Pretentious. Overrated. Overpriced. You know, typical new-money Malibu. I sat down at Marmalade Cafe and perused the menu with so many assumptions in mind.
I was in for quite a surprise with the Lobster & Shrimp Linguine. No frills, just a simple, al dente dish; a generous, heaping bowl of lobster cream-coated pasta with a hint of tomato-tang and sweet shellfish chunks. Simple and straightforward, but wow, it tasted GOOD.
The Grilled Lamb T-Bone Steaks were a lot less good. Thick cuts of lamb, doused in a salty, murky brown sauce dripped dark rivers down a sticky "pappardelle", which was just a swimming vegetable mess. The lamb itself was cooked well, but nothing else turned out well in this dish.
Couldn't get enough of the linguine, despite the lamb. The El Segundo location makes it the exact same, and I got it with a side of Pineapple Upside-Down Pancake with salted caramel butter for brunch. Fluffy, cake-like, with big pineapple chunks. More gimmick than authentic, but still tastes amazing.
I expected a lot of ego at Marmalade Cafe, along with a pretentious, overrated air of self-importance, but it turns out to have none of these qualities, and I am a jerk. They have several chains, and the food and service seem consistent. Not so innovative, but their classics are good, and they have a multi-page, multi-faceted menu so that every picky eater in your party can have something they like. With all those tasty options, they just might be SoCal's much-better Cheesecake Factory.