RVSD July/August 2013 : Page 90
the SAVORY 60 Neighborhood scenes are booming. Our farms and purveyors are the toast of the country. Restaurant openings are coming fast and furiously. And a few intrepid chefs are venturing out of their (ahem) comfort zones to push our fair city to its next level in dining. With talent popping up all over the place, we went far and wide to bring you, S.D., the freshest take yet! | By Amy Finley, GilliAn Flynn And CAron Golden | PhotoGrAPhy By roBert Benson, AndreA BriCCo And ethAn Pines | whAt to eAt now batter up pastry Chef Lori Sauer swings for the fences with her play on classic desserts at George’s California Modern.
The Savory 60
Amy Finley, Gillian Flynn And Caron Golden
Neighborhood scenes are booming. Our farms and purveyors are the toast of the country. Restaurant openings are coming fast and furiously. And a few intrepid chefs are venturing out of their (ahem) comfort zones to push our fair city to its next level in dining. With talent popping up all over the place, we went far and wide to bring you, S.D., the freshest take yet!<br /> <br /> 1 Tj oyster bar<br /> <br /> Serene turquoise walls mimic the two-man fishing boats of Baja, an homage to the rustic coastal traditions that animate this stylish new Bonita spot. Architect Gregory De Peña orchestrated the upgrade (the original bustling taco shop location is down the street), with a poured concrete bar, micheladas and fresh shucked oysters. The stingray machaca tostadas, killer fish tacos and Veracruz-style fish with chicharrones shouldn’t be missed. It’s casual fare for the cosmopolitan crowd. Tjoysterbar.com<br /> <br /> 2 Great Maple <br /> <br /> At this Hillcrest newcomer, Johnny Rivera creates a dinergone- dashing atmosphere that wouldn’t be out of place in a ’60s-era French caper flick. There’s a point of view at work here: that life can be both laid-back (Chicken croquettes! Poutine! Bratwurst and kraut on pretzel buns!) And stylish (a Modigliani-derived color scheme, refined Danish design details, hand-printed wallpapers). And a little a-go-go (cocktail carts, record players, doughnuts) certainly never hurt anybody. Thegreatmaple.com<br /> <br /> 3 Tadokoro sushi <br /> <br /> OK, no harikari for roll orderers. But edomae-style sushi is the star here at chef-owner “Take” Tadokoro’s pocket-sized sushi bar near Old Town. Inspired by the high-end restos of Tokyo’s Ginza district, his fish is of impeccable quality (much of it flown in from the Tskuji market) and best when enjoyed as sashimi or nigiri. Try the mackerel, served with its own crisp-fried skeleton, and for the love of Pete, make reservations. Sushitadokoro.com<br /> <br /> 4 Monello<br /> <br /> If Bencotto next door embodies classic, buttoned-up Italian prep, then Monello is a ride on the back of a vacation Vespa, blowing kisses. The new offering from Valentina and Guido, two style-oozing Milanese, has hand-cut pastas by Fabrizio Cavallini like its sister eatery, but then veers into Italian street food with thin-crust pizzas, inspired cheese plates and a selection of house-cured salumi.<br /> <br /> 5 Veladora <br /> <br /> Chef Eric Bauer might have been the greatest beneficiary of Rancho Valencia’s $30 million makeover. At Veladora, he has a suitably elegant setting for refined dishes like California lamb loin or pan-roasted scallops with a warm crab salad. Ranchovalencia.com<br /> <br /> Five sweet sPots<br /> <br /> 1 HerrinGbone <br /> <br /> Rachel King is the empress of the fabric empire, a pastry chef of such solid standing, she’s been handed the keys to the kingdom—O.C., Scottsdale, Austin, the world... Her Americana-with-a-wink desserts (like the Baked California at Herringbone, which visually riffs on the resto’s wall o’ pufferfi h) is the stuff of childhood memories, like the cinnamon sugar doughnuts at downtown’s Searsucker. Look for them on the menu in July when Burlap gets a swatch switch (Searsucker Del Mar!). Herringboneeats.com<br /> <br /> 2 GeorGe’s caliFornia <br /> <br /> Modern Lori Sauer holds her own at the La Jolla icon. Example? Deconstructed peach melba: honey wafers, raspberries and white peach sorbet. And oh, those doughnuts! Georgesatthecove.com<br /> <br /> 3 A. r. valentien <br /> <br /> We’re digging Jennifer Costa’s buttery-crusted