A couple friends have been telling me about Hot’s for over a month now, and due to my juice diet I haven’t been able to go until now. It was well worth the wait, the food, atmosphere, and beer were off the charts good. The building is a converted garage and the garage doors are still operating, they remain up during service to provide an open air dining experience. The place has a modern dining feel, and as you walk in the door there’s a giant mural to your left, I actually didn’t take much notice as the first thing you see upon entering is the bar with at least twenty beers on draft. I’m a big fan of bars that are spaced at least five feet from the wall as it provides not only the bartender with ample space to move around, but it also keeps the customer from feeling claustrophobic. We took the open seats at the bar and the bartender, Katie, promptly took our beer orders. Behind her there was a chalkboard that had the beer specials of the day, and every day there’s one of the drafts on special for $3. We all went with the $3 special, it was a pale ale that a great lemon zest flavor in the finish. After we got our beers it was time to tackle the menu
The menu is a two page extravaganza of flavor combinations that range from traditional American to further reaches of China, Japan, and even the Louisiana Bayou. One whole page of the menu is dedicated to tacos. The tacos are out of this world, I had the Eel Taco that was basically my favorite sushi roll thrown into a small soft corn taco, but I’ll get to that after the appetizers. The first thing you see on the first page of the menu is the house clams. There’s a very good reason it’s the first dish on the menu!
These were definitely the best clams I’ve ever eaten. Growing up in South-East Pennsylvania I had plenty of little neck clams growing up, I’ve always associated clams with a somewhat rubbery texture and sometimes overwhelming sea water flavor. These clams changed my mind, they were amazingly tender, meaty, and flavorful in a spicy beer broth with linguica, spinach, onions, garlic, and a piece of cheese bread. If you’re wondering, linguica is a Portugese cured pork sausage with garlic and paprika, it’s very similar to a Spanish chorizo. When the spinach, linguica, onion, and clam are on the same shell that’s loaded with the spicy broth you know your taste buds are going to explode. Everything works together, and the amazing textural contrast between the linguica and clams was one of the best combinations I’ve ever tasted. It should come with a spoon so you can eat the broth after, it’s spicy, garlicky, the beer flavor isn’t too prevalent, but it evens out the sea water the clams release during cooking. The mildness of the sea water flavor impressed the hell out of me, that’s what I always think of when it comes to the flavor of a clam. Like I said, this dish changed my perception of clams and the simplicity of the dish makes it sparkle. If you’re within 100 miles of Hot’s, you should go just for the clams.
All of Hot’s Kitchen’s burgers are a little bigger than a slider portion, and it’s perfect for the a la carte theme of the menu. I picked the Giardeniera simply because it had ingredients I’d never had before like mortadella and giardeniera mayo. Giardiniera is generally pickled vegetables like celery, cauliflower, onion, and carrots, in this case they’re minced and added to mayo to give it some vinegar tang and vegetable crunch. Mortadella is a cold cut flavored with pistachios, pepper, coriander, and other spices. Enough food lessons though, let’s get back to the dish. Have you ever hit the moment in a meal where it doesn’t matter what you’re eating because the first bite was so good you just need more? That’s what happened to me when I took my first bite and got the flavor of the tangy mayo immediately, followed by perfect medium-rare burger flavor, finished off with the meaty mortadella that created an awesome texture contrast. Beyond that I can’t even describe the amount of joy this burger brought my taste-buds.
DUCK CONFIT TACO
This was the first taco I sampled, and it’s amazing the way the chef brings together three or four simple flavors that encapsulate a theme, culture, idea. The duck confit taco has a Southern flare to it with cheese grits and braised greens and a maple glaze. While I did like this taco, the flavors weren’t strong enough. The grits were great and the duck confit was out of this world, but after living in the south for almost five years I have an affinity for greens that are slow cooked with ham hocks and vinegar. Greens need to be pungent and tart, they felt more like a braised spinach in here. They did create a contrast of texture from the grits, but were similar to the texture of the confit duck. I didn’t taste the maple glaze that much, it was very subtle. I will say that it all melts in your mouth, I just wish there was more acidity involved to kick up the flavor profile and separate the ingredients.
This is the best fusion ever. It takes barbecued eel, avocado, enoki mushrooms, and eel sauce, throws them into a taco shell and turns the best sushi into the best taco. Oddly enough eel was one of the first types of sushi I tried when I was young, and it really struck me as an amazing ingredient. When barbecued and glazed with eel sauce it has a sweet initial flavor that’s broken up by the crunchy skin, then mellowed out by the tender eel flesh. This amazing aquatic creature is taken to a new level with the addition of avocado who, unassumingly, makes all the flavors and textures meld into a creamy masterpiece. I really want this taco again right now. . . They also kept texture in mind on this one with the addition of the crunchy little enoki mushrooms, they don’t bring too much flavor to the table, but that’s the point, they’re here to accompany the main ingredients and keep your mouth guessing. The eel sauce at Hot’s was different from any I’ve ever had before. There was the usual sweet molasses like flavor I expect from a normal eel sauce, but it had a finish that must have been hoisin sauce. It’s one of those flavors you can’t put your finger on, but I don’t want to, I’m happy in my ignorance as long as it tastes the same next time I go.
The food was close to perfect, the service provided by Katie the bartender was great, she was knowledgeable of the menu and about food in general, she also made sure we had cold beers in front of us. It’s proximity to the beach keeps it from feeling too upscale, and prices make it all accessible. The most expensive burger is a foie gras burger for $10, which is unheard of and their tacos are mostly in the $4-5 range. If you go there I recommend getting the clams, a burger, and a taco. You’ll be full, you will have spent less than $20, and you will have eaten some of the best food in the greater Los Angeles area. In the past I attempted to rate restaurants, but never really kept up a solid numeric system, but on a scale of 1 – 10 the food at Hot’s Kitchen in Hermosa Beach landed firmly on the 11 mark. Go eat there, immediately!
844 Hermosa Ave.
Hermosa Beach, CA 90254
(310) – 318 – 2939