Marina del Rey foodies rejoiced when they finally got a proper seafood restaurant in their hood with the opening of Paiche. Then they were sad when it closed with Ricardo Zarate's departure. Would Marina del Rey remain a restaurant desert, filled with chain only locales? Meanwhile, equally sad were the Venice neighbors to the North that had also recently lost Jason Neroni at Superba. Luckily there was a chef shuffle that ended up working out in this situation. We lost Zarate, but gained Jason Neroni and a new Marina del Rey seafood restaurant, Catch and Release.
The vibe is now even more casual with beachy wood chairs, painted bright red. The room is very open with indoor - outdoor space, but you're really always indoors. It's all covered, but your technically outside if you're near the window. Just sit by the window and try and not get into a detailed conversation with the host about it.
The bar greets diners as they walk into Catch and Release, and one should not pass without partaking in one of the fun cocktails designed by LA's main mixologist, Julian Cox.
My dining companion was making a second visit with me and was hoping the "Surf Report” cocktail was as good as she first remembered. Plymouth gin, cucumber, mint, lime, dry vermouth, anisette and “salt air” make up the Surf Report. The "salt air" is an emulsion made to look like a little surf dome on top of the drink, and it lends a nice saltiness to the sweeter components beneath. It is indeed worth a return visit, but we were also fans of the Wicked Pissah, containing bourbon, honey, gingerbread liqueur, amaro, and lemon. It was well balanced, smokey and delicious.
Similar to Cimarusti's inspiration for seafood shack Connie and Ted's in West Hollywood, Neroni spent time digging the fresh seafood in Maine in the summer, and hence Catch and Release was born. Those summers included the classic lobster roll and he hits the nail on the head here with his rendition. The Parker roll is as buttery and rich as you want it, offset with a nice sweetness from Duke's mayo and large chunks of tarragon, lemon tossed lobster. Neroni's lobster roll could easily go head to head to Cimarusti's lobster roll, and I'd lean towards Neroni's.
We were lucky to dine the night salmon tartare was added to the menu. The Asian influence of sesame and soy gave it a nice zing and the bright avocado mousse that dotted the top brought everything together. Winner.
Caramelized brussels sprouts and broccolini, sure it's been done, but it's done well here with a nice hit of salty parmesan in every bite.
The white striped sea bass is beautiful prepared with meaty rancho gordo and a black kale pesto and white wine shellfish broth. The waiter said it could hold up to a red wine, and he was right. It was rich and filling.
Neroni always does beautiful pastas and his dungeness crab spaghettini is as rich and delicious as some of his best at Superba. Sadly, we were full after snacking on all of the above with mounds of Old Bay dusted fries, so we passed on dessert. Expect the New England classic whoopie pies, brown butter zeppole nuggets and strawberry shortcake.
Westsiders are happy to have Neroni back in the kitchen. He'll also be making another showing in Venice with the opening of Rose in September. Stay tuned!
Catch and Release
13488 Maxella Avenue, Marina del Rey