REVIEW CONTINUED FROM PREVIOUS PAGE
We repeatedly saw the sommelier circulating around the patio. Strangely, he didn’t once stop at our table, so we were on our own to navigate the sprawling wine list. The section that jumped out at me was devoted to BIODYNAMIC, ORGANIC, SUSTAINABLE, a healthy 21 bottle selection that’s designed to help “ensure that future generations will be able to enjoy them as well.” The glass of 2007 La Vendimia Rioja was a pretty good match for the peach and duck salumi appetizer, with a nice berry sweetness.
My first choice typically involves an ingredient I haven’t heard of, if possible. As a result, my appetizer was the Crudo of Pacific Hiramasa ($17), a silky pink fish that also goes by yellowtail amberjack. Each slice was paired with a different salt – British, Australian Maldon, medium grey flake and black Hawaiian lava. Unfortunately the British salt was swamped with California olive oil, so it was hard to get the flavor, but the salts were all unique. Each slice of fish also sported a sweet cube of Ruby Bliss watermelon and a spicy disc of Fresno chile.
Grilled Sugarlip Peaches ($16) were sweet and absolutely of-the-moment, paired in a good salad with rich cross-sections of duck salami, bitter dandelion greens, a shower of crushed Marconas and razor-thin shavings of Manchego.
“Vitello Tonnato” ($34) was a novel play on the classic Italian dish, involving two massive cuts of ruby-red ahi wrapped in whisper-thin prosciutto. The silky fish came with a juicy torpedo of breaded, pan-fried sweetbread, a rich medallion of ricotta pudding and minced eggplant caponata. This was a very good entrée with more than enough points of excitement, but it couldn’t compete with the devastating Wagyu ribeye cap.
Grilled Mishima Ranch Wagyu Ribeye Cap ($42) featured the well-marbled top part of the ribeye. The luscious meat was marinated in a blend of soy, salt, pepper and a little bit of cumin, then grilled until it sported a great char. Nothing else on the plate matters when beef is this exceptional, but we also received an oozing creamed chard tortelloni and Alex’s baby carrots served “Sicilian lifeguard style,” which I guess means roasted with a liberal helping of golden raisins.
The entrees were outstanding, particularly the ribeye, but there was major falloff with our desserts. Greek Yogurt Panna Cotta ($11) was tangy and creamy enough, but the rosemary shortbread base was soggy. There was no textural contrast on the plate. That Calmyrna fig in the amuse bouche was jammy and sweet, but these black Mission figs weren’t even ripe, and there was so little pistachio coulis that it barely registered.
Mar’sel’s Lemon Olive Oil Cake ($11) wasn’t as much of a letdown as the panna cotta, but it was basically just an unnecessarily complicated strawberry shortcake. The marinated strawberries were sweet, but the cake wasn’t moist enough, and the almond milk ice cream wouldn’t have tasted richer (and better) with cow’s milk.
To finish, we received two good mignardises: chocolate éclair and tart green apple.
By the time our meal ended, it was dark out, but we still explored the grounds of the resort, walking past the multiple pools and down to the beach along a moonlit path. In the distance we could see the mouth of a sea cave, but it was too dark to traverse the rocks safely. Next time, it would be great to make a day of it, get to Terranea in the afternoon, park in one of the free lots and wander down the clifftop paths to build up an appetite for another dinner at Mar’sel. As manager Neil Hedin said, “It’s an hour away, but it’s like a vacation.”
ABC’s “The Bachelor” Ties the Knot at Terranea
March 9, 2010 at 10:38 PM
[…] I haven’t had a chance to check out any of the dining options there. Back in September, Josh of Food GPS did a review of Mar’sel and had me eager to check the place out. Now after seeing the display on “The Bachelor”, […]