The Chart House
13950 Panay Way
Marina del Rey, CA 90292
Holy Matrimoly, it’s Wedding Week! no. 5
This week, I have taken over as the Delicious family LA tourguide and shuttle for all relatives friends jetting in from across the country and around the world. Not only have I been to the airport and back, but I have been making various permutations of the West LA, LAX, Orange County triangle trip all week. I have done more time on the southern California freeway system during Wedding Week than I have all year. I live less than ten minutes from my work place. With friends in the Valley, the South Bay, and as far east as Pomona, dinner parties are usually at my house because I’m the most central to everyone. Even for dining out, the Westside has everything, so I don’t have to travel far. So, all this driving has been, hm, I can’t even express it in one word. I’ll try. Emotional? I have hit every single negative tick mark on the emotion scale. There have been a few positive ones, too. Like that little “Yesss!” when I can slip into the diamond lane that’s moving at 15 instead of 10 mph. Yesss.
But being the Super Shuttle for seven days is nothing compared to being...culinary tour guide. If there were an actual paying job called Your Destination’s Dining Tour Guide, I’d quit this so-called cubicle career and make the switch. I’d love to spend a half hour with you and talk about what you love to eat, your personality, the kinds of atmospheres that turn you on, then make reservations for three meals a day for you all over L.A. Would that not be the best job? Let me make three reservations for you, let me map them out for you, and you can send me a $500 check in the mail. No credit cards. LOL!
Yes, that most certainly would be a cool job if it paid, and if we get to pick cool places. But this is my family visiting from Korea for the wedding, who has particular parameters. Let’s go somewhere “nice.” Let’s try real American. Let’s overlook the ocean. And I almost choked on my double espresso when my Mom slipped in at the end...Can we stay near the airport? She continued twittering away in half Korean, half English, something about whether or not she should wear pantyhose at the wedding. I was “mm-hm”-ing at each pause after “Don’t you think?” but I wasn’t reallly paying attention to her voice on the other end of the line anymore. My mind was now racing, set off in a panic...LAX. Ocean view. All American. Oh. Mah. Gawd. Will we have to go to Marina Del Rey and eat at... the Cheesecake Factory?!?!
Options that overlook the ocean aren’t impossible to find, but finding a restaurant that tastes as great as the view are few and far between. From Malibu to Santa Monica there are plenty of places, of course all questionable with respect to taste, like Gladstone’s, i Cugini, and even Ivy at the Shore. But near the airport? Could I convince my parents that Santa Monica is just a short hop up from the airport? Could I just innocently say, “Oops, did you mean LAX specifically?” Santa Monica has an airport, too.
Welcome to the tour: Thankfully, we didn’t end up at the Cheesecake Factory, especially since you can’t make reservations. You just have to show up, not stray too far beyond the pager’s range, and hope that by some miracle of God, your pocket vibrates and lights up long before the estimated hour and a half wait time. I’m immune to it now, but subject our relatives who we see maybe once every 10 years, and who just endured a 15-hour flight from Korea to an hour and a half of Dad lecturing on, oh, I don’t know all the problems and inefficiencies of American restaurants? I’m not that cruel. No, we made a reservation at the Chart House.
The Chart House fits Mom’s requirements to a tee. Marina Del Rey is just a few minutes from LAX up Lincoln Boulevard and through a couple of twists and turns around the boats. It’s right there, overlooking the Marina; facing West, the sky is all shades of pink and purple. Inside, there isn’t any sort of identifiable interior decor other than nautical accents and seascape pictures on the wall that indicate that this place is definitely on the water. Tables are covered with white cloths and the dining room is lit mostly by the sunset outside and small candles on the tables. It’s what parents would call “nice.”
If you look out the right side of the shuttle: As we followed the hostess through the sizeable dining room, I wasn’t surprised that it was still fairly empty, since we are eating at 6 pm. Who the hell eats dinner at 6 pm? We do, as well as a tweed-jacketed grandfather and his silver-haired wife (there must be a senior’s early bird special here), two Captains in Hawaiian shirts and enormous gold accessories having cocktails, and some others. We all sat down around the table that was right up against the window. What an amazing view.
