When the owners are award-winning Chef Michael Mina and local hospitality veteran Brent Bolthouse, the chances for success are greatly improved.
Mina’s accolades include being a James Beard Foundation “Who’s Who of Food and Beverage” inductee in 2013, Bon Appétit Chef of the Year, San Francisco Magazine Chef of the Year, and International Food and Beverage Forum’s Restaurateur of the Year. Among his many restaurants is Bourbon Steak at the Waldorf Astoria Monarch Beach Resort in Dana Point, long rated among the area’s best.
Bolthouse is the founder of The Bungalow Hospitality Group, a collective that includes The Bungalow flagship location in Santa Monica and its sister property in Huntington Beach’s Pacific City development. As an entrepreneur and hospitality maven, Bolthouse has developed and opened some of the hottest nightclubs, supper clubs, restaurants, lounges, and bars across Southern California.
Together, Mina and Bolthouse have opened The Bungalow Kitchen just over the county line in the Long Beach neighborhood of Belmont Shore, and the restaurant is truly impressive not just for its cuisine, but for its atmosphere.
According to Bolthouse, “the original plans for Belmont Shore was to open the third Bungalow location, but in October, Michael and I quickly shifted gears to rebrand and pivot to The Bungalow Kitchen in response to the pandemic, opting to launch our new brand concept here.”
Bolthouse gave me a tour of the restaurant shortly after it opened in March, and he jokingly called it “a beautiful disaster—but as disasters go, a nice one.”
In less than four months, they managed to redesign the dining room, the outside patio and the game room, which meant buying all new furniture. They had more square footage than they needed, so they built an oversized kitchen.
Anyone who has been inside the recently reopened Bungalow at Pacific City in Huntington Beach will see similarities with that property and The Bungalow Kitchen. “This is a grown-up Bungalow that has some of the same DNA,” Bolthouse said. Although thanks to Mina, this Bungalow has an extensive California Cuisine menu using local seasonal ingredients.
Classic Mina touches are evident, including his signature Lobster Pot Pie featuring a whole Maine lobster.
“Brent is a longtime friend of mine,” Mina said. “We are so excited to collaborate on our first brand new restaurant concept and to utilize his deep roots in the industry with the launch of The Bungalow Kitchen. Our goal is to bring a warm and comforting place that will feel like an extension of the living room you always wanted.”
More like several living rooms. The entry room is Morocco-inspired, and other rooms seem to have unique themes with colorful artwork including concert posters and photos.
“Every time we do a Bungalow, we have a mythological muse we use as our guiding compass,” Bolthouse explained. “For this project, it was (singer-songwriter) Patty Smith. We said ‘How would Patty Smith build her house?’ We thought she would probably not live in Malibu or Santa Monica, she would probably go someplace like Long Beach, where it’s a little edgier. So, she was our muse for this project.”
No muse was needed for the cuisine, just Mina’s creativity. I enjoyed a superb brunch that included a short stack of buttermilk pancakes with huckleberry jam, corn flake streusel, whipped cream and maple syrup. Next came asparagus and morel mushroom benedict with hollandaise on top of a popover—a nice twist on a traditional dish.
I also sampled the addicting Meyer lemon crêpe cake with crème fraiche, lemon curd and local raspberries.
Now I’m ready to go back for dinner and more Mina cuisine, and Bolthouse atmosphere.
The Bungalow Kitchen: 6400 E. Pacific Coast Highway, Long Beach, (562) 719-9400, bungalowkitchen.com/belmont-shore