(EXPERIENCE MAGAZINE) — (NOV11, 2019) — The Experience Magazine was invited to stop by Cafe Del Rey in the exclusive Marina del Rey neighborhood. This destination restaurant has a comfortable neighborhood bar, a wonderful view of the harbor and a super knowledgable and accommodating staff.
From our server Nicholas in the bar to hostess Jan and Server Vladimir in the dining room, the staff at Cafe Del Rey is top notch. Nicholas in the bar steered us through the Bites menu. I have to say, his recommendations were amazing. The Blue Crab Cake was seared on the bottom and the crab in this crab cake was the freshest. It had super fresh crab, roasted corn, sweet drop peppers, black garlic and a tasty piquillo pepper rouille.
The starter that just blew me away was the Moules Portugais. This dish featured Saltspring Island mussels. Saltspring Islands mussels are from the Salish Sea in Canada and are some of the freshest and tastiest mussels in the world. This dish blended the delicate flavors of fresh calamari, chorizo Navarre, Calbrian chili and smoked paprika. It’s served with a piece of bread that you can soak the sauce up with. I was really surprised at how delicious this dish was. It was a good omen for the main event. The Lobster Mac and Cheese is on point. The tell that the quality of ingredients is important here.
For cocktails, we started the Cucumber Del Rey. This drink mixed white cranberry, cucumber, lime and Hendricks Gin and was a perfect way to start the meal. We also tried the Cocchi Old Fashioned. This had orange, luxardo cherries, Cocchi di Torino Vermouth and Basil Hayden’s Bourbon. Wow. What a cocktail! The bar at Cafe del Rey is fully stocked with all kinds of things. The hand crafted cocktails are on par with LA’s top bars.
Just a word about the reclusive owner of Cafe Del Rey. Joe Lewis, also known as “the Boxer”, is the owner of Tavistock Group and a titan that controls over 170 restaurants world wide. Joe’s story is a rags to riches epic and Joe is known for bringing a certain sophisticated atmosphere. Cafe Del Rey certainly has a cool atmosphere. I think it’s the positive spirit of the staff that believes in the Tavistock brand.
Chef Job Carder is the Executive Chef at Cafe Del Rey. Chef Job understands balancing flavor. When Chef Job tells you that he’s using mushrooms to bring out an earthy flavor, you’d be wise to pay attention for those flavors.
Chef Job started us off with a Ceviche that was out of this world. The presentation at Cafe Del Rey is just amazing. The flavors are inspired. While munching on this dish of super fresh fish, I could swirl the sauces around and discover subtle tones and flavors.
I always like to try the raw oysters as a sort of gauge of freshness for an establishment. Our server Vladimir recommended a two oyster delight that he called “East Coast, West Coast”. The house made sauce had a tinny bit of scallion, a tomato ponzu, horseradish and a slice of lemon. One oyster was from Maine, and the other was from the coast of Oregon. Both were totally delicious and very fresh. Vladimir did such an excellent job at serving and recommending things. The staff at Cafe Del Rey is just excellent at what they do.
General Manager Craig got a chance to chat with us for just a few minutes. The restaurant was packed and people really seemed to be enjoying themselves. Craig pointed out the the “vibe” at Cafe del Rey has really changed lately. He’s so right. Of course, adding Chef Job to the staff last June is one thing that gives Cafe Del Rey a good buzz among LA foodies.
Vladimir recommended the Tablas Creek red wine. Patelin de Tablas is an organic red wine from Paso Robles, California. The flavor was smooth with subtle black raspberry flavor. A gentle finish that was balanced. It paired so well with the seafood. Vladimir knows his pairings.
The buzz at Cafe Del Rey is that the Branzino is the top dish. I have to say that the Branzino does not disappoint. Branzino is the last of the sustainable fish that are low in mercury. Also known as European Sea Bass, Branzino has a white flakey texture. Chef Job prepares his crispy whole Branzino with toasted almonds, pickled currants and an Amaretto cream sauce. Wow, just amazing flavor. This was one of several top dishes of the night.
The next dish that we tried was the Bouillabaisse Blanche. This dish had Saltspring Island mussels, clams, prawns, fish, potatoes, carrots, turnips and a clam cream broth. I think a lot of people expect the saffron style of bouillabaisse, but this white sauce bouillabaisse was really tasty. Cafe Del Rey does fresh seafood so well. I really think that Cafe Del Rey under Chef Job and the entire staff there, its one of the top restaurants in LA. You can’t beat the location in the Marina and the amazing flavors.
The next dish was just off the charts. The Seared Diver Scallops were just amazing. Chef Job mixes the scallop flavor with a leek puree, little oyster mushrooms, pancetta, a pea coulis and then some crispy leeks. Right before this dish arrived with its amazing presentation, Chef Job told me,”I balanced the flavor of the scallops with the mushrooms to give it an earthy flavor.” Now, I’ve heard chefs say this sort of thing in the past. But, I wasn’t expecting to actually taste with Chef described. When I bite into the scallops, I tasted scallop, scallop, scallop…earthy flavor! I was so surprised! It was just like Chef Job said! I was really impressed with these flavors. Its like a magic trick on your taste buds! I want to go back and try more of the menu. This is really, my favorite restaurant right now.
We finished our meal with some sorbet. This was just a delightful meal. I cant wait to bring my friends here and show off this jewel of a restaurant. We look forward to dining at the Cafe Del Rey. We highly recommend this restaurant.