In Overdrive on the 125
CRUISING DOWN to the EastLake and Otay Ranch districts of the new Chula Vista, an upscale concatenation of residential and commercial developments, soon will be a snap for those willing to trade cash for a ride on the county’s first toll road, State Route 125. Regular road rangers will include Joe and Lisa Busalacchi and Paul Dobson, who are bringing their distinctive cuisines to the evidently ravenous residents of the district——they must be hungry, because everybody and his brother is opening an eatery here. Other local establishments, including Trophy’s, Broken Yolk and Mariscos Hector’s (an amiable Mexican seafoodery in the Kohl shopping center on Otay Lakes Road), have joined the stampede. The crush is greatest at Otay Ranch Town Center (from I-805, head east on Olympic Parkway to Birch Road, marveling at all you pass), a cleverly designed shopping center whose Main Street–style promenade leads to Macy’s and other familiar retailers. The soon-to-open Frida may upstage usual suspects like King’s Fish House, The Cheesecake Factory and P.F. Chang’s. Named for artist Frida Kahlo, this branch of the Beverly Hills restaurant will offer décor imported from Mexico and a menu of preparations such as camarones a la Criolla, or sautéed prawns in a creamy, jalapeño-heated sauce. Will the shrimp be spicy enough to have made Frida raise her eyebrow?
ATTENTION ON DECK: It’s chow time again at Liberty Station, the sprawling Point Loma landmark formerly known as Naval Training Center San Diego. Although the imps of irony decreed the well-off neighborhood, long underserved by the restaurant trade, would have to wait 15 years after the Navy shipped out to be inundated by eateries, the rush is on. There will be chain feederies——Old Spaghetti Factory is one——but most restaurants have local parentage. A surprise: the planned relocation of Corvette Diner from Hillcrest to Building 32, not far from the stylish new Wine Steals off Lytton Street. Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza neighbors Trader Joe1’s in the central Marketplace district, and at the Laning Road entrance from Harbor Drive, Spices Bay Thai Kitchen anchors a clutch of moderately priced places such as Harbor Greek Café and Oggi’s Pizza. The happiest news includes Solare, an offshoot of the wonderful Caffe Bella Italia in Pacific Beach, and yes, Philippe Beltran (his Bleu Bohème is reviewed in this issue) hopes to open another of his signature French bistros among Liberty Station’s green lawns and historic structures.
IF TRAFFIC CONGEALS ALONG Rosecrans Street, it won’t owe just to Liberty Station. Some vehicles will be heading to The Pearl Hotel (1410 Rosecrans Street), a refurbished former motel that claims South Miami style. The smallish Restaurant at The Pearl boasts inventive dishes such as calamari ropa vieja, a squid-based reworking of Cuba’s famous beef stew . . . Nobody’s casting pearls before swine these days, since “Pearl” is in hot demand as a restaurant name. Unrelated to The Pearl Hotel, the new Pearl Sushi, Restaurant & Champagne Lounge in Del Mar may out-hip the Point Loma hot spot . . . Downtown on Broadway, where the dowdy Pickwick Hotel morphed into the handsome Sofia, Jonathan Pflueger operates Currant, an “American brasserie” that serves the same menu at lunch and dinner (no lunch on weekends) in an exquisitely beautiful room. Innovative entrées include a soufflé omelet; fried, buttermilk-dipped frogs’ legs; and a wildly creative club sandwich layered with sweetbreads and foie gras mousse . . . The white truffles are calling at Vivace, the elegant Italian room at Four Seasons Resort Aviara in Carlsbad. Chef Bryant Wigger travels to the Alba truffle market every October and, in the spirit of sublime self-sacrifice, samples truffle specialties throughout the region. Through late December, Vivace guests can indulge in a lengthy, à la carte white truffle menu that includes truffled risotto, pappardelle pasta with truffled braised rabbit and truffle-crusted sturgeon
SIDE DISH: Brush Strokes in the Air
“THIS ISN’T FOUR CATS in a bag,” observed Bill Evans Jr. as the sunset painted ruby panels on the lawn of his family’s Lodge at Torrey Pines. “This isn’t just about wine or food or music or art but about all of them, and about getting the different disciplines together. It’s come together so well.” The hotelier spoke as some 200 guests seated themselves at long tables for the alfresco Sunday supper that closed the twin Torrey Pines Plein Air Invitational and Celebrate the Craft events. The companionable pairing of the visual and culinary arts earlier this fall opened with invited artists practicing their craft en plein air (in the open air), on can vases stamped with the event’s logo. And $120,000 was raised at weekend auctions of the pieces, the proceeds shared by the Torrey Pines Foundation and the painters. Food, wine and music focused Celebrate the Craft, which closed with a nearly endless family-style meal cooked by Jeff Jackson, Trey Foshee and other headline chefs. Jazz played the while.