil. The fries came with two sides, house made ketchup and mustard, but I kept dipping them in the leftover lime-cilantro!
We were going to pass on desert but our server gave us just enough line to hook ourselves and we ordered the Very Berry Cobbler ($9). Cobbler just happens to be my favorite desert. It was served in a butter crust with a scoop of vanilla ice cream….but wait, it gets better. It was drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt and OMG, I thought I died and went to heaven. It was amazing.
The fact that Executive Chef Alejandro Arrieta has brought his remarkable talent to Hermosa Beach tells you everything you need to know about the flourishing Beach Cities food scene. Chef Alejandro has an impressive pedigree – he worked under Joaquin Splichal of Patina as a Chef de Partie; he rapidly worked his way up from line cook to Sous Chef at Hotel Bel Air eventually becoming Banquet Chef; and he later went on to become Sous Chef at Mastros and Ocean Avenue Seafood; and most recently, worked for Thomas Keller in the new Beverly Hills Bouchon and Jose Andres at the Bazaar by Jose Andres in the SLS Hotel. With such a provenance, Chef Alejandro would be welcome in any kitchen in the world, but he clearly values the easygoing, family-friendly, beach lifestyle.
A couple of decades ago, I got over the whole, if you want a great meal, you have to get dressed up, go to a white tablecloth restaurant featuring snooty waiters and utensils you’ve never seen before, that, in the end, will cost an arm and a leg. The Hook & Plow demonstrates that you can enjoy an exceptional meal at a very reasonable price…….while wearing flip flops and board shorts.
The Hook & Plow is open Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to close and Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to close and is located at 425 Pier Ave, Hermosa Beach CA, 90254.
For additional information and reservations, call (310) 937-5909 or visit the website at http://www.thehookandplow.com/.
Here is Chef Alejandro’s recipe for Peach & Burrata Salad:
Roasted Yellow Peaches
Wild Argulua – 2 ounces
Burrata Cheese – 3 ounces
Truffle Lemon Vinaigrette – 1 tbsp
Roasted Hazelnut halves – 1 tsp
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper
– 3 Granny Smith Apples (Peeled and Cored)
– ¼ lb. Unsalted Butter
– pinch of salt
Cryovac apples and poach them in water for 20 min. until soft. Add apples and butter chunks to blender. Blend until smooth. Season with salt, strain and refrigerate.
Roasted Yellow Peaches
– 3 Yellow Peaches (halved, no seed)
– ½ TBSP. chopped garlic
– ½ TBSP. chopped thyme
– ½ TBSP. chopped rosemary
– Salt and Pepper
Cut peaches in half and place them on a sheet pan. Add the rest of the ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Spoon mix over peach halves. Season with salt and pepper. Roast for 15-20 minutes at 350 degrees.
– ½ cup roasted hazelnuts
– 3 TBSP. canola oil
Add hazelnuts to blender with the oil. On low speed blend hazelnuts until smooth oil consistency. Strain and keep at room temperature.
Step 1: Spread 1 tablespoon of apple butter on a plate
Step 2: In a metal mixing bowl add arugula, Meyer lemon vinaigrette, truffle oil, salt and pepper. Mix well.
Step 3: Place 2 ounces of burrata cheese on one end of the plate. Place half a roasted peach against the burrata. Place arugula salad next to the peach.
Step 4: Drizzle the hazelnut praline on top of entire plate. Season burrata with salt, pepper and olive oil.
Step 5: Add half a tablespoon of roasted hazelnuts on top of the salad.
Step 6: ENJOY