Saturday, May 10, 2014

Top Chef Moves to San Diego

We go to the same Barber

The vibe in San Diego is quickly changing we are at the fore front of the makers and the craft revolution.  Why shouldn't we be San Diego is one of the worlds greatest seaside city locations.  Definitely the best in North America! 
This is a busy Kitchen
That is the setup for the review of Juniper and Ivy, the new Richard Blais Restaurant in Little Italy.  San Diego over the last 24 months has been developing into a leader in innovative craft cuisine.  With the inclusion of chefs like Richard Blais we will start seeing more outstanding chefs moving to San Diego or being created in San Diego.  Enough with my giddiness and lets get to the dining experience.  Getting to Juniper and Ivy is easy just get off on the Kettner exit and pull into their parking lot, no downtown traffic to mess with, very easy.  The restaurant exterior is a surprise, a contemporary clean look that gives you an initial thought of "is his really Little Italy".  The inside continues that look and feel with a wide open warehouse that has been decked out with clean finishes.  It does not matter if you are here in the day or night it is a great looking restaurant.  This is a happening place, granted it is Friday but there is a lot of activity at the Bar which is wisely put at the front of the restaurant to bring you in the mood that this is going to be a fun evening.  The restaurant itself is below the bar and is quite expansive with the kitchen as an extension of the dining area.  For me the best spot is to sit at the kitchen counter where the cooking staff are working. 
Chef's Gift of Pate
Our server Lynette was very helpful, what I liked about her is that she gave the impression that the entire staff work together as a team to create a great dining experience much like what you would find at a start up.  We were there with another couple and they started us out with the Shrimp Toast and a Goat Cheese Salad.  The Shrimp Toast was terrific on top of each of the four sections of toasted bread was a spicy pesto, a full prawn, slice of cucumber, slice of orange, cilantro and a slice of radish.  So you get the crunch  of the bread, the more subtle crunch of the cucumber and radish, and the more meaty shrimp and orange.Pate Campagne with Pickled Cherry another great dish, the Liver Pate had a great savory taste but the Pickled Cherry was a cool surprise a natural Sweet Tart.  I do not want to forget the Sous Vide Olives, it just makes sense that Olives should be infused this way but hey this is Richard Blais the guy who first used Sous Vide on Top Chef.
Shrimp Toast
  But wait then comes the multi taste of a bite of vinegar, some nice heat and the tart sweetness of the citrus slice, overall a delicious bite.  The Gouda Salad was a mélange of Gouda cheeses, small citrus wedges, almonds, lettuce and cheese brittle stitched together with a citrus vinaigrette.  The Chef provided a gift of

Lamb Cave Man Style

It is dinner time and I shared the Lamb Neck, my wife had the San Diego Chicken and Ann had the Lamb  Ragu Pappardelle.  The Lamb Neck, not something seen on a typical menu but I love Lamb and I wanted to be a little Andrew Zimmern tonight.  The meal came out in a stone dish right from the caveman's kitchen, the Lamb had been slow roasted with Carrots, Spring Onions, Potatoes and placed on top of a Polenta pool.  This dish was amazingly sinful and savory
San Diego Chicken
with melt in your mouth chunks of lamb and fire roasted carrots and other root vegetables that seem to have been just pulled from the ground.  My wife had the San Diego Chicken which was prepared in the Sous Vide style with chunks of chicken wrapped around a chicken liver mousse, creating a moist compact texture full of infused chicken richness.  It was accompanied by an English Pea Gnocchi which was almost like a piece of Dim Sum and different types of Acorn Zucchini. This was another great dish that showcased different variations of textures.
Overall a very good dining experience this is the type of restaurant that you can go to several times and have a completely unique experience each time.  The next time I go there I want to be front and center on the counter.  By the way Richard Blais is in the heart of the kitchen directing a team of 15+ this is a guy who wants to be making great food.  He is also a very approachable guy.