Le Cellier Opens in Marina del Rey, California

The French-Vietnamese gastro pub emphasizes social dining

Le Cellier's French-Vietnamese menu consists of small plates meant for sharing.

Nestled in the middle of a mid-century high-rise building in Marina Del Rey, Calif., and hidden behind ebony-stained French doors is Le Cellier, a gastro pub by Hiep Thi Le of China Beach Bistro. Le Cellier stocks a selection of Terroir Estate wines and microbrewery beers that are paired with Vietnamese-inspired small plates meant for sharing.

Potential pairings include Vietnamese five-spiced filet mignon with port wine and watercress with Chateau Pontoise Cabarrus 2005 Bordelais from Haut Medoc and bone-in New York steak with green peppercorn sauce with Meola Vineyard’s "Venezia," a powerful 2008 cabernet sauvignon.

The seasonal menu is Le’s re-exploration of the unique flavors of French-Vietnamese cuisine that blend the use of raw herbs in Vietnamese cooking with the robust flavors of country French cooking.

"We wanted a place that showcased and allowed people in the neighborhood an opportunity to explore the world of microbrewery and wine without the intimidation factor or going through the necessary trappings," said Le.

"I immediately thought of French-Vietnamese cuisine which I grew up with when in the projects in Oakland. My mother spent many years at one of the best French-Vietnamese establishments in the Bay Area and we made do with leftovers from the restaurant, always constantly reinventing and refreshing the meals, tweaking them to our own experiences in America," said Le.

Le’s "schooling" in finer fare came when she was given the opportunity to dine in the world’s top restaurants in France and Japan when she was cast in the lead role of Oliver Stone’s Vietnam War trilogy feature Heaven and Earth.

"It opened my eyes, and my palate, to what could be and instantly brought back memories," said Le.

At Le Cellier, a 40-foot water dragon kite ambles and weaves its way through Jacobean stained wood-beamed chandeliers, the walls are made of cork and artificial grass, and a Pietra Gray bar countertop runs the length of the restaurant.

Specialty drinks include berry sangria and cucumber ginger sparkling cocktails. While the menu changes with the seasons, certain staples are ever present like the charcuterie plate, which comes in two distinct forms, French or Vietnamese, and a cheese platter filled with Vietnamese cheese. The bar food is a medley of French-Vietnamese tapas suitable for a healthy lunch or a quick bite over wine or a full meal.