In the 1970s and 1980s, Marina del Rey was “the place” in Los Angeles for singles and young couples. Now, with tech start-up companies flocking to Southern California, Marina del Rey and the surrounding communities are experiencing a resurgence of young professionals to the community, which is commonly referred to as “Silicon Beach”.
One of the culinary hot spots in the area is Cafe del Rey, which offers creative cocktails and farm-to-table fare. Executive chef Chuck Abair said he loves walking out of the kitchen and enjoying the view of the harbor with boats bobbing in the water.
Previously a sous chef for chef Michael Cimarusti at Providence, Abair joined Cafe del Rey in 2011 as the chef de cuisine, working alongside former executive chef Daniel Roberts. His background in preparing seafood dishes has allowed him to create menus highlighting seasonal flavors and emphasizing seafood paired with housemade ingredients.
Chef Abair is a graduate of Le Cordon Blue California School of Culinary Arts in Pasadena, and has more than 10 years of culinary experience. His passion for cooking started as a child, when he enjoyed watching “The Galloping Gourmet” and Julia Child.
I was joined by a friend for lunch at Café del Rey, where Abair prepared a wild caught Hawaiian moonfish with chanterelle mushrooms, roasted purple pearl onions and a moist chick pea cake topped with pan jus. Abair is a whiz with grilled fish, with rave reviews of his swordfish, salmon, barramundi and yellowtail.
He also makes an incredible cheeseburger with Brie cheese, oven dried tomatoes, arugula, caramelized onions and a mustard aioli. The burger is served with crisp French fries and housemade ketchup.
Other specialties include Dungeness crab cakes, grilled cheese on brioche with tomato soup and a lamb burger with harissa-spiced fries. Regulars often enjoy the daily Cinque Terre, offering a selection of five small dishes with a Mediterranean influence.
We saved room for his maple berry pie with cinnamon ice cream, and also sampled the chocolate tower adorned with an orange sauce, and his luscious butterscotch flan.
With fall approaching, Abair is preparing a new menu with dishes made from ingredients found at farmers’ markets. Last year’s fall menu included sweet potato gnocchi, salmon with butternut squash, and lamb osso buco with mashed potatoes, Brussels sprouts and pine nut gremolata.
Abair said he is planning another “Permission to Come Aboard” half-day fishing expedition that gives seafood lovers and adventurous diners an all-hands-on-deck experience. The cost for the fishing excursion is $55, which includes equipment and a fishing license. Abair shows guests around Marina del Rey before they drop lines. The boat later docks at Cafe del Rey for a barbecue lunch with the freshly caught fish from the trip.
Cafe del Rey offers a casual, yet sophisticated experience for lunch, brunch and dinner. $$-$$$ 4451 Admiralty Way, (310)823-6395.
This article was published in the Sept. 4 issue of the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea Newspapers.