It’s easy to get caught up in L.A.’s urban hamster wheel, so every now and then, it’s nice to jump off and find something new. Terranea recently invited me to the ritzy cliff-top community of Ranchos Palos Verdes to experience Mar’sel, the new resort’s signature restaurant. Mar’sel’s patio offered stunning views, revitalizing seaside air and a high-end meal that was even more satisfying than the similarly appointed Studio, minus the obscene price tag.
In June, Destination Hotels & Resorts opened Terranea in the former home of Marine Land, a primitive precursor to Sea World that closed in 1987. Terranea features a number of more casual dining options on the spectacular resort’s 102 acres, but Mar’sel is their culinary beacon, named for the mar (sea) and sel (salt). Chef de Cuisine Michael Fiorelli is “guided by principles of sustainability” and showcases modern California cuisine using seasonal ingredients, including herbs that are grown out in garden boxes near the restaurant’s entrance.
During dinner, we spotted a blue whale offshore. Manager Neil Hedin said it’s common to spot dolphins. Dozens of people walked past on the clifftop walkway, and there was a constant view of Catalina Island in the distance.
According to our waiter, Julie Wood developed the SIGNATURE COCKTAILS list before moving to Mendocino. Now the resort-wide lists are ushered by sommelier Cameron Russell and bartender Blake Donaldson. It’s hard to say how the cocktails would have tasted during Wood’s tenure, but under Donaldson’s direction, both cocktails were wel -balanced, and the high-quality ingredients probably justified a $14-per-cocktail price tag. My favorite drink was the Ginger Peach, made with Woodford Reserve bourbon, fresh peaches, briottet crème de peche de vigne, fresh ginger and Fever-tree ginger ale. The spiciness of the ginger really accentuated the bourbon’s spice, and it was a nice touch to have a sweet peach garnish on the glass’ rim.
Blueberry Cucumber Caipirinha had a milder liquor in Sagatiba Cachaca (a Brazilian sugar cane liqueur), but packed more pop. The drink also hosted muddled blueberries and cucumbers, plus fresh lime. The drink had a good balance of sweetness and acidity.