I knew ahead of time that Keith and I wouldn’t have too many chances to meet up with my friends while we were in LA, so when Amee told me that she was free for dinner on Thursday night, we immediately started looking around for places to eat. We had arranged to stay in Manhattan Beach, an area that I’m completely unfamiliar with; for that reason we chose The Del in Playa del Rey, pretty much a straight shot from our hotel.
From the outside, The Del looks, as Amee described it, like a lodge, with its ivy covered exterior and chocolate-colored beams. We expected to walk in and see mounted deer heads and moose antlers on the walls; instead in interior is modern and spare. The bar is dark and moody, with crazy wallpaper that made me think that a Jackson Pollack wannabe went a little wild with a paintbrush. The dining rooms are done in gray and cream, with wainscoting and washed wood tables, and for some reason have prints of propeller plans spaced evenly above each banquette.
Keith and I arrived early, so we sat at the bar to have a drink while we waited. The bartender was friendly enough, but looked confused with Keith requested a Sazerac; he quickly switched to a Manhattan on the rocks. Before I ordered, I asked if the bartender could make a Kir Royale, but when she confirmed the components — “Cassis, right?” — I should have taken her crinkled nose as a sign of something… because I ended up with a Chambord and Champagne. I don’t recommend it.
I had higher hopes for the dining room, not that I had any reason to aside from optimism. I decided to make a meal out of appetizers with the sippin’ summer shrimp ceviche ($9.00) with lime juice and avocado wedges, and the caramelized onion tarte tatin ($8.00) with warm goat cheese, a balsamic glaze and Minus 8 vinegar. Our server mentioned that the appetizers would be on the small size, but filling, especially since Amee, Keith and I would be sharing an appetizer of calamari as well. Keith and Amee ordered an entrée each; Keith also got an appetizer of his own.
Once our food started arriving, the weirdness began.
My appetizers — my meal — got to the table before anything else. I didn’t expect my plates to come before our shared appetizer, and I certainly didn’t want to start eating my dinner before Amee and Keith even received theirs.
Next to arrive was Keith’s appetizer; it was several minutes until the calamari was placed before us. At that point, I started picking at my ceviche and my tarte, neither of which were anything to write home about. I’ve never made either, but I’m certain I could have thrown together that tarte, which was pretty much just a mound of goat cheese layered upon a pile of caramelized onions and spooned into a shell. The ceviche tasted like Spicy Hot V8, which shrimp and avocado tossed in, so I bet could’ve whipped that up too… not that I would ever want to.
I was still hungry at this point, so I added to my meal with another appetizer — buttered littleneck clams ($10.00) served with vegetable pearls, chorizo and celery. It also arrived before Keith and Amee’s entrées.
Soon after, their meals came to the table… except Keith hadn’t finished his starter yet. I don’t think he had even gotten a chance to taste the calamari. The runner just set the plate down at Keith’s elbow and walked away.
(A few brief words on the littlenecks: overly salty, and where’s the chorizo?)
Amee had barely taken the first bite of her burger when our server approached the table… to ask if we wanted to take a look at the dessert menu. At first I thought it was a joke, but our server was way too earnest to engage in any sort of fooling around. When we explained that we weren’t even remotely ready for dessert, he said he just wanted to know since he was leaving for the evening. Now, having not worked in a restaurant before, I’ve always wondered how things such as servers’ shifts are handled. However it is done, I doubt it is normally like this. I mean, we were surrounded by empty plates, the wreckage of my clams and Keith’s untouched pork. Who would be considering dessert at that moment?
All in all, it was a pretty ridiculous evening, from the bartender to the scheduling of the food to the offering of the dessert menu. I don’t know if I’ll be in Playa del Rey any time soon, but I can say for sure that I won’t be making another stop at The Del.
119 Culver Boulevard
Playa Del Rey, California 90293