Location: 14160 Palaway Way, Marina del Rey, CA 90292 310.439.3033
Date: March 25, 2011
Rating: Very creative, worth a trip, but needs a little tuning up
Vu is a new place in Marina Del Rey. While I lived there in 1997-1998 MDR was a bit of a culinary wasteland. It hasn’t exactly had a renaissance, but it is improving, and Vu is certainly an example of that. This place is nicely situated along the Marina with good views — sort of oddly tucked into the ground floor of some apartment or office building — and it’s got very novel and even somewhat molecular food. There’s a lot of ambition here on the menu, and I give them an A for effort. But they need to tune it up a bit to rich the heights possible with this sort of cuisine. In LA, the current molecular champ (and there aren’t many contenders) is The Bazaar, and it’s tasting room Saam. This type of cuisine originated in Spain, and you can see some native examples HERE or HERE.
The menu offers both extensive small plates (front) and a few entrees and desserts (back). As I’ve said again and again, I love the small plate format.
The bread is homemade cornbread, with jalapeño butter. I approve. As a partial southerner, I love cornbread, and this was a good example of type.
The drink menus. The wine was all California, which is hard for me, a dedicated European Wine lover.
““Reconstructed” Caprese Salad, balsamic-injected cherry tomatoes, basil-infused fresh mozzarella, red hawaiian sea salt, micro basil.” This was my wife’s favorite. A tad too much tomato for me (being a tomato hater). The texture was really neat though, almost like a merengue.
“Hamachi, bbq spice, collard green fluid gel, micro cilantro.” I was a bit disappointed with this dish. Maybe it needed a slightly better grade of fish, maybe more spice, but it didn’t have as much flavor as I would have expected.
“Grilled Cheese, toasted brioche, “midnight moon”, tomato jam, micro basil.” Overall nice. The sauce was very pomodoro sauce like. The cheese was maybe a bit tangy for the combo somehow, but good.
“Peas & Carrots, carrot noodles, pea puree, carrot chips.” The textures here were really neat (particularly the chips). The overall flavor was pleasant but very subtle and muted.
“Chicken-Fried Watermelon, pickled ring.” The fry here was great fry, and since you can fry anything it more or less worked. It was a little odd or surprising to bite into fry and get watermelon, but as I said, it was great fry.
“Lobster Tail, citrus, popcorn jello, fritos.” My favorite dish hands down. The raw lobster had a really nice texture, like raw scallop, and the crunchy crisp of the fritos really went nicely. Overall it showed off both the subtle lobster flavor and had a bit of zing (from the citrus I assume).
“Lamb “Lollipops” sweet tea poached, rosemary, roasted grape relish.” My second favorite. Very nice and meaty. Not a middle eastern lamb flavor as I might expected, but very tasty nonetheless.
“Buttermilk Panna Cotta, liquid nitrogen coke-a-cola, carbonated blackberries.” This was a little bit of a disappointment. I guess it should have been sweeter to my taste. The Panna Cotta itself was a little sour, like a yogourt and/or I expected the coke-a-cola topping to be VERY sweet to counter (it was instead subtle). The blackberries I loved. They had some serious zing. Overall it was pleasant, but it could have been great.
The view is, for the most part, very nice.
The menu here at Vu is really interesting and innovative. It has a good format (with lots of small plates) and is well priced. But I think the kitchen needs to tune things up a bit. I’m not exactly sure where the issue is, but the dishes were often just nice instead of wow — and it seemed they could be wow. It might be ingredients in a couple cases (like the Hamachi), or maybe it’s just a certain amount of zest or the ratios. The flavors were often a bit muted for my taste. It’s even possible that this is just a slightly flat execution by the kitchen (and the test recipes are good). This kind of cooking needs to really balance the flavors and have the whole thing jam through. Saam is a great example of this. At our tasting menu there a couple weeks ago, nearly every dish jumped off the plate and straight into your hind-brain.
But I very much applaud the effort, far too many restaurants churn out the same boring stuff. So I’ll check back again and see how things have developed.