Waterfront Dining in Marina del Rey

Executive Chef Job Carder prepares California coastal cuisine with a fusion of French flair that is visually as pretty as the silhouette of sailboats in Marina del Rey.

I met this chef years ago at a private holiday party, when he was the executive chef at The Proper in La Cañada. His grandfather co-founded Norm’s Restaurant in Los Angeles.

Later working under the direction of Joachim Splichal at Patina, Carder developed an artistic flair for presenting colorful salads, savory beef and fresh seafood dishes.

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Now at Cafe del Rey, he runs the kitchen smoothly and is preparing exciting fare starting with the warm cheese and rosemary crusted bread. It’s served with a garlic and olive tapenade.

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A selection of beverage options includes a Cucumber Del Rey cocktail made with Hendrick’s Gin, lime, white cranberry juice and a sliced cucumber float.

Cafe del Rey serves Tavistock Reserve Collection sparkling, white and red wines, including wine from the Platinum Collection. Other vineyards include Duck Hunter, Epiphany, Cline Estate, the Pessimist and Justin.

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I chose a Santa Barbara Epiphany grenache blanc to pair with a colorful Caprese salad. Creamy burrata is placed in between bright red, yellow and orange thick medallions of organic heirloom tomatoes. The plate had a few roasted pistachio nuts placed on top of pools of pesto, with fresh lavender-colored garlic flowers and micro-basil on top. It’s visually stunning.

Another winning salad is the soft baby beet confit, sliced and served with heirloom charred carrots. A sprinkle of feta cheese, a few mâche leaves and a drizzle of a fig balsamic and sherry vinaigrette balance the earthy flavors.

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The talented chefs prepared the most artful dish – hamachi tuna crudo. It arrived looking like a holiday wreath with a base of leek puree, topped with tuna wrapped to look like flowers. Pickled cauliflower, tiny shimeji mushrooms, bright red radish, pea and popcorn shoots are arranged in a perfect circle. To dazzle this dish even more, Japanese flying fish roe (tobiko), borage blossoms, a yuzu vinaigrette and smoked shoyu finish out the presentation and flavors.

The branzino filet is deboned and butterflied before arriving to the table. On top of the light fish is a stack of sautéed haricots verts, chopped earthy toasted almonds and a semisweet amaretto-butter sauce. This esteemed chef takes small red currants, pickles them and adds a few of the tiny deep red berries to heighten the bright acidity to the branzino filet.

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Another popular dish is a crispy Lake Superior whitefish served with a small lobster claw and white and green asparagus. Mushrooms, fava beans and brightly colored Chioggia beet puree offer a pretty pop of color.

Diners receive an elegant Laguiole steak knife made by the internationally renowned Jean Dubost when ordering the Australian wagyu, filet mignon or New York strip steak. Cutting into a sizable piece of wagyu, the tender and flavorful marbled steak offered a buttery flavor and caramel-crusted bottom with every bite.

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The short ribs entrée is prepared and served two ways. The plate arrives with braised short rib and an agnolotti filled with short rib. It’s served with pretty watermelon radish, crispy sugar snap peas and parsnip puree.

Cafe del Rey’s French pastry chef Salima Eddadsi makes a decadent royal chocolat filled with rich and dark chocolate mousse. It’s layered with a hazelnut dacquoise and thin, crispy feuilletine praline. The cocoa glaze on top makes this an exquisite dessert worth every calorie.

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Come enjoy a multitude of lunch, brunch and dinner dishes that are visually as stunning as the waterfront views at Cafe del Rey. $$-$$$ 4451 Admiralty Way, Marina del Rey. (310)823-6395.

This review was also featured in the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea News.

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