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Sausal is a looker, but the beautiful interior is more impressive than the El Segundo restaurant's Nuevo Rancho fare.
As the South Bay—and, in particular, Manhattan Beach—continues to thrive in the midst of a restaurant boom, El Segundo hasn’t been as fortunate. Aside from the addition of outdoor mall The Point, which includes a few good restaurants, the LAX-adjacent city is still a town of mediocre gastropubs and chains; you’d be better off sticking to drinking at places like El Segundo Brewing and the Purple Orchid. Sausal, a gorgeous restaurant from chef Anne Conness (Tin Roof Bistro, Simmzy’s) focusing on Nuevo Rancho cuisine, promised something creative, fresh and unique. And so it was all the more disappointing when Sausal didn’t turn out to be the El Segundo star I was hoping for.
Chef Conness has crafted a menu that puts the focus on hearth and fire, with ingredients like goat and duck and lamb channeling a rustic vibe. Her best dishes, though, are more contemporary. A crispy shrimp diablo kicked off our meal with a nice play on texture—jicama slaw offered a welcome crunch to each bite of fiery shrimp while simultaneously keeping the heat at a manageable level. It fared far better than the tender, albeit dry, duck tamale slathered in black mole, which promised a butternut squash component that turned out to be no more than six small cubes of the stuff dropped onto the plate. I had high hopes for the tacos, too, but both the chicken de la plancha and crispy fish options were bland, and not even the accompanying sauces could solve the issue of overcooked chicken. A bowl of sweet corn elote, made less vegetable-like with a dollop of cheese and chipotle cream, is a solid side, though it’s just that: a side.
We delved into a light key lime wedge for dessert, decorated with a raspberry coulis and anchored by a coconut crust. It’s a lovely way to end the meal, but as I sunk my fork in I couldn’t help compare it to the ethereal key lime pie at Fishing with Dynamite, one of Manhattan Beach’s best culinary triumphs. El Segundo still seems to be catching up to its neighbor, and it’ll take more than Sausal to reach a level playing field.
What to Eat: The crispy shrimp Diablo with peanuts ($13.50). The duck, Oaxaca cheese and mole tamale ($16). The key lime wedge ($8).
What to Drink: The table next to us was celebrating with a cacophony of clinking tequila shots which, in retrospect, was perhaps the way to go. So what if you’re not in the mood for shots? Skip the Rancho Margarita ($10), which was very, very sweet, and instead try the Future Fix ($12). Made with Rittenhouse rye, Fresno chili, agave and lemon, it’s a pleasant drink with enough heat emanating from a lobbed off chili head floating on top. There is also plenty of beer (including a few made exclusively for Sausal), along with a nice wine selection.
Where to Sit: Sausal’s sophisticated dining room is expansive, and the open floor seating allows a nice view of the entire room (as well as the beautiful tiles underneath your feet). But if drinks are your main objective, choose to sit at the bar. The illuminated shelves make the copper and gold details shine, and the seductive atmosphere allows for easy flirting.
219 Main St
|Opening hours:||Sun-Thu 11am-10pm; Fri-Sat 11am-10:30pm|
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