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Saint Paul

Chef Paul McCabe’s new resto, Delicias


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delicias outdoor dining

The patio at Delicias in Rancho Santa Fe


“Oh, Jesus.” It’s all I could muster after my first bite of Paul McCabe’s agnolotti with peas and mascarpone in brown butter.

“Oh, Jesus.” It’s what my wife—who grew up far, far removed from the bearded religious guy—uttered at the exact same time.

Freed of social decorum, we’d end up recreating the deli scene in When Harry Met Sally... We tasted the dish on two different occasions. Both times, our reaction was indecent with pleasure.

McCabe’s prime ribeye cap with ramp kimchi, daikon, and reduction of gochujang (a thinner version of the Korean chili sauce) is similarly ridiculous. And that rabbit confit with olive oil whipped potatoes and prosciutto jus? Yes, just yes.

As a surprise to no one who’s followed the city’s food scene: The new chef at Delicias in Rancho Santa Fe can cook. I consider it a moral obligation for anyone still seeking happiness in his or her life to try that agnolotti. Now, I just want McCabe to get the heck out of Rancho Santa Fe.

Try It
6106 Paseo Delicias
858-756-8000

After all, that was the plan as I heard it. McCabe shocked a lot of people when he left his cush, high-profile gig at L’Auberge Del Mar’s Kitchen 1540. He wasn’t the only reason K1540 became one of the hottest tables in San Diego. There was an internationally famous architect (Andre Kikoski), and the fact that L’Auberge is one stunning beachside property. But good wallpaper doesn’t anchor a restaurant. McCabe’s food—a mix of Escoffier, science, and SoCal food-bounty—did.

McCabe left because being a chef is hard. They don’t tell you that at CIA. It breaks backs. It is immune to 401Ks. It’s currently the sexiest service job on the planet, and the laughingstock of economists. Delicias’ owner, Owen Perry, lured McCabe away by offering him skin in the game. Partner status. The goal is to build a reputation, then multiply Delicias across San Diego.

As a repeatable high-end franchise, there’s work to do. The new décor—high-back, olive-hued banquettes, sandal-brown leather chairs, and removal of the old-world white tablecloths—is very nice. But it’s not a conversation starter. Zero je ne sais quoi. The iPad wine lists, which seemed so cutting-edge and brilliant two years ago, are somewhat useless. Delicias has one of the best wine cellars in the state, and the iPad is a great opportunity to give personal notes on many of them (if not every one). But even under the listing for “Chef’s Choice,” the comments section is empty.

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