The old Mucho Ultimo space in Manhattan Beach has been transformed into what is now, Circa MB. We recently stopped by to see what the fuss is all about, and also, to say hello to our friend executive chef Chef Bryon Freeze, formerly of Five Crowns/SideDoor in Corona del Mar.
We remembered Mucho Ultimo from last year when we came to visit Chef Bryon after he won the spot on Chef Wanted with Anne Burrell. The food was good then, but we agreed, the new Circa MB menu definitely takes things to a whole new level.
I am always impressed by an innovative and unique cocktail menu. Besides those listed, the mixologist can and will create drinks to your taste after asking you a few questions about your preferences.
We started with Pharmacia ($10) my first libation of tequila, mezcal, fresh ginger syrup, lemon and honey syrup. The other was a Manhattan ($10). I loved my cocktail and even liked the Manhattan. The bourbon was bearable.
We order some food to start and while waiting, we ordered the Da Peche Mode ($10) one of the few cocktails Circa creates and bottles. This particular one consists of whiskey, vodka and peach, but unfortunately, I didn’t care for it much, however, I loved the rectangular ice which they serve with this.
Crispy Pee Wee Potatoes ($6) arrived just in time to go with our drinks. Baby potatoes are baked crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. I normally don’t like ranch dressing, but this house-made one had a nice consistency and was very light.
Mexican Firing Squad ($10) was next. Absolutely delicious! Tequila, lime sour, angostura and club soda made for a tart, fizzy, adult drink. Loved it!
Squash Blossoms Fritters ($13) uses the freshest blossoms filled with a zucchini mousse consisting of also ricotta and basil. Generally, I find the ricotta inside squash blossoms to be on the heavy side. This was so light and airy it practically melted in my mouth.
Alaskan Halibut Ceviche ($12) is a take on Peruvian tiradito and pays homage well in flavor. Jicama, cucumber, avocado and the ubiquitous aji amarillo chili sauce is a salivating, refreshing, mouth puckering delight!
I am very picky when it comes to crab cakes and Chef Bryon’s Maryland Style Crab Cakes ($18) was well textured without many fillers. Fried green tomatoes were crunchy with a cornmeal crust, adding a nice contrast.
I’m not a huge fan of pork belly but we ordered Steamed Buns ($12) anyway. The pork belly was well rendered and had great flavors all the way through the meat, while the quail egg added another layer of richness. The spicy scallion relish provided the spice and acid, bringing it together for a perfect flavor balance. The only thing I didn’t care for was how thick and dough the buns were.
The Argentinian Beef Skewers ($13) were perfect. The meat was juicy and seasoned really well. They were great on their own, but the chimichurri just took it to a whole ‘nother level. The pickled red onions added another acid component to the dish which makes me very happy! Love acid!
My favorite of the night was Black Olive Gnocchi ($20). The gnocchi were pillowy with a nice toothiness to each bite. The luscious Dungeness crab was sweet and plentiful. This is a dish I will come back for, bar none!
One more drink — Penicillin ($10) a concoction of scotch, tequila, ginger syrup and honey lemon. For the life of me I couldn’t find a photo to accompany…. so instead, I’ll tell you about the Strawberry Tart ($7) we ended our meal with. The tart is topped with marinated strawberries macerated in lime zest, lime juice, granulated sugar, Licor 43 and a dollop of Chantilly cream.
Circa MB is a hip spot with excellent cocktails and great food. The restaurant was packed so reservations are highly recommended. Chef Bryon Freeze is doing something awesome here!
903 Manhattan Avenue
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266