Ten years ago, Top Chef winner Brooke Williamson, and her husband, chef Nick Roberts, opened up Hudson House on a stretch of Pacific Coast Highway in Redondo Beach, naming it for their son who was still in diapers. Now the real Hudson is about to turn 11, and his restaurateur parents decided the eponymous establishment was due for some changes.
"After ten years we just felt like the place needed a fresh take on the menu," said Williamson. "In general diners are eating a little bit lighter and we found that taking it in an Asian direction helped us get a lot of local vegetables on the plate with the ability to pack in a lot of flavor and texture. We want people to come, share a bunch of things, get some drinks and still feel good at the end of the night."
Also updated was the industrial decor of the room, which in the last decade has been appropriated by gastropubs everywhere.
As Williamson put it, "We wanted to separate ourselves a little bit, reinvent ourselves, and this take just feels more mature ... a more modern feel."
Gone is the open kitchen and the interior mural, replaced by a soothing, loungey beach vibe with an emphasis on the inviting back bar.
Williamson and Roberts realized the risk of alienating their regular clientele.
"Every time we change the menu there's pushback—so we decided to change everything. People would be forced to try something new because everything was new."
Public outcry led them to reinstate their popular pretzel burger and pork ribs (upon request).
"As much pushback as we got from people when they saw their favorites were no long on the menu," said Williamson, "we received virtually no pushback once they tasted the food."
Among the new offerings are "dirty tots," crispy tater tots tossed in a mix of yuzu aioli (a bright citrus mayo), shiitakes, Fresno chilies, sweet onions, nagi sauce and nori—which sounds like a lot of things, but manages to have cohesion. The tot is still the star—and who doesn't love a tot?
The tangerine and white miso eggplant is my favorite new dish, thoughtful and well-balanced. The miso gives a light umami to the tender eggplant, add to that a bit of mild heat from shishitos, tempered with fresh mint, and texture from crispy black rice and chewy bits of sweet medjool date, topped with jewels of tangerine for a pop of citrus.
Black shrimp rice is an elevated spin on traditional fried rice. The dish has a great chew achieved by slightly overcooking the grains then drying them overnight before frying them. Tossed with shrimp, pickled serrano chilies and scallions, and flavored with tomato and lime leaf aioli.
Grilled whole-wheat poppy seed toast is a crostini topped with creamy burrata cheese and sweet roasted squash, brightened with the zing of collard greens chiffonaded into ribbons and soaked in pickling liquid for 24 hours.
From the extensive craft cocktail menu, I tried the hudsonxhudson Manhattan; made of Hudson rye, Punt e mes vermouth, bitters, orange peel. The signature rye, bottled for Hudson House, is single barrel from the Hudson distillery, creating a smooth, boozy, grown-up drink.
The unicorn noodle salad takes its name from its whimsical color, achieved by soaking the yam (similar to glass) noodles in purple cabbage water. It comes composed, like a Cobb, with ginger-brined chicken, cucumber, pickled shiitakes, and crispy onions—giving it a variety of temperatures and textures.
The Filipino barbecue pork sandwich is sweet and tangy, stacked on a big fluffy sesame brioche. The nori mustard is spicy hot, but comes with a pile of sweet pickled things on the side to counteract the richness and the heat.
Elevated or not, you can't do bar food and not do a taco. Here they are tender pork cheek tacos with avocado and a heap of crunchy turnip slaw on a kimchi mayo slathered blue corn tortilla; an overfilled flavor bomb that requires a fork.
"The thing about this industry is that it changes so quickly, if you’re not constantly adapting then you can become irrelevant," said Williamson.
Hudson House 514 N Pacific Coast Hwy, Redondo Beach. Open from 3 p.m. weekends, 5 p.m. weekdays.
Eileen Shields is a South Bay food writer: contact at firstname.lastname@example.org.