There’s a certain expectation that comes with a South Bay restaurant. It’s usually casual, certainly, since the area is so close to the Pacific, while the food is commonly thought to be light and simple. This expectation isn’t met behind the glass entrance of Little Sister in Manhattan Beach – and it’s the gastronomical equal to an impromptu dive into the sea. The restaurant’s weekday evening-only hours are complemented by a moody setting that reveals itself in stages: the industrial light fixtures and geometric bar attract at first glance, and once settled, wall art featuring the lyrics of the local punk band Black Flag comes into view. Allow for the same attention to detail in regard to chef Tin Vuong’s menu, which is a collection of Pan-Asian dishes made with small combinations of fresh, complex flavors.
The salt-and-pepper lobster, ornamented with shallots and chilies, should be the centerpiece of your table, and sharable plates and glasses of sake may fill the remaining space. Red-braised pork belly in a leek fondue pairs well alongside clay pot scallops with Malaysian curry, while X.O. pea tendrils layered with almonds or charred sugar cane shrimp – otherwise known as chao tom – can complete the feast. Add in sides of fried okra or jasmine rice if so desired, and enjoy. Once you come up for air, it’ll be like that aforementioned ocean dip: exhilarating, adventurous, and all-around memorable.