Even though she and I were the only ones who were going to have any, Mom ordered a bottle of wine. No wonder I love this woman! And since she is the woman who gave me birth, I forgive her for choosing Chardonnay. ;) A happy little *cheers* and we took a peek at the Chart House's very all-American surf n’ turf menu. If restaurants were still classified as such, the Chart House would most definitely be “Continental Cuisine,” exactly what Dad would label quintessential Peter Jennings. Mostly grilled fish and steaks, chicken, and sides like baked potatoes, steamed vegetable of the day, and rice pilaf. Rice pilaf? Isn’t that from the box of instant rice with the trolley and Golden Gate Bridge on the front of it?
And now look out the left side: It wasn’t rice pilaf that made me gulp my first glass of chardonnay and reach for the bottle, though. It was what I saw under the Soups and Salads: “The Chart House Salad Bar.” I looked up and to my left. Lo and behold in an alcove, circling like sharks, diners were attacking the salad bar. The Chart House has a salad bar, lit with a hanging lamp overhead like the pool table in the basement rec room, sneezeguards and all. Not even the Olive Garden has a salad bar. Suddenly that Chardonnay was tasting damn good.
lt="The Chart House, Marina Del Rey - Snapper Hemingway" src="http://photos1.blogger.com/img/98/3385/640/CH_fish.jpg" width="200" />
Everyone ordered something different because the expectation is that everyone gets to taste everyone else’s dish. I think it has to do with being Korean. Even though there is one piece of meat, a scoop of rice pilaf, and a few steamed vegetables on the plate, we pass it around like it’s a platter of Kung Pao Chicken. It’s only mildly inconvenient that Chart House doesn’t have lazy Susans on their tables. LOL! Dad smacks his menu down on the table in front of him, proclaims that he is ordering the sole, and as he tucks his napkin into the top of his pants, proceeds to explain the various classes of flatfish that include sole, halibut, and flounder. I ordered the snapper, so incredibly American that it’s called the Snapper Hemingway. Snapper is not in the same family as sole, so I think I am safe.
First and last stop: Chart House was first rice pilaf, then the salad bar, but when the orders came to the table, the Chart House became....garnish. Every plate was simply and cleanly presented, but had a garnish of parsley. Not just parsley parsley, but curly parsley. A little afro of Denny’s Moons Over My Hammy curly parsley! I usually prefer food without unnecessary adornments, but I can tolerate garnishes if they appropriately add to the overall taste of the dish, like basil chiffonade over pasta. Even if they don’t add to the overall taste of the dish, garnishes should at least be edible, like a fancy pulled sugar decoration on a dessert. Curly parsley not only does not add to the overall flavor of the dish, but it is not edible. Oh, okay, I know it’s edible, but so are the shrubbery clippings from the weekend’s yardwork. Curly parsley for garnish. *sigh* Now where's that Chardonnay?!?
Snapper was encrusted with parmesan cheese and cracker crumbs and topped with a buttery lump crabmeat sauce. Right away, Mom plucked up the lumps and ate them to rescue me from crab. The parmesan crust was crisp but reminded me too much of tha tennis ball canister of shake n' bake. The fish was flaky, but as was the case for everything else on the plate, lacking in interesting flavor other than butter and salt. Butter isn’t bad, and neither is salt, but not as the only flavors on the food. Dad liked the cheesy crust enough to hold back from launching into another chapter of Everything Comes from China. *phew*
The food had been okay - not bad enough that we were still hungry, but not good enough to trust dessert. We finished up after a scoop of ice cream for Dad and coffee for everyone else. I noticed that the restaurant had gone from mostly empty around Dad’s ice cream scoop, to almost packed as we walked out the front door. Oddly huge influx in such a short period of time. When we stepped outside to wait for the valet, I saw. Two charter buses, parked out front, had just dropped off an entire tour group of Italians, eager to dine on classic American seafood and experience California’s coast. Their tour guide had brought them to the Chart House! Wow, just like us.