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Sep 5, 2007 07:12 PM

Chef Melba's Bistro (Hermosa Beach) - Review!

So after living in all three of the South Bay Beach Cities (Manhattan, Hermosa, & Redondo), I thought I'd run out of new places to try, or at least new places that had the "WOW" factor... I was wrong! Last Friday night, I gathered 5 "foodie" friends to try out Chef Melba's Bistro in Hermosa Beach, and after our dining experience, I am the group's heroine! Chef Melba's Bistro is a small (albeit, a bit cramped) and quaint little restaurant on Hermosa Avenue, 1 block from the beach (try to get there around sundown, spectacular!). Although CMB has only been opened for less than a year (I don't know for sure), it already has a steady following, and rave reviews from patrons and professional food critics (her west wall is adorned with newspaper articles). The kitchen in open and you can watch Chef Melba orchestrating a symphony of kitchen utensils and fresh ingredients, that is somewhat mesmerizing. The first very important element that we experienced was the hostess, Reina (Chef Melba's sister), she was warm and nurturing, and even offered to hold a much-coveted parking space in front of the restaurant for us (if you've ever tried to park in Hermosa Beach, you know what I mean!). Secondly, every table is BLESSED with fresh bread that is grilled, with a hint of fresh garlic.

Third, the appetizers, we ordered:
Baked assorted vegetables with goat cheese;
Fried calamari with cocktail sauce and garlic cilantro dipping sauce; and the
Ahi tuna tower with mango, avocado, basil and chili-infused oil.

The Fried Calamari was so crisp and fresh and crunchy, and the Garlic cilantro dipping sauce was so good, my husband tried to horde it! While every restaurant seems to do a version of an Ahi Tuna Tower, Chef Melba's inclusion of mango was genius! So good, I tried to horde it!

Fourth, as for our entrees, we ordered:
Prawn scampi with linguine, whole roasted garlic, & tomatoes, in a light sauce;
Grilled salmon with whole-grain mustard-rosemary butter and seasonal vegetables;
Seared rare ahi tuna with twelve-year-old balsamic and extra virgin olive oil;
Sea scallops and prawn combination over brown rice with saffron sauce;
Grilled natural black angus rib eye steak with sun dried tomato demi-glace; and
Grilled natural black angus sirloin steak basted with teriyaki peppercorn sauce.

There was NOT one complaint nor even a murmur of discontentment, only "mmms" and "oh man, this is so good!" My only complaint about my Scampi Linguini was that I wanted more of it! Since we got to try a bit of everyone's dish (for the sake of the review, yeah!), the Seared Ahi Tuna was the winner of the night, although it truly could've easily been a six-way tie!

When (not if) I go back to Chef Melba's, I definately will try either the:
Grilled center cut pork chop with demi-glace and shiitake jus; or the
Grilled 9 oz filet mignon with red wine porcini sauce and roasted potatoes; or the
Seafood cioppino with clam, mussels, calamari, crab, and tomato saffron broth; or the
Fettuccine with salmon, squash, and mushrooms in a light tomato sauce; or the
Tuscany prawns with tomatoes, olives, capers, lemon juice, and roasted garlic.

I know that I would to try the Grilled half-pound Kobe beef burger with fries,... however, to me a burger is a burger is a burger, and I am a firm believer that it is a travesty to grind up Kobe beef! Kobe beef wasn't meant to be eaten that way, and it's just wrong!

I noticed that Chef Melba's Bistro has a "Low Carb" menu which I found to be a bit perplexing since low carb diets are un-fashionable these days. That being said, everything on CMB's Low Carb menu sounded so incredible, that I would definately order from it without hesitation.

Lastly, while all the desserts seemed inviting, especially the CM's signature dark chocolate bag with passion fruit mousse or the Apple crostata with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce, we all agreed that we would've like to have seen something with a little more chocolate muscle (e.g., a flourless chocolate torte/cake... Oh shush, all of you who just groaned,... you know you lust after such a thing!). What is unfortunate for Chef Melba's Bistro is its close proximity to a Cold Stone Creamery,... so yes, we opted to walk down the block and indulge. I'm so ashamed!!!

Anyway, to finalize my review, my only criticism of Chef Melba's Bistro is the noise-level. At 7:30 p.m. on a Friday night, it was almost unbearable! Do not, I repeat, do not let this deter anyone from going there, once the bigger parties leave, the room quites to a nice, tolerable buzz.

So, I want to give a shout out to Chef Melba and her wonderful staff, and the incredible food that I wish I had discovered on my own,... however, the ultimate shout-out goes to my fellow Chowers who directed me to Chef Melba's in the first place, and my fellow Chowers who will benefit from this review. GO THERE, I promise I will be your heroine!

