Thursday, July 18, 2024

Liv’s is Belmont Shore’s underrated seafood gem—and it goes beyond the oysters


Liv’s, the oyster bar-meets-full-on seafood restaurant in the Shore, has brought something to Long Beach that has long been needed. Sexy oysters. Good wine. Solid seafood. But it is oh so much more than that.

Liv’s is an ode to California’s culinary sensibility

Chef Kristine Schneider—joined by owner and chef Rob White, who also just opened Hartland’s at 1900 Ocean—is no stranger to the food scene. Earning her stripes at Michael on Naples under Chef Eric Samaniego, Kristine has a truly deep sense of Californian-ness attached to her food. After all, she was literally attached to the farmlands of our state up in Visalia, a place she returns to as often as she can to not only connect to her roots but the very roots of food itself.

“My parents were big foodies so my childhood to this day has been surrounded by food,” Kristine said, noting she came to Long Beach to study Communications and Hospitality at CSULB before making it her permanent home. From working at kitchens at the Disneyland Resort—a beast of food management and distribution if there was one—to local kitchens, Kristine’s grasp of Californian food is precisely what connected her with Rob.

“Liv’s is and will always be Rob’s baby,” Kristine said, “Rob created the base menu when he first opened and when I came on the team, he really entrusted me to tackle the food head on.”

In essence, it is a nod toward Rob’s ability to let go a bit—something he needed to do as he took on Hartland’s—as well as a rare show of humility as a chef who is taking a large step back in order to balance multiple businesses. But this is not to say you won’t see Rob. Not at all.

The kitchen at Liv’s comes from a shared experience of leaving the comfortable and desiring ownership

For Kristine, Michael’s on Naples was “a team that was so perfectly aligned but I was just ready to switch gears toward something that was more my own.” So the move toward Liv’s has been as fulfilling as it has been challenging—especially coming on the heels of Rob, who opened Liv’s as a chef-owner in the very building he thought he was going to have wild success with.

In fact, before Liv’s, it was the second location to Rob’s Chicken Bodega concept, following the flagship shop in Whittier. And like any first baby, he thought it would harness the rest of his professional life.

“I really thought my whole life was going to be The Chicken Bodega—and Liv’s was the dream restaurant,” Rob said. “Liv’s was to be the place I could open after I dreamt I would have 25 Chicken Bodegas across L.A. because I really believed we were gonna be the next Charro Chicken or California Chicken Cafe. I still felt like we had something special.”

However, like many things in the hospitality world, it wasn’t panning out and Rob hit a very harsh reality. He either takes on his dream concept now or he risks the possibility of Chicken Bodega failing permanently. And like any good chef, he dropped the poultry and went for the oysters.

Liv’s is more than oysters—but you certainly don’t want to skip out them

Standing behind the seat-lined bar, patrons are likely to see Rob shucking oysters. On any particular day, you’ll see him shuck, plate, and decorate. Sometimes they are topped with caviar and crème fraîche. Sometimes with a side of house-made cocktail sauce, with strips of fresh horseradish root. It all depends on how you order them.

But the oysters at Liv’s are, indeed, special. This particular day he had Black Magic oysters shipped from Canada. And not just any part of Canada but the chilly waters of its easternmost edge, just north of Nova Scotia. Wonderfully firm, intensely briney, and earthy on the finish, they represent the most beautiful side of simple food. Clean enough to eat without the accoutrements, they are examples of why Liv’s has built up a loyal patronage.

Of course, they aren’t the only things one can eat at Liv’s.

Approachable and unpretentious, Liv’s menu spans the greatness of seafood

If there is one thing to be noted about the menu at Liv’s, it is the fact that the raw part rules.

The oysters are magical while their crudos lay umami down in pure nakedness. Like the salmon crudo. Beautifully orange, thick white lines of fat running through the slabs of flesh, Kristine lines six hefty chunks of salmon on a plate lined with crème fraîche. Rye bread crumbs, dill, Meyer lemon zest, Maldon salt, and love top it off. The result of this combination? Easily one of the city’s best representations of crudo. And the scallop version with fried squash blossom holds the same par.

Crackers with Tsar Nicoulai Osetra caviar. Oysters galore: Black Magic or Sweet Petite or Miyagi or… Yes, the raw’n’chilled are fabulous at Liv’s.

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But just as strong are the hot dishes, where huge chunks of halibut are battered and fried Nashville hot-style and drizzled with honey. Hunks of Maine lobster are slathered in butter and pickled Fresno chiles for a Connecticut-style roll. (And yes, you can add caviar.) Mussels stew in a tom kha-inspired bath of lemongrass and coconut milk.

Liv’s is an absolute gem of the Shore—and it is an inherent part of its renaissance.

Belmont Shore continues its post-pandemic renaissance

Belmont Shore is rapidly changing and has rapidly changed—especially across the past two years, where a slew of bigger, largely Los Angeles-based brands have opted to open up locations along the famed business corridor. It is a larger reflection of the post-pandemic need to get out, favoring walkable outdoor spaces of insulated indoor ones.

There was the recent announcement that Kauai-based, taro donut masters Holey Grail have officially opened, adding to the Shore’s growing list of sweet spots. This can be added to future openings like North Hollywood-birthed Republic of Pie adding to that very sweetness.

There is an extension of Orange County’s Ribbro opening while Angel’s Share, which quickly took over the former Taphouse space, has already opened up shop.

The Win~Dow, Venice’s smash burger concept birthed in 2019 in a parking lot, has officially opened its first Long Beach location in Belmont Shore in the former Archibald’s space. Following its first location in Venice, its second location in Silver Lake, and its third here in Long Beach, more are to come in Southern California in 2024. But the Belmont Shore location has proven wildly fruitful. On the daily, there is a perpetual line for its affordable, minimalist burgers.

Then there’s been Goodies. There’s been Candified. Le Macaron. Breakfast Republic. Foodologie. Nick the Greek. Louie’s. Northern Cafe. Sushi Nikkei’s second location in the city

The list goes on—as does the renaissance.

Liv’s is located at 5327 E. 2nd St.

Brian Addison
Brian Addison
Brian Addison has been a writer, editor, and photographer for more than a decade, covering everything from food and culture to transportation and housing. In 2015, he was named Journalist of the Year by the Los Angeles Press Club and has since garnered 25 nominations and three additional wins. In 2019, he was awarded the Food/Culture Critic of the Year across any platform at the National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Awards.


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