Seaside dining on the California coast
Mar'sel Restaurant is the fine-dining option at the luxurious Los Angeles-area retreat Terranea Resort. The name Mar'sel comes from the Spanish word for sea, mar, and the French word for salt, sel. So, it's no surprise that you find a beautiful mesh of the two cuisines and a good dose of Southern California flair.
While the food may be upscale, it's not at all stuffy here. The warm, inviting space opens up to the sea and, so as long as the weather behaves, you can dine alfresco on white linen while overlooking the roaring Pacific Ocean. The restaurant caters to those here for the view — when the temperature gets a bit nippy, guests are offered cozy wraps and the outside heaters are fired up. Guests can also eat inside the lovely hexagonal main room, too, cuddled up in one of the plush cream and red striped chairs.
Chef Bernard Ibarra hales from the French side of Basque Country and you see his cultural influences popping up on the menu here and there. Many of the ingredients Ibarra incorporates come from the resort's own farm, including Meyer lemons, fresh herbs picked that day, farm-fresh eggs, salt from the Pacific Ocean and honey harvested from the resort’s own hives.
Because the focus of the food is local, the menu is mostly seasonal. One night guests may feast on a whole roasted Jidori chicken with forged mushrooms and Brussels sprouts, and on another steamed black bass with melted leeks or even squid from local waters. Mar’sel also sources some choice eats outside of California, like the Hawaiian kampachi, New Zealand John Dory and smoked Spanish octopus. Vegetable options change frequently, but have included celery root risotto with black truffle, sesame glazed carrots with mole and red quinoa, and cardoons from a local farm served with a decedent Gruyere béchamel. And for those looking to really cap off the evening in luxury, a slice of the Valrhona chocolate tart with salted-caramel ice cream will do the trick — the decadent treat has gold sprinkled on top.
Sunday brunch is a luxurious affair at the fine-dining restaurant. You can start the meal with a plate of fresh West Coast oysters and a basket of just-baked pastries to go with coffee and Italian mimosas, a sparkling drink made with Galliano liqueur, pineapple juice and prosecco. In the mood for sweets? Go for the brioche French toast, a dish that comes with Nutella, caramelized banana and marshmallow cream. Want something savory? The shrimp Benedict with Old Bay hollandaise is rivaled only by the housemade pork sausage with a pickled papaya salad.
Plenty of California vinos make up most of the menu and you can sip a glass of Schramsberg’s Blanc de Blancs Brut with just about anything. The range of international wines is solid, too, including Mark Haisma 2011 Gevrey-Chambertin Grand Cru and Cloudy Bay 2013 Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand. Choose your own wine adventure or have the expert sommelier do the pairing for you. You can also opt for a nice crisp beer made locally, or one of the many craft cocktails the mixologists create at the bar.