mulberry galette at A.R. Valentien, a delicacy whose short season is par for the course at the Lodge at Torrey Pines resto. Like chef Jeff Jackson, the talented Guy Savoy alum uses only market-fresh ingredients, changing her menu constantly. Reason enough to make this a standing date. Arvalentien.com<br /> <br /> 4 SWoon dessert bar<br /> <br /> Apply a sushi bar’s showmanship and fine dining’s tweezers to a dessert-focused eatery and you get Swoon. Since its February opening, the North Park spot has developed a cult following, both in real life—packed seats, especially ringside watching Ian Smith work his magic with genre-bending ingredients like butter-braised radishes, bay leaf cheesecake or celery “dipping dots”—and on Instagram, where the Wine Vault & Bistro veteran’s picturesque desserts have a second life, passed along with many a #youhavetotrythis. Swoondessertbar.com<br /> <br /> 5 Cucina urbana <br /> <br /> Jack Fisher roasts peaches for goat’s milk panna cotta and tucks sweet Suzie’s Farm strawberries into tiramisu. When Cucina Enoteca opens in Flower Hill this summer, look out for his in-house cheese program. Remember when he was all about the molten chocolate cake? Neither do we. Cucinaurbana.com<br /> <br /> Resto ReBoot<br /> <br /> Encore! <br /> <br /> The anticipation was intense for avant, the new concept replacing Rancho Bernardo Inn’s hallowed El Bizcocho, which launched the impressive career of star chef Gavin Kaysen. Today, farmhouse wood swaps in for the white tablecloths, setting the stage for chef Nic Bour’s rustic cuisine. Charcuterie plates, quail deviled eggs and a mean steak tartare are standouts. The jury is out on the mustard on tap, but with Bour so downright affable, Avant is poised to be a crowd-pleaser (even among old-school fans missing Captain Bizcocho’s oil painting). Ranchobernardoinn.com<br /> <br /> loCAl lore<br /> <br /> Going Public<br /> <br /> Ten years in the making and lending shape to of-the-moment Barrio Logan, the Public Market (sandiegopublicmarket.com) is S.D.’s answer to Pike Place, rich with local farmers’ stalls and permanent food vendors (including a Tijuana pavilion from the Baja-Med celebs, who turned out in force for this spring’s Street Food fundraiser). But as timelines have dragged, critics have asked whether founders Catt White and Dale Steele bit off more than they could chew, with 92,000 square feet of former factory space to make over. Naysayers, listen up: The first features—the communal kitchen, cottage court and an urban farm lab—are slated for a fall opening, and Market Hall hosts special events (Fig festival! Movie night!) Until next summer’s launch.<br /> <br /> Flour power<br /> <br /> Carb haters, turn the page now. A sure hand with housemade pasta— the definitive labor of love—is our benchmark of restaurant prowess. In La Jolla, Jason Knibb of Nine-Ten (nine-ten.com) creates a charred lemon agnolotti (“priests’ caps”) stuffed with octopus, as well as lamb sugo with gemelli (twisted “twin” strands). Little Italy’s Bencotto (lovebencotto.com) is known for its fresh, housemade pastas, and even has what owner Guido Nistri describes as a dedicated pasta laboratory that produces 500 pounds a week, thanks to chef Fabrizio Cavallini and two trained minions. You can mix and match fresh pastas like tagliatelle, pappardelle, fusilli and gnocchi, or artisanal dried pastas like gemelli and paccheri, with extravagantly rich sauces—from a tangy marinara to creamy alle noci with walnuts and Gorgonzola. And downtown, housemade ravioli at Saltbox (saltboxrestaurant.Com) is always on chef Simon Dolinky’s menu, whether it’s filled with corn in the summer, pumpkin in winter, or mushroom and English peas in the spring— all made by the Dolinky-trained cook he now calls his “pasta mercenary.” Look on the menu this summer for Dolinky’s favorite pasta dish: a simple take on garlic pasta using a fettuccinetype noodle that embraces a black garlic puree, lightly roasted fennel and chanterelles.