An impromptu business lunch brought me to Cafe del Rey yesterday, where I had not dined in at least three years. A new chef, friendly staff, and a room under renovation by new ownership greeted us. And that Marina view. I was informed that my Cafe Club Dining Points card was still good but good luck in finding that. (Or the $25 gift certificates that were never redeemed.) I scanned the menu quickly and it looked very intriguing with an array of seafood, meat, sandwiches, etc. I opted for the day's special bento box which was not served in a bento box at all but on a nice set of four square China plates that included a good Caesar salad, a selection of three sushi (tuna, salmon and Yellowtail), three tasty BBQ pork ribs over buttery Fingerling potatoes, and a crunchy vegetable roll with Ponzu. It concluded with a fifth selection-a nice small slice of lemon meringue pie. All for $19. I tried an interesting decaf Republic of Tea ginger peach iced tea that came in its own bottle which I liked but would try other flavors next time. The tea was $4.95 and produced three full glasses. The other two I was with had sand dabs and a salmon salad substituted with shrimp which they liked a lot. I was a guest so I did not see what the total bill came to but I would gladly go back on my own.
Later that eveing, as I was watching the Kerrys on Larry King, with a plate of yummy Green Hill Red Skin Potato Salad from Costco, a friend called who was finishing a late board meeting in Century City, asking if I wanted to meet for a snack and a drink. Twist my arm. And some jazz. Jazz?! Okay. Well, I suggested Lunaria since he was in CC and I was on the Westside. I hadn't been in years and didn't really remember it other than going to hear a friend of a friend sing in the bar one night. I arrived first about 10pm as a trio was just breaking. There were a couple of tables finishing up and two guys at the bar. You have to make your way through an empty dining room to the bar/lounge area where I was greeted by a nice maitre'd who informed me of an $8 cover charge. Not knowing if my friend would want to stay I told him I'd wait and sat near the valet area. When he arrived I told him the situation and we agreed to try Vibrato at the top of Beverly Glen. I did't think the $8 cover exorbitant, just odd for an empty room.
We turned the corner and headed up Beverly Glen and arrived at Vibrato at 10:35pm. Wow! Let me say that again. Wow! We parked ourselves in the one common area lot although valet was available. (An irony because although Lunaria was virtually empty between permit parking and limited street parking, the valet was the only option.)
We walked in to a room and bar that were sixty percent filled and to the sounds of a great jazz trio headed by Pat Senatar on bass. The layout is such that you immediately take in the bar, front desk, dining room and stage all at once. The hostess at the desk (turned out to be the manager, Elizabeth) greeted us
warmly informing us that we could take a table or sit at the bar but that the kitchen had closed other than for desserts. She added that if we called by 10:15pm next time she'd ask them to stay open a little longer.
We opted for the bar and music was playing almost the entire time we were there which was just under an hour. We ordered a glass of Parker pinto noir ($8) and Howell Mt. zinfandel ($15) and a delicious apple and lingonberry pie with Dr. Bob's buttermilk ice cream ($8) from Mary who was equally hospitable. There was no cover charge! And the bread sticks on the bar were the best nosh since Sona's grissini. The menu reads American chophouse and very enticing. Given the impact of the room and the accompanying jazz, the pricing is definitely reasonable. As we left, Elisabeth said good night and we knew we had been in good hands. Can't wait to go back to this one!