The Best Things I Ate This Month: January 2014
Cassoulet at Waypoint Public, Osso Bucco at Cucina Enoteca, Hamachi Belly at Kamikaze 7
Osso Bucco at Cucina Enoteca
On a Friday night, Cucina Enoteca is absolutely jammed. Tracy Borkum’s new outpost in Del Mar looks remarkable down to the last detail, whether it’s the metal driving range buckets used as light fixtures or the curtains of plastic horsy figurines ascending the stairs (good design is often vaguely creepy). Exec chef Joe Magnanelli sometimes gets lost among Urban Kitchen Group’s eye candy, as do the chef de cuisines helping him out on the front lines. So I’d like to point everyone to Andrew Bachelier's osso bucco at CE2—one of the best things to cross the threshold of me in a long time. A generous round of Berkshire pork is served with black truffle, leek mashed potato and sausage made with Italy’s bitter Chinotto orange, plus arugula for a little piquant green offset. My tablemates forked it like the vultures they are. 2730 Via de la Valle, Del Mar, 858.704.4500. cucinaenoteca.com
Hamachi Belly at Kamikaze 7
Kevin Roberts is known as a lot of things. Barbecue guy (he hosted BBQ Pitmasters on TLC). Four-star snack bar bowling guy (he’s a partner in East Village Tavern). Hot wings guy (he’s the spokesperson for Frank’s Red Hot Sauce). High-end sushi guy is new, and I was skeptical. But turns out he and his sushi chef George Kota are buying some Sushi Ota-quality fish for their new Downtown sushi joint. The Hamachi belly, the New Zealand salmon. Octopus head, tenderized and doused in a spicy or garlic sauce. Ask for the Chinese wasabi, pastier, spicier flavor grenade. This is not a quiet ode to Jiro-style sushi. It is loud. Brash. Sake bombish (but with great Japanese whiskey like Nikka and Yamazaki). And extremely high-quality. 411 Market St., Downtown, 619.696.6262, kamikaze7.com
Cassoulet at Waypoint Public
No matter what the tourist brochures like to natter on about, San Diego does get cold nights. And minus a warm body you’re fond of, cassoulet is almost always an acceptable remedy. Waypoint Public’s is excellent. The Southern France/Languedoc legend is a pretty simple stew at the end of the day, albeit one with duck, pork and an addictive crust achieved through the cooking vessel of its namesake. Chef Amanda Baumgarten’s is fantastic—a “lighter” riff on the stew, made with crisped pork belly cubes, leg of duck, housemade Toulouse sausage and herbed breadcrumbs up top for that signature crunch. The end result is an herbaceous, green, SoCal riff that will keep the mercury in your bones from dropping. 3794 30th St., North Park, 619.255.8778. waypointpublic.com.