<br /> <br /> Five sAn dieGo ClAssiCs<br /> <br /> 1. Addison Chef William Bradley’s gilded reputation is matched only by the opulence of Addison’s dining room at ThThTh e Grand Del Mar. ThThTh e last word in culinary pampering, uberattentive service, wine pairings (from the 37,000-bottle cellar), and course after course of Bradley’s delicate haute cuisine defy hype and expectations. Thegranddelmar.com<br /> <br /> 2. FarM house caFe ThTh is comfy University Heights beauty anchors S.D.’s short list of authentic French restos. Olivier Bioteau turns out rustic favorites from his native France, like buttery, garlicky escargot and a superlative crisp-skinned duck confififit that’s the star of the Sunday night menu. Farmhousecafesd.com<br /> <br /> 3. BiceThThTh e glossy black-and-white dining room channels Milan as eloquently as the squid ink risotto (flflflaked with gold leaf) at this downtown fififixture. Mario Cassineri’s country cooking-meets-city dining dishes are seasonally driven and his desserts are divine. Always a favorite? ThThTh at famous cheese bar. Bicesandiego.com<br /> <br /> 4. CoWboy star Power lunch? Check. Lovable bartender? ThThThThTh at would be Garth Flood. After fififive years, Cowboy Star still shines bright with steady classics like steak tartare, lobster Cobb salad and that egg-topped burger. Do like the regulars and smear it with bone marrow. Decadence, delivered. Thecowboystar.com<br /> <br /> 5. The Marine rooM Th at unparalleled view—waves at high tide cascading against the windows— just never gets old. And lovable Frenchman Bernard Guillas is S.D.’s culinary ambassador to the world. ThThThTh is La Jolla diamond, where the signature lobster bisque has been adored for seven decades, is more than a mainstay. It’s a legend. Marineroom.com<br /> <br /> GreAtness AheAd<br /> <br /> Coming Soon...<br /> <br /> 2013 could go down as a banner year for the S.D. food scene, with hot projects still on the horizon. Will Pizzeria Mozza (from Mario Batali and Nancy Silverton) be the draw that downtown development Th e Headquarters (read more in Radar Now!) Is banking on? Will Sea & Smoke from ascendant restaurateur Matt Gordon be the crowning glory of Flower Hill’s makeover? Husband-and-wife team Wade and Kristi Hageman have been a North County force: How will Blue Ribbon Rustic Kitchen be received in Hillcrest’s tough dining environment? Or Southern-fried Acme Kitchen & Bar (and Terryl Gavre’s even farther-out project, Bake Sale) downtown? After Kettner House (with its rooftop patio) opens in Little Italy, will the race be on for outside seating? And speaking of downtown’s outer borough, how will Atlanta celeb chef Richard Blais’ Kettner concept alter the chemistry in S.D.’s hottest food neighborhood? Stay tuned!<br /> <br /> The ArrivAl<br /> <br /> The hake<br /> <br /> “As foreigners living in La Jolla, we were frustrated there was no life after 10pm,” says Ricardo Dondisch, globetrotting restaurateur behind some of Mexico City’s hottest spots. His solution? Th e Ha ke , where the understated brasserie vibe is cool, the tiraditos (Peru’s spin on sashimi) are our new fave, and dinner is served late, late, late. La Jolla, we hardly know ya! Thehake.com<br /> <br /> THe coMebackS<br /> <br /> All over s.D., swan makeovers are taking flight. Tom ham’s (tomhamslighthouse.com), by the late beloved architect Graham Downes, takes the cake; its modern makeover honored the bayfront property’s historic details. Meanwhile, Kensington Grill becomes Fish public (fishpublicsd.com): Think California Cape Cod with sF chef Jordan Davis at the helm. And in Del mar, it’s all about barn chic and communal tables now at jake’s (jakesdelmar.com), stepping out of the ’80s and onto our hit list.<br /> <br /> Now PlAyinG<br /> <br /> Taking the Plunge<br /> <br /> Move over, calamari—there’s a new cephalopod in town. Baja chefs have long sung the praises of octopus, braising then grilling the meat over a snapping fire until the flesh blisters and becomes tender. Reintroduced to this local delicacy, S. D. chefs are going eight kinds of crazy. At Monello (lovemonello.Com), find grilled octopus in a salad with arugula and fennel, while at La Villa (lavillasd.com), Chris O’Donnell plates charred octo with wilted broccolini leaves and pickled Romanesco cauliflower. And don’t forget Starlite (starlitesandiego.com), where paprika oil and a squeeze of lemon punch up Kathleen Wise’s tasty take on tentacles.