Abigaile turns 2 years old this month as chef Tin Vuong and Jed Sanford continue their bid for world domination, or at least South Bay domination. Since opening Abigaile, the duo have opened the nouveau Vietnamese Little Sister in Manhattan Beach to rave reviews and recently debuted Dia de Campo, a Mexican “Modern surf lodge” on Hermosa Ave. in the previous location of Cafe Boogaloo.
Built on the site of the infamous Black Flag rehearsal space/crash pad “The Church” in Hermosa Beach, much has been made of the decor’s nods to punk. But this is not a punk themed restaurant. Word has it that Fletcher Dragge of Pennywise is responsible for the spray-painted stencils and xeroxed fliers. The speakers crank out Smashmouth and Offspring. If anyone is looking for “genuine” punk rock this is not the place for you. And don’t even get me started on Pennywise.
Although Abigaile touts itself as a brasserie, it is more like a gastropub, especially considering the giant beer vats behind the bar. The menu is all about “small plates” and “shared plates” with lots of pork and seafood dishes. Like Vinny Dotolo and Jon Shook, chef Vuong explores fat as a flavor component. One must be wise when curating a meal, as you can get overwhelmed by fat pretty quickly.
The prime time to hit Abigaile is during Happy Hour. There are a few good plates on special, and you can drink without breaking the bank. Although we were not that impressed with the house brews, the bartenders are first-rate. They are friendly, knowledgable about the menu and make a delicious Moscow Mule. A bonus to dining in the early evening is a spectacular sunset view.
The star of the “First Bites” menu is the escargot poppers. They are more like profiterole stuffed with rich, buttery and tender escargot. They are highly addictive and worth the fat, though care must be taken not to burn your mouth on the hot filling. The marrow is servicable, but no better than anyone else’s so I would save the fat for something special, like the incredible fish and chips. Although I have not tried them, other fat splurges that tempt are the IG Pop Tarts stuffed with smoked pork confit and bacon or maybe the poutine.
Cut some of the fat with delicious curried mussels, hamachi sashimi, roasted asparagus, or one of the exciting vegan options and you have a meal fit for a king. Or a whole table of royalty. The desserts didn’t tempt us, as they are right next door to Java Man, which has some of the best baked goods in the South Bay. Take a meander down to the Strand and see what new words of inspiration the “Chalk Bandit” has drawn overnight. Because that’s pretty punk rock.