22878 Pacific Coast Hwy.
Malibu, CA 90265
By MICHAEL AUSHENKER | Contributing Writer
Like the waves of the ocean roiling and crashing outside its windows, Carbon Beach Club Restaurant and host vessel Malibu Beach Inn have undergone much change in recent years, and yet, on the surface, continue to retain their beauty and form spectacularly undisrupted.
In 2015, Malibu Beach Inn changed hands from music mogul David Geffen’s ownership to the current owners, Sunset Strip-based property investors Simon and Daniel Mani. The Mani brothers shuttered the restaurant for a week and a half to refurbish it.
The current owners insisted on maintaining some of Carbon Beach Club’s long-running favorites, so if you’re a regular, you’ll still find the smoky and scrumptious grilled octopus appetizer and a renamed version of Carbon’s signature dish, the Whole Branzino, which they have long offered with fennel, arugula, olives and roasted tomatoes.
Yet significantly, the revamping includes a new chef running the kitchen, and his talent is formidable.
Before arriving at Carbon in January, Executive Chef Cody Dickey had already amassed quite an impressive résumé for such a young chef. After graduating Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Arts Institute in Ottawa, he worked the farm-to-kitchen mastery and executive pastry chef skills in Virginia Beach, working as a farm hand on Batten Bay Farms, and also traveling and cooking across France, Spain, Italy and Morocco.
However, it was in New York City where Dickey helped open Narcissa, working closely with Michelin star chef John Fraser, and later joined Food Network star Bobby Flay as chef de cuisine at Gato.
Now Chef Dickey has put his imprimatur on the Malibu menu, sourcing his vegetables locally from Santa Monica Farmers Market and One Gun Ranch, and the results are terrific.
The craft cocktail menu here is inspired. Our Surfriders drink fizzed with club soda mixed up with some Bombay Sapphire East, LeJay crème de cassis and blackberry shrub. We also enjoyed the retro Lava Lamp, with its cute visual ode to the famed kitschy bachelor pad accessory a bold mix of Stoli Elit vodka, Kikisui Junmai Ginjo sake, St. Germain, lemon, orange and chili sesame oil.
Other libations include the Anglo-themed Union Jack—Beluga Noble vodka with Earl Grey tea, honey and half and half—and The Staycation—Sipsmith gin with passion fruit and lavender.
Don’t worry, accompanying our adult beverages was a meal—and quite a meal it was.
We started out with Baked Eggplant, an appetizer that, on the surface, I would probably never order as I’m not an eggplant fan. However, the layers of brie and manchego piqued my curiosity, and that mix of French and Spanish cheese melted over my cooked vegetables (with some honey and 12-year-aged balsamic vinegar) totally sold me on this clever appetizer. In fact, it became a meal highlight.
There are other great starters to be had here. Courtesy of the house, we also sampled Carrot Veloute, a savory soup reducing One Gun Ranch baby carrots with paprika, which arrives with a visual splendor.
The pasta here is plentiful, and our Uni Linguine came topped with a riccio di mare sauce and fresh summer truffle filled with salmon roe. It’s a terrific dish, replacing the Linguine Vongole they used to serve.
Dickey’s creativity emerged again with our Striped Bass order. Under Dickey’s charge, Carbon is conveying some excellent standards in daring, maybe even risky, ways. For instance, it takes some guts to top our fish with spliced almonds and sliced grapes, and yet this plate, also harboring black garlic and a yuzu sauce, totally works.
They also serve a beautifully structured gourmet Grass Fed Truffle Beef Burger and a well-crafted Grilled Creekstone Rib Eye, replete with cocoa spices, brown butter and One Gun Ranch kale—and yet, Striped Bass is the dish we’ll be discussing for days and telling our friends about.
The seafood makes us long to return soon and try the Chinook Salmon Tartare plate, served here with farmers market vegetables and a green sauce; and Whole Branzino, the aforementioned head-to-tail presentation, layered with arugula, fennel, olives and roasted tomatoes.
The dessert is often the part of the menu where many West Los Angeles restaurants run out of inspiration and go on automatic pilot. So, give Carbon big props for not defaulting to chocolate lava cake and panna cotta clichés.
(Admittedly, they do serve one big dessert cliché—Deep Dish Chocolate Chip Cookie, a holdover from the previous Malibu Beach Inn administration. However, this version of it is one of the best we’ve tried.)
New to the menu, and a fine demonstration of Dickey’s pastry chef expertise, is Warm Brown Butter & Almond Cake with black mission fig jam, Marcona almond, pepita brittle and caramelized fig gelato—a fantastic and original experience coupled with a nice hot cappuccino. You can also get Chocolate Caramel Tart, Tuscan Torte with Luxardo cherries and vanilla bean mascarpone, Ricotta Fritters with rosemary and blackberry honey, or Gelato & Sorbet with seasonal berries.
Not much has changed in terms of tone. Hospitality remains a priority here. Wine Director/Sommelier Laurie Sutton manages the mile-long selection of French, Italian and California wines, whether it’s the Cabernet Bordeaux or Pinot Grigio. Our general manager Joe and our waiter James proved friendly and knowledgeable service.
The real stars here: the constellation of new entrées to whet your appetite and drinks to wet your whistle.