<br /> <br /> Five CheFs we love<br /> <br /> 1 Brace yourselves... It’ll come as a shock, but we love Trey Foshee. The George’s California Modern head honcho is often in the spotlight, but he’s earned it. Because at this point, he doesn’t need to be a tireless ocean steward or a champion of local, but he is. And when critics said avant-garde TBL3 would never fly in S.D., he proved them five-nights-a-week-now wrong.<br /> <br /> 2 They broke the mold that formed Hanis Cavin, and the Carnitas Snack Shack (carnitassnackshack.com) chef-owner responded in kind by smashing conventions that have usually held back chefs with more ambition and talent than money. Plus, the burly porcine apostle serves up heart-stopping dishes (that triple threat pork sandwich!) From his trickedout urban walk-up. Considering the all-hours line, we’re as eager as anyone for the imminent announcement of a second location.<br /> <br /> 3 In San Diego, perhaps no resto is as beloved as Cafe Chloe (cafechloe.com). And while its Left Bank ambience and pitch-perfect bistro dishes certainly deserve credit, chef Katie Grebow, who has been with the restaurant since its opening almost a decade ago, is undeniably its beating heart. Grebow takes a pregnant pause this summer; is it awful that we can’t wait for her to be back in the kitchen?<br /> <br /> 4 The tourist trade can deaden a hotel restaurant—anywheresville dishes lead to nowheresville. But at Cusp (cusprestaurant.Com) at Hotel La Jolla, Donald Lockhart turns out punchy dishes (we love the olive oil-poached albacore) that proudly scream “California, baby!” as loudly as the sparkly ocean views.<br /> <br /> 5 Given the accolades (twice a James Beard semifinalist for Best Chef of the West, plus a 2004 nomination for Best California Chef), S.D. native Carl Schroeder could be a royal, er, pain, or rest on the laurels of that Bradley Ogden pedigree. But the Market Restaurant + Bar (marketdelmar.com) chef has done neither. Instead, eavesdrop outside the kitchen door and you’ll hear laughter and calls of “Hey, chef!” or even “Hey, Carl!” from the simpatico brigade, evidence that the hardworking maestro is literally behind every cabernet-braised short rib, blue cheese souffle, and grapefruit-and-avocado salad. Among the first to preach local, farm-to-table cooking before it was a bona fide trend, Schroeder keeps Market packed (reservations are a must) with bright dishes that revere summer’s bounty, with that same exacting attention lavished on seafood by the part-time spearfisherman. Also (finally!) Getting his attention? The dining room. A well-earned face-lift is ordered just in time for polo and racetrack season.<br /> <br /> NeiGhBorhood Gems<br /> <br /> Block party <br /> <br /> San Diego has been called a city of villages, and each neighborhood has its own favorite resto. Standouts? The Promiscuous Fork gets around Bird Rock, The Haven Pizzeria is a slice of Kensington heaven, stick a fork in South Park’s Buona Forchetta, Golden Hill gets to the point at Counterpoint, and, uh, Mission Hills loves Brooklyn Girl and Izakaya Masa. These are the sorts of places where the waitstaff knows your name and your drink order (necessary when the wait for a buzzy table can still top 30 minutes), and you can get to know your neighbors, corny jokes and all.<br /> <br /> PoP stAr<br /> <br /> Rebel Yell<br /> <br /> Chad White is either a cautionary tale or the proverbial voice in the wilderness. “I want 100 percent freedom,” he says, flouting the prevailing wisdom (?) That diner preferences, ultimately, rule the dining room. But freedom’s never free, and for now, Plancha Baja Med (plan-cha.com), S.D.’s most compelling resto, is but a perma-pop-up (next gigs: July 27 at Eclipse Chocolat and Aug. 22 at Acqua al 2). Go for here-and-now-only dishes like huitlacoche risotto with gooseneck barnacles or lamb cheeks with fermented cucumber.