Kensington's Colorful Corner
THE GREEN TOMATO HAS BEEN transformed into Bleu Boheme by peripatetic restaurateur Philippe Beltran. Over the years, he’s given us many enjoyable restaurants (The French Side of the West, Alize, La Vache), but he can’t seem to stay put. Primely located at Adams Avenue and Kensington Drive, Bleu Boheme features an updated French bistro interior largely free of the bric-a-brac Beltran has favored elsewhere (perhaps he exhausted the available supply at Vagabond). Top chef René Herbeck is the hot talent behind a gently priced menu of traditional and seasonal French specialties.
FIRST IT WAS FRESH, then it was Fresh[er]——and in December, the mostly outdoor restaurant on La Jolla’s Wall Street will become Whisknladle (say it out loud and you’ll get the idea). Proprietor Arturo Kassel and executive chef Ryan Johnston say their reinvented “neighborhood spot” will specialize in contemporary comfort food with seasonal ingredients. It sounds promising, especially since Johnston insists on curing and aging meats, rolling pastas, baking bread and churning ice cream on the premises . . . Johnston’s contribution to a 10-chef dinner on October 10 at Marine Room is an appetizer of his own dry-cured chorizo, skewered with octopus and sweet potatoes. The two beneficiaries of the $95-per-person meal are the Slow Food Movement and the Student & Community Garden at Escondido’s San Pasqual Academy, a pioneering residential education campus for foster teens. Among others in the kitchen: Jeff Jackson of The Lodge at Torrey Pines, Jason Knibb of Nine-Ten, Tony DiSalvo of Jack’s and Marine Room’s own Bernard Guillas.
WHAT HOUSING MARKET? Mortgage holders may be slinging woe, but local restaurateurs have never seemed so confident. Everybody’s opening new joints, both in swanky neighborhoods and less-likely precincts, like the funky stretch of India Street where a former neighborhood bar has morphed into the sizzlingly hip Starlite, a retro-nouveau supper club with a short, tasty menu (frito misto with lemon aioli, for instance, and homemade pappardelle with heirloom tomatoes) . . . In Del Mar, Pearl Sushi, Restaurant & Champagne Lounge occupies a Jimmy Durante Boulevard location that has seen plenty of action and should see plenty more if the public embraces Makoto Okuwa’s inventive menu (mini quail burgers; an Asian “cioppino” of shellfish in spicy lemongrass broth). Okuwa was formerly executive sushi chef at New York’s Morimoto, and diners are encouraged to accompany his cuisine with bubblies chosen from an impressively exhaustive list . . . There are burger dives, and then there is ECR Grille (poetically named for El Camino Real), a La Costa venture by chef/proprietor Pascal Vignau of Savory in Encinitas. Pickles, ketchup and even sodas (pomegranate-lime, black cherry) are homemade to accompany the Blue Moon burger stuffed with Point Reyes blue cheese, a pastrami burger with Brie and——good golly, Miss Molly——a “ham-burger” that actually adds ham to the patty (no Spamburgers, please!). Besides sodas, ECR pours wines and beers.
BIG-DEAL OUT-OF-TOWN restaurants often take a condescending, “hick little San Diego will be so grateful to see us” attitude when they move in. Then they move out, confounded that San Diegans prefer eateries to take them seriously, not for granted. Few locals patronized L.G.’s Prime, the noted Palm Desert steakhouse that warmed space at Sixth and F downtown for a couple of years. Now the corner location has been taken by a new restaurant, while down the street, Donovan’s is replacing Trophy’s. . . . The lunch menu at Vincent’s, Vincent Grumel’s so very charming French room in downtown Escondido, lists a $29 “super-sized” Kobe beef burger topped with seared foie gras, sided with truffled frites and accompanied by a glass of Cabernet. “They sell,” says Grumel.
SERPENTINE COILS OF MIST reared above the pool at Jbar and snaked menacingly among the cabañas where, at other times, bikinied babes and muscular guys sun and frolic. Dry ice tossed in the pool generated the cool fog that rolled around the terrace four stories above Hotel Solamar’s respected Jsix restaurant, whose chef and manager, Christian Graves and Jeff Brown, hosted the early-evening “Jsix Earth- Care.” The fund-raiser distributed green wristbands to guests, and it assembled local sustainable food producers and “green” entrepreneurs to benefit the Trust for Public Land, San Diego Coast Keeper, the Surfrider Foundation and Monterey Bay Aquarium.
“Jeff and I both have young kids, and we want to enable them to enjoy the same things we do,” says Graves, an enthusiastic surfer. “The beneficiaries have to do with water or land conservation, which has everything to do with food.”
An auction helped generate funds, refreshments included icy oysters and Icelandic vodka, and booths boasted “green” construction by Swinerton Builders and displayed environmentally correct T-shirts and sandals from Reef apparel company.
“We believe in protecting our environment,” says Brown. “As a restaurant, we do that by providing better choices.”