Despite its long wall of windows offering sweeping marina views, Cafe del Rey is not a restaurant to merely rely on its vistas. This Marina del Rey stalwart has served diners high-quality California cuisine since its opening 27 years ago. Still going strong, it’s now showcasing a fresh point of view, thanks to new Executive Chef Job Carder, updated decor, and a revitalized menu.
Though there’s a new chef at the helm, the choice of Carder does bring with it a sense of history: as a child, he dined here with his grandfather, a co-founder of Norm’s Restaurant.
An acolyte of Patina’s Joachim Splichal, Job has made some interesting additions to the menu. Among the standout new dishes I tried during a recent tasting: grilled octopus with cauliflower harissa puree and black garlic-squid ink sauce, crispy duck confit with a huckleberry gastrique, and Lake Superior whitefish enhanced by Chioggia beet puree, asparagus both green and white, fava beans, wild mushrooms, and a lobster claw.
Other new menu items include crispy branzino, surprisingly enlivened by amaretto butter sauce, and braised short rib on a bed of parsnip puree with watermelon radish salad. You’ll also want to try the salad composed of confit baby beets and charred heirloom carrot, along with the decadent chocolate mascarpone cake with chocolate ganache, chocolate feuilletine, and bourbon-caramel sauce.
Also keeping things interesting is Beverage Director Henry Marquis, whose wine and cocktail suggestions thoughtfully enhance the dishes on the seafood-intensive menu. If you’re a champagne lover, you are in luck: Marquis is that uncommon sommelier with a big passion for bubbly.
Cafe del Rey’s elegantly relaxing look is now dominated by light blues, greens and white, with touches of cognac-colored leather, bringing an aquatic vibe befitting a waterside restaurant.
And who doesn’t love a place that offers happy hour seven days a week? Raise a glass from 3:00 pm to 6:00 pm daily in the lounge, where light fare (think tuna tartare tacos and blue crab cakes) and drink specials are offered.
Located at 4451 Admiralty Way in Marina del Rey, Cafe del Rey is open daily for dinner, for lunch Mondays through Fridays, and for brunch on Saturdays and Sundays. Restaurant website.