<br /> <br /> Five Gems to disCover<br /> <br /> Yakitori yakyudori Expect a line out the door and A-list chefs front and center at Convoy’s favorite sizzler. Bincho smoke rises as Nagoya chef Masashi Nabeta piles succulent morsels of chicken thigh, pork and shishito pepper on skewers over the grill’s searingly high heat. Buy the kitchen a beer and get in on the communal toasting. Yakyudori.hinotez.com<br /> <br /> 2 RaMen yaMadaya<br /> <br /> We trust L.A. Times critic Jonathan Gold’s taste in, well, everything, so when one of his Top 10 Ramen picks opened a Clairemont location (a Gaslamp offering debuts this August), we joined the queue. Super-packed, the noodle house specializes in unctuous, porky tonkotsu ramen built on a silken 20-hour broth. That glazed, sated happy look on diners’ faces? Gold-standard bliss. Ramen-yamadaya.com<br /> <br /> 3 HiMalayan cuisine<br /> <br /> No good Indian food in S. D.? Ha! It’s been hiding out in East County. We found the fragrant cooking of India, Nepal and Tibet in La Mesa at this charming restaurant where we’ve already spotted a few S. D. chefs—secret’s out! Under crystal chandeliers, waitstaff in traditional garb serve uncommon dishes like steamed momo dumplings and clay oven-baked lamb chhoila along with exemplary curries from the spicy subcontinent. Himalayancuisineone.com<br /> <br /> 4 PoMeGranate <br /> <br /> Fall under the spell of this quirky Golden Hill charmer where the vodka (and lots of it, infused with flavors like elderflower and, of course, pomegranate) still flows freely. Rustic Georgian-Russian dishes are on the menu, as are the owner’s hilarious comments on everything from the Yalta Accords to borscht. To try? The vareneki, potato-cheese dumplings with caramelized onions. And make a rez for shashlik, charcoal-grilled meats only served on the bustling weekends. Pomegranatesd.com<br /> <br /> 5 Corazón de tierra <br /> <br /> The border wait is shorter at Tecate, but that’s the least of good reasons to visit this eco-modern Valle de Guadalupe stunner. Chef Diego Hernández does an uberlocal prix fixe menu at this hot rez (stay at the adjoining boutique hotel, La Villa del Valle), which gets downright caliente in August, when the annual grape harvest is on in the vineyard-laden valley. Inventive Baja-Med plus wine pairings?Yes, please! Corazondetierra.com<br /> <br /> Mix mAsters<br /> <br /> Bar Exam<br /> <br /> As the line between restaurant and bar blurs, we’re pushing back and going old school. How? Cocktails—shocker alert—at the bar, dinner in the dining room (try the wine list!), then back to the bar for a digestif. At Monello, Jen Queen’s housemade vermouth (try it fizzy in the spumante) is a treat, and little noshy bar snacks (a plump ravioli, a bite of grilled zucchini) prime the appetite for the carbo-loading to come. <br /> <br /> >> Grant Grill (grantgrill.com) is a rarity: a romantic, grown-up bar on the cutting edge, thanks to mixologist Jeff Josenhans. (His latest? “Raw” cocktails.) Doubly rare: Th e drinks don’t upstage chef Chris Kurth’s menu. <br /> <br /> >> Jason O’Bryan’s cocktail lineup, especially the fizzy house-bottled concoctions, stand out at Gang Kitchen (gangkitchen.com), where tiered terraces put the bar front and center. >> At Cusp, watch the sun set behind bartender Nate Howell while sipping a lesserknown classic (the Martinez, anyone?) Or a playful, customcrafted drink. <br /> <br /> >> Polite Provisions (politeprovisions.Com), where Erick Castro reigns over the old-timey cocktail palace, defies our new maxim (eats next door at Soda & Swine). But when you’re nominated for World’s Best New Cocktail Bar in the Spirited Awards, there’s really only one thing we can say: Yo! Bartender!<br /> <br /> Fast times<br /> <br /> READY, SET, GO!<br /> <br /> San Diego’s legendary laid-back cool means that we’re genius at creating quick counter service concepts that nonetheless nail culinary sophistication and elevated design. Like in Little Italy, where Napizza (napizza.Com) specializes in Roma’s chewy-crusted squares of pizza al taglio (try the truffle-scented porcini slice). Big Front Door (bfdsandiego.Com) in North Park received an Orchid nomination for its sleek Paul Basile design; the sandwiches (everything from scratch) are equally artful. In Torrey Pines, Nautilus biotech workers get organic dishes at Green Acre (greenacresd.com), originally an Andrew Spurgin/ Urban Plantations project now under Enlightened Hospitality. Waters Fine Foods (watersfinecatering.com) opened its third highend gourmet food shop on West C Street, delighting downtowners. And Supernatural Sandwiches (supernaturalsandwiches.com), popping up at farmers markets and Barrio Logan’s Sushi on a Roll, has quirky, hand-built sandwiches (Th e Kraken!) Featuring primo seafood from S.D.’s most respected vendor, Catalina Off shore.