When we heard that Chef de Cuisine of Five Crowns/SideDoor, Bryon Freeze, had left and is now Executive Chef of Mucho Ultima Mexicana in Manhattan Beach, The Hungry Dogg and I immediately made the drive up to check it out.
The restaurant was on the inaugural episode of Chef Wanted, Anne Burrell’s latest show on the Food Network in which four chefs compete to win the restaurant’s executive chef position. Needless to say, we know who won, right?
The interior is lively, vibrant with an ambiance that can only be described as fiesta-style. You can’t be in a bad mood here because everything dictates a pumping good time.
Our server asked if we wanted some guacamole to start and we said “sure”. A few minutes later, she returned with a cart to make the Ultima Guacamole tableside and according to our specs. I didn’t realize it was $11 for this bowl of guac until I looked on the menu, and frankly, it was a little steep even when served with chips. It was good, but not mind-blowingly so.
Tuna Ceviche ($14) is not your traditional ceviche swimming in juices, but rather, reminiscent of tuna tartare. Sushi tuna marinated in soy, lime, Maggi, chiles torreados, with bits of cucumber, mango, onions is super delicious especially with a few squeezes of fresh lime. The yucca chips served alongside is a great alternative to the usual tortilla chips. I grew up with Maggi sauce and it was such a weird feeling of familiarity with each mouthful.
Octopus tacos ($16) were seriously good. I loved the char on the octopus and how the flavors came together well bite after bite. The hand-made corn tortillas naturally enhanced the eating experience over store-bought generic ones most restaurants opt to use. I would totally order this again.
If you want a hearty entree, then Lamb Barbacoa ($23) is not to be missed. Adobo marinated lamb is wrapped in banana leaves and slow roasted for no less than 12 hours for that fork-tender taste.
Frijoles borrachos, or “drunken beans” lay on the bottom of the dish and through my research, I found it traditionally uses beer in its cooking process — Chef Bryon uses Tecate in his! A pasilla Oaxacan salsa accompany.
Mexican Street Corn ($5) consisted of two segments of grilled corn Mexican street-style slathered with mayo and topped with with morita chile and cotija cheese. It was sweet, salty, and absolutely delicioso! I could eat an additional portion of this it was THAT good.
We left no room for dessert and maybe that’s a good thing. It will give us an opportunity to return again and to see what else Chef Bryon has in store for Mucho. I heard a rumor that he’ll be implementing a Farm-To-Table style menu — a first in Mexican restaurants in SoCal. This is nuevo Mexicana so don’t expect to be served what you’re used to getting at your local taqueria. You’ll be disappointed.
Mucho Ultima Mexicana
903 Manhattan Avenue
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266