Let’s face it: Mall food is hardly considered exciting, and the term is often synonymous with fast-food joints such as Panda Express and Taco Bell.
Shaking up the notion of a neighborhood mall joint is Post & Beam, a new eatery serving up seasonal Californian cuisine located in back of the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw shopping plaza.
Slightly out of place next to a Fatburger, the new restaurant sits brightly in the old space left by the fast-food chicken chain Golden Bird. But that shouldn’t deter anyone from giving it a try.
Though Post & Beam has its share of flaws, it adds a fresh pinch of pizzazz to a neighborhood not historically thought of as a destination for trendy, delicious dining experiences.
Post & Beam is a new culinary concept led by restaurateur Brad Johnson of Georgia and BLT Steak, Executive Chef Govind Armstrong of Table 8 and 8 oz. Burger Bar, and Director of Operations David Borrego, who has whipped things into shape at The Raymond and Morton’s.
The restaurant has a focus on fresh, local ingredients and in will tailor its menu toward its outside herb and vegetable garden.
And now the important part: the menu, separated into intros, hand-stretched pies (pizza), larger plates (entrées) and small plates (sides), provides mixed results.
The oven-roasted penne with short rib Bolognese, arugula and shaved Parmesan is a delectable appetizer with components that complement each other beautifully. The genius touch on the dish is the decision to oven-bake the penne, which gives the pasta a unique crispy texture that surprisingly crunches with every bite.
Another hit is the cast-iron natural chicken with olive oil, poached garlic and sage, a main entrée that seems to be a mouthful of fried chicken but is actually just pan-seared on both sides.
And if you go for the pizza, try the wild mushroom, California goat cheese and nettles option and savor the crackling crust balanced against the exceptional blend of toppings.
The impressive side dishes consist of choices such as melt-in-your-mouth mashed potatoes and black-eyed peas with sweet potato and house-smoked bacon, the latter having a perfect balance of texture, salt and sweetness.
Not everything on the menu works though. The grilled octopus with garbanzo beans, preserved lemon and cracked olive is ambitious in its choice of ingredients but puzzling in its execution, and the popular boneless beef short ribs with fresh horseradish is surprisingly one-note in flavor — and in this instance was slightly dry, to boot.
The grilled beer-brined pork chop with charred onions, although flavorful, was also dry and overcooked — an easily avoidable mistake.
Post & Beam has generated strong buzz in a short span of time, as indicated by the 45-minute wait some customers must endure on busy weekends, though the delay could also be a sign of slow service.
While waiting for a table, however, guests are invited outside to the patio to sip on beer and wine. State-of-the-art heating lamps provide warmth and a charming playlist of jazz tunes, including tracks by Amy Winehouse and a guitar instrumental of the Beatles’ “I Love Her.”
Post & Beam especially scores brownie points on ambiance, with an interior full of warm, deep-wood hues that’s lit by the open-hearth fire inside and small candles at each table. Especially unique is that Post & Beam keeps the old Golden Bird’s structure. The pre-existing space was stripped down to its studs and load-bearing walls — instead of being completely rebuilt — to maintain the original “post and beam” style that many homes in the Baldwin Hills area had in the 1950s and 60s.
The atmosphere inside, however, is surprisingly loud given the upscale nature of the restaurant. Guests can hardly hear each other over the din of others’ voices, and this crowd noise also renders the great jazz playlist hardly audible.
The service at Post & Beam makes up for it: The waiters are incredibly friendly, very knowledgeable about the menu and cooking techniques and are notably eager to please.
Despite some culinary hiccups, the minds behind Post & Beam should be commended for bringing a fresh, hip dining concept to the Baldwin Hills area. With the garden on its way and a continued pursuit of quality, Post & Beam could soon become another classic part of the neighborhood — structure and all.