Restaurants near beaches and harbors are generally known for serving fresh fish and Café del Rey is no exception. However, Executive Chef Daniel Roberts serves an incredible beef tartare that has the L.A. culinary scene buzzing. I wanted to try this delicacy and gathered a group of friends to taste the innovative summer menu at Café del Rey.
Chef Roberts has been cooking since his teens. In the late 1990s, he worked with his brother at G! Café in Queens, serving as a chef and co-owner. Five years later, he came out to the West Coast and worked in Los Angeles as the executive chef at Asia de Cuba, at the Mondrian Hotel in West Hollywood, and Baleen, at the Portofino Hotel and Yacht Club. In April 2011, Chef Roberts joined the 22-year-old Café del Rey, and set out to revamp the menu and add some pizzazz.
As an avid fisherman, Chef Roberts enjoys working next to the ocean.
“I like to use the freshest ingredients in my cooking and that includes fresh seafood from near the marina,” Roberts said.
With floor-to-ceiling windows offering views of sailboats bopping in the harbor water, Café del Rey has a vibrant, contemporary interior.
We started with a few new cocktails. I ordered the inventive skinny pineapple mojito made with pineapple vodka, fresh lime and muddled mint. The drink only has 100 calories, yet packs a punch. A friend enjoyed the scorching sunset cocktail with El Jimador tequila, serrano chili and blood orange juice.
We immediately ordered the highly-touted beef tartare. The American Waygu beef was mixed with black currants, almonds, olives, shallots and a splash of harissa vinaigrette. The dish, served with housemade gaufrette potatoes sprinkled with truffles, had a sensational smooth texture. Gaufrette is a fancier name for ruffle potato chips, and were ideal to scoop the tartare.
Other great appetizers included the burrata salad with arugula and a blood orange, avocado and basil oil. What makes this salad burst with flavors is saba, a sauce made from grapes and cooked to taste similar to balsamic vinegar.
A beautiful mixed beet salad arrived with sliced julienne apples, friseé, Point Reyes blue cheese and Marcona almonds. A housemade lemon poppy seed honey vinaigrette complemented the fresh ingredients.
A heartier first course is the Dungeness crab cakes with lollipop kale and sections of ruby red grapefruit, surrounded by tiny and sweet heirloom tomatoes.
The aroma of truffle filled the air as the truffle pizza was served. Made with truffle cream and topped with caramelized onions, shaved truffles, fresh thyme and grana Parmesan this pizza is marvelously delicious.
For an entrée, I ordered the grilled halibut with fresh roasted corn and green chickpeas with capers and roasted garlic. Chef Roberts made a colorful honeydew, watermelon and cucumber relish elevating the corn side dish.
My friend ordered the sea scallops cooked perfectly and paired with sautéed parsnips, fava beans, Basque chorizo and a mushroom mix.
Other entrées were veal Saltimbocca wrapped in prosciutto and mozzarella with sautéed spinach and crispy baby Yukon potatoes and duck breast with cippolini onions and a blueberry sherry reduction. My favorite dish to try was the hand cut black linguini with a generous serving of lobster and caramelized fennel that was lightly dressed with an exquisite lobster white wine cream sauce.
We saved room for dessert, and enjoyed the house made bacon ice cream. It was creamy, smooth and offered a hint of savory bacon essence. It sat next to a scoop of corn and blackberry ice cream. Other scrumptious desserts were the Meyer lemon olive oil cake, blueberry peach upside down cake, Neapolitan chocolate cake with strawberry mousse and white chocolate mousse.
During July, Pastry Chefs Tonye Dunn and Matthew Weiczman are “churning” it up a notch by making a selection of sweet and savory fruit and vegetable-infused ice creams and sorbets. Guests can choose from an array of daily made flavors that include corn, bacon, red beet and strawberry ice cream. Sorbets include honeydew, watermelon, blueberry, strawberry and chocolate. New flavors will be made year-round based on the season.
Save the date Oct. 5 to fish and dish with Chef Roberts. For $40, seafood enthusiasts will join him on a half-day fishing expedition and then motor back to Café del Rey for dinner, with a complimentary course including an option to have the chef cook up the fresh catch of the day. The boat departs from Marina del Rey. Boat fees and a fishing license are included.
Café del Rey is open for lunch, Sunday brunch and dinner. Valet parking is complimentary during lunch. $$-$$$ 4451 Admiralty Way. (310)823-6395.
Published in the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea News.