Le Cellier of Marina del Rey is a restaurant and wine bar essential to the culinary landscape of Los Angeles.
With the happy marriage of French and Vietnamese cuisine, one can sit down to expect food rich in color, crisp with freshness, with the core of farm-to-table and sustainable meats and ingredients, and heart and soul that is eminent in both owner Hiep Le and chef and general manager Bernard Louberssac.
You can’t help but feel at home the minute you enter. The interior is visually stunning with a clear feng shui theme present in the grass wall upon entry, a cork board wall behind the tables, a mirror above the bar facing away from the door, bamboo tables and bar panels, the openness of the restaurant itself, and two paintings reminiscent of flowing water.
We were greeted the moment our hands opened the door by Le and Louberssac, and the meal to follow was anything but ordinary. We began the meal with a few starters and a glass of bubbles. We chose between a combination of in-house specialties and a few daring alternatives and I ordered the “Je T’Aime” Crement Ros/, which is lovely.
The starters included:
La lot fingers of minced lamb with ginger sauce:
The lamb is tightly wrapped in what looks like black seaweed and Louberssac himself came out to prepare it by pouring the minced garlic and ginger sauce over it just so. The lamb is firmly cooked and the ginger softens the taste of the meat. In this dish I can taste the French influence in how the lamb is cooked.
Grilled marinated shrimp in lemongrass and dry white wine:
The shrimp is a delicate balance of lemongrass with a garlic butter dipping sauce that exemplifies how shrimp should be prepared. A prime example of a beautiful fusion, the lemongrass sifts through the shrimp flawlessly.
Assortment of cheeses: goat cheese, blue cheese, soft cheese, hard cheese, Vietnamese five spiced creamy cheese:
The cheese plate is pleasantly predictable and reliable until you taste the in-house creation of the Vietnamese five spice creamy cheese. Made with marscapone creamed cheese, goat cheese with dried green peppercorn and lemongrass mixed in, it is topped with finely strewn kaffir lime leaves and tumeric – exquisite!
Onto the larger bites:
Le Cellier vegetarian tartine:
Made with caviar of eggplant, caramelized onion, seared tofu, sun dried tomato and topped with fresh mint leaves, this tartine is placed in between a beautiful loaf of French baguette and is absolutely delicious! It’s a testament to vegetarian cuisine that isn’t dull or bland. Louberssac explained that in Vietnamese cooking, there is always an added herb or spice to give a dish an extra texture. The mint really does make this sandwich refreshing.
Sauteed Red River “Mekong Delta” fish in tumeric:
Delta fish prepared with saut/ed onions, bacon, fresh baby dill, tumeric served with a bowl of cold rice noodles. One of Le Cellier’s signature offerings, this dish is colorful and bright in flavor with well balanced ingredients that are delicately cooked. Coupled with the rice noodles – it has a unique texture and taste.
I finished with the Vietnamese espresso – a coffee that takes 20 minutes to brew, made with condensed milk, topped with whipped cream and a vanilla-like syrup. Incredibly sweet – a coffee described as one you “eat your way out of one spoonful at a time.” It’s definitely worth trying.
The food at Le Cellier is fresh and beautiful and the story is apparent in each dish. While there are still countless things I cannot wait to try, among which is the infamous Pho, the passion behind the food and its concept is what I find myself most drawn to. The culture, the subtle influences coming together and the emphasis on color and texture, makes this a cuisine that fits perfectly in Los Angeles.
I encourage more of you to explore new foods. Opening up your palate and tasting new things opens up the world around you and in the end, it only enhances the experience.
*Note: Louberssac offers four different tasting flights from wine to beer and monthly events are scheduled.
417 Washington Blvd. Marina del Rey
Hours: Mon-Sun 11:30 a.m. – 3 p.m., 5 – 10:30 p.m.