30 January 2007

Royal treatment at Café del Rey, Marina del Rey, CA

This is a continuation of my story about our recent trip to southern California. My habit is to write about them sequentially, beginning with what happened first. Chapter 1: We arrived in California. We ate lunch. We went to a museum.

The trouble is they get posted in reverse chronological order. You’re about to read Chapter 2: We drove to Santa Monica. We walked the beach. We went back to our hotel. We found a restaurant for dinner. You are presented Chapter 2 before you’ve read Chapter 1. And then, depending on when you’re reading this, you may have already read Chapter 3 (which happened in the past but hasn’t been written yet) before reading Chapter 2 or 1.

Now even I’m getting confused.

We left the Getty Villa just as the sun sunk below the Pacific horizon. It was a beautiful sunset. Because of the cool weather and a stiff breeze, the air was crystal clear. Not a trace of Los Angeles’ infamous smog. As we drove along the Pacific Coast Highway back toward Marina del Rey, we enjoyed the gradual gradation as the sky slowly faded from hot orange to sultry red to slinky maroon to velvety black. The stars flickered on in the sky, and the lights of the city flickered on in front of us.

On our way along the highway, we entered Santa Monica and the famous pier. Since we had a late lunch, we weren’t hungry yet. So we decided to park, walk the beach, and check out the pier. It really was quite beautiful. As we approached the pier, we stopped to take a picture of the lights from the amusement park attractions. The pier itself was, honestly, quite tacky. Lots of teenagers and tourists and places to buy junky souvenirs.

After strolling back to our car, we finished the drive to our hotel. We decided to unwind a bit before finding a place for dinner. I confess. I turned on my computer and checked my work e-mails for the day. Sorry.

There were three restaurants within a couple blocks of our hotel – the Warehouse, Tony P’s, and Café del Rey. We picked Café del Rey. It proved to be a good choice.

We were seated at a quiet, private booth. It wasn’t too busy, and the server gave us ample time to peruse the menu and decide on food and drinks. I ordered a martini. My wife had a glass of wine.

Since we had eaten late, and because our body clocks were screwed up from the flight and the time zone changes, we weren’t too hungry. So we decided not to have a starter or salad.

The menu has a ‘day boat’ section that lists fresh fish and includes the name of the fishing boat that brought it in, the captain’s name, and the location. Maybe they have some regular customers who watch for the catch from a particular captain. But even if it’s just for effect, it was impressive to me. I ordered the ono. It was served with a potato sweet pea citrus risotto, chanterelle mushrooms, and a red wine tarragon reduction. I’ve never made a potato risotto before. It was good.

My wife had coriander rubbed tai snapper with bay shrimp in sour coconut sauce, roasted carrots, green tea soba, and pineapple salsa. It was very unique. Because it wasn’t so busy, our server lingered at the table while we asked some questions about the sauce on her fish. He answered what he knew but was stumped on some of the ingredients. My wife asked if the chef would come out and talk to us. We were impressed when a few minutes later, voila, there he was! He was very cordial. We talked about the recipe and the techniques for making the sauce. My wife asked if we could possibly have the recipe. He said he wasn’t sure if it was at hand in the kitchen. But he gave us his e-mail address and invited us to contact him when we returned home.

We were very satisfied with that answer. He disappeared back into the kitchen, and we ordered a dessert (and I had a cup of espresso). As we were paying our bill, in comes the chef with the recipe for the sauce on the fish. He had printed it out for us from the kitchen computer.

There was a chill in the California air and we were tired after a long day of travel, sightseeing, and good food as we strolled back to our hotel. Despite all my reservations about Los Angeles, it was a great start to our vacation.

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