(CAFÉ del REY)
Summer’s over, but we lucky Californians typically get to enjoy the beautiful sunshine year round. The option to partake of a delightful meal beachside or with a great view of the marina definitely adds to our good fortune. CAFÉ del REY provides the latter, with floor-to-wall windows framing the dockside’s yachts and boats, and even has a little beach (Mother’s Beach) not too far down the path. CAFÉ del REY’s proximity to the water makes it a hot spot for romantic dining and even a bottomless mimosa Sunday brunch, but what makes it a place you want to visit time and time again is its thoughtfully put together, seasonal menu.
Executive Chef Chuck Abair’s abundance of innovative ideas is best likened to a budding artist who has just learned that there’s no end to the possibilities of creating something based on pure inspiration. The menu, having recently been updated two weeks prior to my last visit, is, of course, heavy on the seafood. The unexpected pairings of ingredients is what keeps you from getting bored with say, crab cakes or a piece of salmon.
The crab cakes, Dungeness to be exact, are very light; with the familiar stringy texture you get upon cracking open a crab leg and pulling out the fresh meat. You won’t find a heavy mayonnaise or eggy flavor here, these crab cakes taste like the East Coast. Pair the Dungeness Crab Cake with the foolproof Beet & Burrata Salad with a perked up Jerez (sherry) vinaigrette, and your culinary fiesta is off to a delicious start.
If crab is not your thing, you have to try the Truffle Pizza. I had all three and didn’t feel bad about it, not even a little bit. The truffle pizza, just two bites in, already made it on my list of best pizzas in Los Angeles … and that’s a very short list.
For entrees, I loved that the Chef’s Selection is actually “As the Sea Provides” and changes accordingly. Right now the sea loves Yellowtail and so does the kitchen, as Chef Abair adorns the fish with chanterelles, garbanzo beans and a house-made cake featuring freshly ground chickpea powder. The chick pea cake is a playful alternative to polenta, which unfortunately has been really over-featured on other menus.
Most of CAFÉ del REY’s menu is very Mediterranean inspired, as seen in the Barramundi with Brussels sprouts, tangerines, fennel and basil aioli. The Chicken Paillard featured some of the most ambitious sides I’ve come across: figs, tomato and a lemon caper sauce. The figs probably sound out of place, but they are seared hot to bring out the smoky, slightly sweet flavor. That balances out the saltiness of the capers and tomatoes; they go well with pretty much everything.
This was just the lunch menu that I experienced, and brunch has even more options like the Hamburger with Brie, the famous crab cake (but this time sandwiched in an English muffin) and chocolate cream pie with chocolate streusel.
You can even host a party dockside as CAFÉ del REY features a quaint private room with the same gorgeous view as the rest of the restaurant. So, next time you’re looking for a place that provides good food in a great waterfront location, think of CAFÉ del REY.
CAFÉ del REY is located at 4451 Admiralty Way, Marina Del Rey 90292. For more information, call (310) 823-6395 or visit cafedelreymarina.com.