Restaurant Review #1: ZaZen, Marina Del Rey (now closed)

ZaZen's sleek decor, creative (sort of) dishes with raw fish, and very red interior lend it the trappings of trendiness, but its not-happening-enough location on the Venice pier and the large TV screen prevent it from being truly so. This is the type of place that the hopelessly hip go for a nice date, where the boy barely disguises his greater interest in the game while the girl wonders why her prettiness isn't enough to draw all his attention to her. I'm not a fan of trendy restaurants, and the place that tries and fails at trendiness doesn't make me any happier.

Their extensive drink list features a number of special concoctions guaranteed to knock you off your feet rather quickly--which makes sense, since the atmosphere screams pop seduction. Since I'm not much of a drinker, I always appreciate an actual drink list to prevent me from ordering something embarrassing (but tasty!) like an amaretto sour. Of course, who's to say that tried-and-true girlie drinks are any less embarrassing than the latest trendy martini?

The food is interesting and pretty good, though sushi purists won't find much to appreciate. After all, the menu is yet another Nobu wannabe: Latin-influenced raw fish. But that's fine for lots of people.

I went on a Monday night, and the restaurant was nearly empty, but hey, it was Monday. Based on the atmosphere, it strikes me as more of a weekend night, pre-club type of place. The thing is, ZaZen is clearly not a place of culinary or aesthetic inspiration. It's very LA in its imitation of supposed hipness. But if that's you, then there's no reason you won't enjoy ZaZen, and though it's not me, I'd much rather be dragged here before a night of dancing than to El Cholo.

Parking on the pier is difficult, so you'll probably want to valet it for $5. The valet, which serves the entire pier, is on the slow side.

30 Washington Blvd
Marina Del Rey, CA 90292
(310) 305-4010

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