Standing very much like its namesake overlooking the Kings Harbor Marina in Redondo Beach is Breakwater Restaurant. Just in front of the Portofino Hotel & Yacht Club, Breakwater has beautiful scenery, romantic ambience, and delicious cuisine thoughtfully prepared. The restaurant has survived for decades, including a storm that washed away cars and mattresses, as the locals fondly recall. Unfortunately, a few shortcomings undermine the dining experience from being just as memorable.
If you come for dinner, as I did, the first thing you will notice is that it is incredibly dark. Reading the menus will strain your eyes, even with the candlelight, which is a real shame since the food presentation is quite lovely. The dim lighting, however, does afford a very romantic ambience, allowing for a picturesque view of the marina. It’s not uncommon to find parties lingering at their tables long after their meals are finished and plates cleared, just to enjoy the atmosphere.
The restaurant is cozy, to say the least. Once greeted by the hosts, the restaurant splits into either the bar area or the dining room. The farthest room accommodates a fireplace and open-air seating that couples will definitely want to take advantage of. Music lovers will no doubt enjoy the live jazz on Thursday from 7:00-10:00 p.m. and Friday and Saturday nights from 7:30-11:30 p.m.
Subtitled “Steak, Jazz & Seafood,” Breakwater’s menu reflects that distinction while still offering alternatives, like chicken, pork, lamb, and pasta. Beef entrees range from $26.00 to $40.00 and seafood entrees range from $18.00 to $32.00. Lastly, each morsel is masterfully and indulgently jazzed up by Chef Arturo Paz who brings a decade of eclectic experience from coast to coast and, ultimately, to Breakwater.
To begin, we ordered tempura fried calamari (9.50), which always sets the tone for a meal since calamari is an easy appetizer to make, but just as easy with which to disappoint. Breakwater’s calamari impressed with its generous portion and nice presentation, providing a ramekin of marinara for dipping. While flavorful and cooked well, the calamari lacked that extra kick of seasoning to really get the mouth watering. I would have also liked to see an alternative dipping sauce, but that didn’t stop us from devouring the appetizer.
Next we ordered New England Clam Chowder (7.00) and the Arugula Pear & Roquefort salad (10.50). The intimidating 12 oz. portion of soup was creatively presented with an oil drizzle swirled on top and satisfied my want for something warm and hearty. The salad was a masterpiece as well, with the peppery arugula blending into the vinaigrette and candied walnuts. I only wish the pear slices had been halved to reveal more of the classic presentation.
For the main course, we ordered the Rib Eye steak (32.00) and the Sushi Grade Tuna (29.00). The rib eye was cooked to order, complemented by an interesting, yet bitter red wine demiglace. The steak was accompanied by onion rings and garlic mashed potatoes with a sprig of rosemary stabbed through for flourish. The tuna was seared to perfection and laid over bok choy and a rice cake. A well balanced salty, sweet ginger-soy sauce flavored the entire dish. Portions, once again, were not lacking.
While a sommelier was not available, the competent and friendly waitstaff were more than happy to suggest wine with our meals. We ordered a glass of Ravenswood Zinfandel (8.00) and a glass of Danzante Pinot Grigio (7.00), which paired well with the our main course even if the wine temperatures were just a little off.
The wine list is satisfyingly varied, consisting mostly of California wines, but encompassing France, Italy, and Australia, as well. Wine lovers will want to inquire about Breakwater’s wine dinners, consisting of five course meals with wine expertly paired for each course. If wine doesn’t suit your palette, the full bar will be happy to accommodate your cocktail needs, boasting over 35 vodkas and a bevy of specialty martinis.
As a high-end casual restaurant, Breakwater is a notch above the norm that can build an expectation of fine dining with the delicious and beautifully prepared food and the coursed white-linen service. But do yourself a favor and don’t come expecting a dress code or a stuffy, nitpicky staff. This is a place to relax, listen to fine jazz, and enjoy the view of boats you will never be able to afford. Provided you can mitigate your expectations accordingly to a realistic level, Breakwater can be the happy medium that balances all the good aspects of any restaurant.
Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, Breakwater is definitely worth your time to check out for a wonderful dining experience, however long it lasts.
Breakwater serves breakfast daily from 6:30-11:00 a.m., lunch daily from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and dinner nightly from 6:00-10:00 p.m. Reservations are encouraged.