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  1. Great report!! I ride my bicycle pass this spot so many times and never thought of trying it. It was the old Pedones (pizza) space then a quick slow death as a Korean/Fusion resto. You have convinced me to check it out.. Thanks!!

    1. wow, very informative review! as a fellow southbay beachcities-er, i also have passed this place many times on my way to some other eatery. i now wish that i had stopped at chef melbas! my gf and i are anxious to try it! no coldstone for me, though!

      1. Thanks Foodandwine and ilike2eat. I had forgotten CMB use to be a Pedone's Pizza! Speaking of which, if you like Pedone's Pizza, go to the one in Redondo Beach, NOT the one in Hermosa Beach!

        1. I completely agree with your review. We tried Chef Melba's based on recommendations in a previous South Bay thread (thanks!!). I love Chef Melba's. We ate their again last night and it was amazing. I will add a few things:

          -Sautéed Dungeness crab clusters with roasted garlic dipping sauce is a great appetizer. It's essentially crab legs in a large bowl sitting in the garlic broth. The crab was very fresh and the sauce was great. We used the sauce as a dip for the grilled bread (yum), and finished every last drop.
          -My husband tried the kobe beef burger and said it was really good. I didn't give it a try as I don't eat meat, but he was really pleased.
          -I had the seared ahi tuna dish. Definitely recommended.
          -Both the fried calamari appetizer (very tender) and the kobe beef burger come with a garlic cilantro dipping sauce (like an aioli). This stuff was fantastic and I asked for extra on the side. I wanted to inhale it all by myself!

          I can't wait to go back again!

          1. How was the wait staff? We've been to Chef Melba's 4 times and each time we say we won't return because of the poor service....but we do because of the food! Still, we haven't gone in several months because the last time we even had to go fill up our own water glasses and point out to the "waiter" that our meals had been waiting on the counter for 10 minutes.

            11 Replies
            1. re: amela

              Your words speak for me and my husband. I love the food and the chef. The service is so poor and I always feel so awkward in this small space..are we the only ones that can see our food sitting there degenerating before our eyes as our server walks past again and again? Another glass of wine? Sure, if you have a half an hour to spare and can make wine serve as dessert.....I guess I don't have a sense of humour about these things.....
              I just had a similar experience at Ciccole-oh no! And then there was the last time we ate at La Sosta-the owners were fighting and one of them had a hissy fit and it felt like being stuck at the table at Thanksgiving.....
              We ate in tonight-it was fabulous.

              1. re: Densible

                As a long time resident of the Southbay, I would say that service generally seems to be very laid back.. almost to the point of being sub par.. Perhaps this is why I go to the West Side or other enviorns for dinner. Sometimes service counts sometimes it does not when selecting a spot to dine. However, I was already planning on going to Chef Melba and when I heard that the service was off I will now take a detour..

                1. re: Densible

                  The fighting incident that you described at La Sosta is just too funny! Besides the boxing rounds, how was the food at Las Sosta? It's on my list of "to try"s.

                2. re: amela

                  Aww man, I was looking forward to trying their delicious sounding entrees and one of my favorite desserts is apple crostada!

                  1. re: dinami

                    Hi there,
                    Just FYI--we have eaten there twice in the past month, and didn't have a bad experience with our service.

                    1. re: amela

                      Amela & Densible & Foodandwine: I have to admit, as much as I raved about the food, I do agree that the wait staff needs to be a little more efficient. However, I would much rather deal with a bit of an off waitstaff than bad and/or mediocre food, wouldn't you? After all, the waitstaff wasn't rude, snooty, or incompetent, I honestly believe that they just need a little more seasoning (pardon the food-pun). Foodandwine, I really, really, really would strongly suggest that you give Chef Melba's a try, perhaps on a night that's not so predicably busy. You won't be sorry.

                      1. re: kealoha


                        Totally agree. When I am feeling less Type A, I go to Melba's-the food never disappoints and is IMO one of the few restaurants in the area that offers fine cuisine. The apple crostata is really good and the pasta with scallops and prawns is my favorite.
                        La Sosta food reminds me of Ciccole. It's very well prepared and I think authentic (whatever that means). I do not eat meat or fish, so cannot appreciate the menu as well as others.
                        I was just at Ciccole last week and Robert from Rae's works there now. He also does some pastries for their dessert menu. I had the merengue with ice cream and dark choclolate sauce. I ate the whole thing barely taking a breath in between bites, fighting off my poor husband. Bravo Robert!

                        1. re: Densible

                          Is Robert making that lemon tart? My wife has to have it!

                          1. re: BN1

                            Gosh I don't know. He made me have the merengue because of my chocolate dependency. I did not see the menu. I wonder if it is online? I love lemon tart too......

                            1. re: Densible

                              Densible, thanks for the update on the dessert menu at Coccole! I'm so glad they expanded! And thanks for backing me up on Chef Melba's!