By Lucinda Michele Knapp
The ocean view out Plate‘s wide front windows is unobstructed, save for a field of vivid yellow blossoms bobbing in the breeze just across PCH. Owner/manager Shiela Elardo explains that, “This was the best place to have the restaurant because people in Malibu are concerned with eating healthy and sustainably.” But with such a great view and stellar food, Angelenos from around the city are bound to make the trek to the tiny restaurant with the neighborhood vibe.
The restaurant is owned by three ex-pats from the famed Schwarzenegger-owned Schatzi on Main: Elardo, Austrian entrepreneur Charly Temmel, and chef Victor Rosales. Seeking the kind of healthy fare she’d feel comfortable feeding her family—as opposed to Schatzi’s rich, heart-stopping dishes—Shiela lobbied her partners for “earthy California cuisine.”
In addition to a focus on local and sustainable, the new venture uses a Natura water filtration system and washes and re-uses bottles onsite to minimize carbon footprint. Although it’s generally cooler along the coast, heathery-hued blinds alleviate the kind of direct sunlight that might otherwise mandate air conditioning.
A ceiling in muted earth tones adjoins walls the cheery color of green pepper. Custom-made blond wood tables and modernist chairs rest on a polished cement floor with a sage glaze. The partition to the kitchen is butterscotch glass below, with glassine translucent paper made from natural grasses above. The effect is easy, breezy and beautiful.
The menu echoes the light and natural feel of the dining room. Breakfast starts at 7:30—perfect before a drive to work or the kind of “board meeting” that takes place among surfers—and offers homemade granola with jewel-bright strawberries and sweet bananas (7), and a host of omelettes (11-14). “They’re cage-free, free-range,” assures Shiela, and include everything from organic asparagus to savory chicken sausage. Vegans, despair not; the Plate Omelette (13) is all tofu, cooked into the shape of an omelet with your choice of fixin’s. Another highlight: buckwheat pancakes with a rich, nutty fragrance, served with organic maple syrup (6.50).
The devoutly loyal breakfast crowd filters out around 11, and picks up in short order for lunch. Highlighting midday offerings are an elegant composition of shrimp and hearts of palm, adorned with fennel and carrots in a citrus emulsion (15); and curry papaya salad (12), a light curried chicken salad served in a half-papaya, with organic field greens and a raspberry vinaigrette. A Mediterranean Ahi tuna wrap (13) is served with savory-sweet grilled plantains on an organic, whole-grain tortilla; or try a panini on homemade focaccia with organic roasted peppers and goat cheese.
The airy daytime atmosphere gives way to an intimate feel as the light starts to wane, with diners lingering over complex yet light entrees. Each table starts with salted edamame and house-made flatbread. Appetizers range from caprese salad re-envisioned with a South Asian, curry flair (9) to spicy black mussels in a garlicky seafood broth with caramelized shallots (12). Kaisou Salad is divinely refreshing with five kinds of wakame seaweed, lemon-infused daikon sprouts, and a piquant red chili citrus sauce (10).
Lobster ravioli is handmade daily on site (19). Whole-wheat spaghetti’s folksy flavor is complemented by a marinara handmade from local, seasonal ingredients (14). Coconut-poached halibut is flash-seared on the grill to a deep golden. It’s silky-sweet, delicate and moist on the inside, and the sweet coconut pairs delightfully with the hot, aromatic flavors of ginger and garlic (27). But for a real treat, try Plate’s organic vegetable Napoleon, a jubilee of seasonal flavors—eggplant, zucchini, vibrant yellow squash, and asparagus—layered with gently crisped polenta, portobellos and roasted bell peppers; it’s a smoky, earthy delight simmered in an exotic tomato saffron sauce (19).
Dessert poses difficult decisions, but you can’t miss with the Trio Sorbet, an architectural achievement involving layers of raspberry, lemon and mango sorbets atop vanilla sponge cake and finished with white chocolate.
A hidden gem along the coast, Plate is worth the trip from the Westside or Valley, or better yet, as a fitting culmination to a classic day at the beach. By incorporating a diversity of fabulous flavors at reasonable prices, Plate is fast becoming become everyone’s favorite secret spot.
22601 Pacific Coast Hwy, #102, Malibu 90265. 310.317.6800