Women Take Charge at Two Popular South Bay Foodie Destinations

They’re worth their salt.

Family Style

Mother-daughter duo Julie Coser and Crystal Coser, cofounders of Bites & Bashes café and catering company in Lomita, have a big thing in common: food.

“While I was cooking to entertain or helping my friends with their parties, Crystal proposed that I become her business partner in a catering company,” says Julie, who was born in South Korea and came to the South Bay when she was 20 to help her mother with a handful of family-run restaurants. “I wanted to encourage and support her business proposition since other teenagers were playing video games or hanging out with their friends in their downtime.”

For Crystal, now a Harvard University graduate and former associate editor at Eater LA who learned how to bake soufflés and crème brûlées at a young age, helping her mom in the kitchen came naturally.

“I always wanted to be in the kitchen as a very young child, and it is part of my DNA,” explains Crystal. “I grew up in a house where we would have dinner parties most Friday and Saturday nights. So my mom and I had a natural partnership, and it’s really incredible how in sync we are. We think the same, and I can’t imagine doing this business with anyone else.”

The pair has come a long way, with a company spanning more than 15 full-time employees and nearly 60 on-site contractors including servers, chefs and bartenders; a new café with ingredients sourced from their family farm with a 120-tree orchard including Meyer lemons and persimmons; and a host of A-list celebrity clients and corporate clients such as Nike, Facebook and Uber.

“The menu for both the café and catering came from our experience eating at so many diverse restaurants from the ethnic communities that make Los Angeles so great—namely Korean, Mexican, Vietnamese and Thai,” says Crystal. The menu ranges from spicy pork banh mi with house pickled vegetables to the house favorite Crack fries with Cajun aioli and pecorino Romano.

Julie, who received an associate’s degree in culinary arts from Le Cordon Bleu, says one of her favorite dishes is glass noodles with tons of seasonal vegetables, often from the family farm. “It’s my take on a traditional Korean dish with a modern spin. It also happens to be vegan and gluten-free, which makes it appeal to many of our clients. This dish offers bold flavor and is very colorful from all of the beautiful vegetables.”

Opening a café on an unassuming corner of Lomita, though, wasn’t exactly easy. “I decided to open here because I like the small community setting, and it is conveniently located between my house in Palos Verdes and my husband’s office,” says Julie, whose husband, Dr. Russ Coser, is a dentist in Torrance. “We have made a lot of neighborhood friends and are so proud of and grateful for the new community that has blossomed in our café.”

Throughout the process, Julie and Crystal’s connection has grown stronger. “I love working with my daughter because I can see her every day,” explains Julie. “We have an unbelievable partnership where we can work together to create new dishes and design new catering concepts. Together we marry modernism with tradition. We always learn from each other.”

After just a year in the Lomita spot, the duo is considering expanding to a second location in the South Bay within the next five years. “We are really happy with where we are now,” adds Crystal, “but we’ve definitely got our eyes open.”

25600 Narbonne Avenue in Lomita  |  bitesandbashes.com  |   Written by Jennie Nunn


Divine Decadence

Mr. Sexton took me on an early date to a long-gone restaurant on the pier in Hermosa exactly 16 years ago. Married for 15 years and two kids later, the pier and I have both undergone some transformation. While some casual, bring-on-the-beer concepts still reign supreme,
there’s been a marked shift toward fine dining. Restaurants like Palmilla, Steak & Whisky and Tower 12 have upped the ante on food expectations while preserving the Beach City chill vibe that regulars prefer.

A recent entry into this category is Decadence, opened by local Skylar Tourigny. “Whether in reference to chocolate cake for breakfast or wild, all-night parties,” the menu asserts, “decadence means extravagance, luxury and self-indulgence.”

One might rightly expect foie gras, white truffles and a whole lot of Champagne, but Decadence is instead a very good Asian-fusion concept restaurant. The space is sexy and the cocktails are tempting, but then you see the wine list—which is actually one of the best edited lists I’ve seen lately in the South Bay. Whomever is buying wine knows what she is doing. Tatomer grüner veltliner? DuMOL pinot noir? Jolie-Laide syrah? Yes, please.

The service too is appealingly earnest. We dined on a Sunday evening, and the space was largely deserted—which puzzled me. Sunday night is a night when neighborhood folks should bookend your date-night business on Friday and Saturday. It should have been much busier.

We had three kids with us and were made to feel as if they were as welcome as any adult, which I appreciate since they all have excellent table manners and eat absolutely everything. (No iPad dining for our tribe!) Our server, Paula, should be cloned and marketed to all restaurants in search of warm, gracious service.

Chef Huy Nguyen offers several well-executed dishes: gorgeous little jewel-toned baby carrots with spiced
yogurt and perfectly pan-seared bass with citrus chardonnay broth. Yet Decadence seems to have an identity crisis going on.

Luxury in and of itself doesn’t unify a menu thematically. You can have decadent menu items (or prices), but your food needs to have a common thread that otherwise unites the dining experience. The charcuterie and cheese board, the steak with sauce Bordelaise and the pan-seared duck breast feel very French bistro. It’s continental comfort cuisine, but it’s offered at prices that average nearly $36 per entrée—which drives many diners back to that $16 burger and an extra cocktail.

I’d love to see Decadence focus more on the Asian elements on its menu. There are so many burger and steak joints within walking distance, but not a lot of high-end restaurants with Eastern flair. Little Sister in Manhattan Beach has proven it can be done.

The Beach Cities are ready for luxe yet authentic cuisine. With so many pieces correctly in place—great service first among them—Decadence deserves to succeed.

 1332 Hermosa Avenue in Hermosa Beach  |  decadencebar.com  |   Written by Bonnie Graves

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