Monday, April 21, 2008

Jer-ne: The Ritz Carlton, Marina Del Rey

It was my mother's birthday on Sunday so I took the family out for Jer-ne's Sunday Champagne Brunch. We got to the hotel/restaurant early so I started snapping photos of family as well as the decor of The Ritz and Jer-ne. I snapped two test-shots (checking exposure settings) of Jer-ne before the manager came over to introduce herself. Apparently she needed to get me permission from PR to take photos of Jer-ne. She even asked me if I was here with anybody. I'm like...dude. It's my mother's birthday. She then assured me that pictures of people are fine.

Brunch started promptly at 11am and every station was ready to go. My legs gave out when I walked past the dessert station, but I pressed on and moved towards the seafood. Selections at Jer-ne are pretty impressive.
Featured seafood included:
1) a really good smoked salmon, shrimp, crab claws
2) this delectable flaky pastry of salmon/spinach/?/dried apricots
3) awesome seared ahi-tuna (w/ a seaweed salad tossed with sesame seeds n oil) that would make any restaurant proud
4) shrimp ceviche comparable to what I had at Bluefin.
5) well seasoned trout
6) slices of (poached?) salmon topped with two different types of caviar. Looks pretty, but I've never liked caviar.
I forgot to mention a few, but you get the idea. Every item was well prepared. My mother and I both especially enjoyed the light pastry, where flavors were very well balanced. My brother, who always makes it a point to order seared ahi tuna if a restaurant offers it, went a little loco with the ahi tuna. He gave it a thumbs-up. I was pleasantly surprised by the crab claws, which were flavorful and didn't have that mushy texture like the ones found in Vegas buffets.

If you're wondering why this post has no pictures, it's because the manager never did go talk to PR and politely asked me to stop taking pictures two times. A grandpa with a D200 near my table was in a similar bind as well. Surprisingly, the manager didn't even react to the Asian touristy looking man with a point and shoot snapping shots left and right. Seriously, what gives? This feels like Disneyland all over again where I made a real scene with security guards concerning photography. Yeah you Facebook friends remember that story. ;) Anyway, prepare yourself for a long picture-less post if you decide to press on...*

I skipped the omelet and eggs benedict stations in favor of more interesting fare. My brother did get the omelet, however, and said it was "alright". It looked good, but we make some pretty crazy omelets at home. What? Like its hard? My only complaint would be the lack of ingredients available at the omelet station, though the basic items are all covered. Las Brisas in Laguna Beach (family favorite before it sold out) tops Jer-ne in this regard.

Sushi is available next to the omelet station, but it was really nothing to write home about. Featured rolls were the usual California, spicy tuna, and some shrimp rolls. I was able to see the "itamae's" stores of ingredients and I was pretty impressed. Nothing but fresh sushi-grade fish and shrimp. I didn't expect them to serve sketchy fish like at Todai and other seafood buffets, but it's always nice to check.

Pastries, hot breakfast items, omelet/waffle/sushi stations.

Every item was great until now, but biggest disappointment was the waffles. I don't understand how Jer-ne could screw this up. The batter was just too thick and the resulting waffle ends up like a gridded pancake. I saw several plates of unfinished waffles as I made my rounds. They tasted perfectly fine, but it was just the texture that was off. A pat of butter, mixed berries, whipped cream, and The Ritz's packaged maple syrup totally redeemed it though. I just pretended I was eating a stack of crispy pancakes. By the way, the maple syrup is top notch, so don't be shy to bring home a few bottles. I took three. It's that good!

Other hot breakfast foods included hearty thick-sliced maple bacon, sausage, and another kind of sausage(apple/pork?) tossed with 'taters and bell peppers. All three were amazing. It always brings a smile of wonder to my face when people are able to elevate simple/basic dishes to this caliber. I also had a big serving of biscuits and country sausage gravy. Holy crap that was good. The biscuits could have given Red Lobster a run for their money and the gravy was so thick and rich with bits of sausage floating around. I swear I could of eaten it like a chowder.

The coolest thing ever at this brunch was the caviar station, Jer-ne opens up three different cans of caviar: black sturgeon, salmon (yawn), and a golden caviar (whitefish?). Toasted bread and garnishes are available, of course. My mother's a big fan of fish roe, so naturally she was drawn to this station. I think I counted three visits. I only made one, and decided for the 100th time that caviar just isn't my thing.

Complementary champagne flowed freely throughout the course of brunch, but I also asked for coffee. Lemme tell ya, Jer-ne serves quite a good brew. I haven't had such good coffee in a long time. You can also order smoothies if ya want.

The dessert station offered passion fruit creme brulee, hot blue berry cobbler, chocolate and fruit tarts, various cakes, chocolates, mini eclairs, chocolate (dark and white) coated strawberries, god..the list goes on and on! I was already stuffed at this point and was unable to fully enjoy the desserts. Regardless, I powered through and was able to try most of them. My family gave me weird looks when I said that the creme brulee was too sweet. See, I'm the sugar lover in the family and usually what's fine for me is too sweet for the rest of them. Weird. So anyway, the tiramisu could use some improvement, while other items were very enjoyable even in my bloated, palate-fatigued state. Damn it! I still have yet to try out the cheeses...

Here's a picture of some of the smaller items I got:
Yeah. I really stuck it to The Man by taking this shot.

All in all, brunch at Jer-ne was pretty successful. There were still plenty of items I didn't get to try, including the hunk of juicy meat sitting at the carving station, potato gnocchi, bouillabaisse, a ton of dessert items, the various cheeses and breads, some seafood, etc. Though there were some shortcomings, the well prepared dishes totally made up for them. My favorite station at Jer-ne? Seafood. Hands down. Though maybe if I wasn't so stuffed by the end of the meal, I'd say Dessert. All the staff members were very professional and efficient. Finished plates were taken away and clean silverware placed without my noticing it. Champagne and coffee pot refills were also done without interrupting conversation. At one point, my mother stopped with her fork halfway to her mouth and asked me: "When did they refill my glass?" Beats me.

I only have two complaints for Jer-ne. First, the pastries (croissants, muffins, danishes, etc) were sub-par. Croissants weren't flaky enough, muffins were under-done, danishes were only so-so. Very disappointing. Second, what is up with that manager? I can understand policies against professional photography, but to shut down recreational photographers like me just doesn't make sense. Furthermore, that manager has one shitty attitude. She never did talk to PR, and when I confronted her (politely), she just brushed me off saying that she's really busy. Throughout the meal, she kept patrolling down the aisle next to my family's table without even giving me a nod or definitive answer about taking photos. The second time she politely told me to stop taking pictures was at my table. Whatever. My family had a good time, the food was great, champagne was plentiful, and the marina view was unbeatable. A run-in with management hardly puts a dent in such a perfect day.

*Sarah of The Delicious Life was able to snap some quick shots during her visit in '06. Check it out!

4375 Admiralty Way
Marina del Rey, CA 90292
(310) 823-1700


Darlene said...

Despite the lack of photos and pastries it does sound good.

I'm confounded by the strict photo policy. That has only happened once to me at Yogurtland in Irvine. But of course there was a 'no photography' sign on the window that I saw after I was told to git.

But this place is almost daring me to go and take photos, manager be damned.

Roger said...

I don't understand their photography policy either. Miss Delicious (Sarah @ The Delicious Life)herself was able to snap photos back in '06. From what I saw on Sunday, point-and-shoot cameras are okay but SLRs alarm the management. I don't see a difference either way.

Heh, if you do one day go, I hope you really stick it to The (wo)Man.

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