Malibu's Must-Try Dishes

Photographed by Julie Wuellner

While Malibu may seem like a small town in many respects, our quaint, beach-side home has an abundance of restaurants that rivals cities much larger in size and population. From Malibu institutions like Taverna Tony’s that serves hungry tourists and locals with some of the best Mediterranean food in the area and Sunlife Organics with its wide array of brightly colored smoothies to new-comer Caffee Luxxe which supplies locals with not just a killer cup of coffee, but also that laid-back coffee shop vibe, it can be hard to choose where to go, let alone what to order. Truly, there are few bad choices when it comes to Malibu’s flourishing restaurant scene, but some are, undoubtedly, better than others.

For this issue, Malibu Magazine editors set out to put together the ultimate list of “Must-Try” dishes from our favorite Malibu restaurants. We included some long-time favorites such as the sumptuous skirt steak with chimichurro from V’s restaurant simply because these can’t be missed, but we didn’t stop there. At Bui Sushi, we skipped the classic rolls and instead found the seafood carpaccio to be the real hero, and for dessert, we tracked down Tra Di Noi’s rumored Strawberry Crostada, made from a recipe handed down to the restaurant’s owner by his Italian grandmother. From breakfast to appetizers, seafood, steak, numerous desserts and even coffee, we compiled a list of Malibu’s “Must Try Dishes” guaranteed to have something for everyone. 

Steamed Maine Lobster at Geoffrey’s


Bearing a steamed lobster at the weight of one and three-quarters of a pound, Geoffrey’s Steamed Maine Lobster proves equally as impressive in taste as it does in presentation. From the center outward, the exhibit of flavor begins with a buttery puff pastry basket, topped with seared vegetable ribbons and a slew of Madeira butter. Each bite, coated in a creamy vanilla lobster sauce, holds a simple, yet elegant introduction to the curious mouths it encounters. 

Skirt Steak Chimichurro at V’s


Malibu steak lovers shouldn’t miss out on the Grilled Prime Skirt Steak with Chimichurri at V’s Malibu. Seasoned and grilled to perfection, this juicy steak is packed full of flavor. Topped with a garden-fresh chimichurri sauce, the steak is served with creamy roasted shallot mashed potatoes and grilled asparagus. Pair it with a glass of red wine or one of V’s expertly crafted mixed drinks such as the pomiranian with key lime and pomegranate juice. 

Seafood Carpaccio at Bui


From extraordinarily fresh sashimi to delightful miso butterfish and expertly crafted special rolls, there are few poor options on Bui Sushi’s menu. However, head chef, Francesco Valesco’s take on classic seafood Carpaccio outshines the rest. The dish is as beautifully presented as it is expertly garnished. The plate of carefully sliced sashimi is glazed in citrus yuzu sauce that balances exquisitely with the raw density of each fish. Although the array of fish presented in this dish is not found on the menu and must be custom ordered, the variety is highly recommended as it offers a different sensation in each bite and allows room for accommodation. Featuring fresh and top-quality yellowtail, salmon, red snapper, tuna and albacore, the Seafood Carpaccio excites the taste buds in a rich yet light demeanor. To finish off the plate, crispy onion chips and feather-like garnishes are sprinkled over the top. Altogether, the subtly-detailed dish serves an ornate experience for sushi-lovers of all kinds. 

Spicy Red Curry at Cholada

IMG_0441 4.jpg

If you are looking for authentic thai food in a relaxed, completely unpretentious atmosphere, head to none other than favorite, Cholada Thai Beach Cuisine. The little blue shack bordering the Palisades has long been one of Malibu’s best local secrets. Generally packed on both weekends and week nights, the restaurant has a full menu of delicious and authentic Thai food but a standout and all-time favorite is the Red Curry. The curry is made with coconut milk, bamboo shoots, bell pepper and fresh basil, either chicken, tofu, veggies, beef or pork. You can choose your preferred level of spice.

Flaming Saganaki Cheese at Taverna Tony


For an appetizer that is equal parts a show-stopper and a delicious treat to share, try Taverna Tony’s Flaming Saganaki Cheese. Traditional Greek sautéed kefalograyere cheese is flamed with cognac to create a cheese experience that is crispy on the outside and perfectly melty on the inside. The cheese can be eaten with bread or even on its own. Don’t let this one sit though as the cheese is the best when it is freshly flamed and will quickly harden up again. 

Tri-Color Gnocchi at Tramonto


Between the delicious Paesena finished off in a giant cheese wheel and the Pescatora served with an array of fresh seafood, it’s hard to pick just one pasta dish at Tramonto Bistro, but at the end of the day it was the Gnocchi that we fell in love with. Served with an option of five different sauces (from left to right: Marinara, Quatro Formaggio and Pesto), the Gnocchi offers the perfect combination of comfort food and sophisticated dining. Finish it off with the Ice Cream Extravaganza made directly at your table, created with a blast of liquid nitrogen. 


If you’re not full after gnocchi, try out Tramonto’s Ice Cream Extravaganza. Wilfredo Barrera, who has owned Tramanto Bistro since 2016, after working at Point Dume’s Sage Room for a decade and a half, is pictured making the secret dessert.

Blue Majik Smoothe at Sunlife Organics


Blue Majik, the latest health food trend, truly lives up to its name. The substance, derived from sea algae spirulina, is, similar to its green spirulina cousin, extremely nutrient and anti-oxidant dense, and as you might have guessed, turns everything a beautiful aqua color. If you’ve been wanting to give this new health craze a try, head into Sunlife Organics. Made with coconut meat, medjool dates, Himalayan pink salt, lotus pollen, collagen, whey protein isolate, hemp milk, pineapple juice and of course blue algea, their Blue Majik smoothie tastes as good as it is pretty.

Vanilla Chia Seed Pudding at Ollo


Stop by one of Malibu’s favorite breakfast spots for chef Franscesco’s Chia Seed Bowl for a healthy and sumptuous breakfast. As delicious as it is trendy, the bowl is made with coconut milk, house-made strawberry preserve and topped off with blueberries and shredded coconut. This breakfast option is creamy and delicious all while being packed with massively nutrient and fiber-rich chia seeds.  

Strawberry Crostini at Tra Di Noi

Tarcisio Mosconi opened the famed Cross Creek Italian eatery in 1995 with co-owner Atoni Alessi.

Tarcisio Mosconi opened the famed Cross Creek Italian eatery in 1995 with co-owner Atoni Alessi.

While everyone has been to Tra Di Noi, few have tried the elusive Strawberry Crostada, a recipe passed down to the owner by his Italian grandmother. Besides being jaw-droppingly beautiful, the Crostada is also crunchy, creamy and fruity all at the same time. Made from a thin pizza-like crust, it is then topped off with an Italian crema (here the secret recipe comes in) and packed with fresh, perfectly-ripe strawberries and finished with crushed nuts. MM

Holly Bieler