Edit ModuleShow Tags

Kitchen 1540

Chef Paul McCabe’s new menu encourages diners to wave the white flag


Published:

Try It
1540 Camino Del Mar, Del Mar, CA 92014 858-793-6460
laubergedelmar.com/kitchen1540

Now that race season is over, it’s safe to eat again at KITCHEN 1540. For a couple months every summer, the lobby bar—swarming with folks celebrating their wins or drowning their losses—at L’Auberge del Mar is a sight to behold; just walking from the restroom to the restaurant can feel like you’re running a gauntlet of swaying bodies. But once you’re in the dining room, and the restaurant’s glass doors are closed to shut out most of the noise, you’re free to enjoy KITCHEN 1540’s subtly made-over interior—a relatively tranquil space with a view of a lively open cooking station.

In July, the executive chef Paul McCabe unveiled an ambitious, ingredient-driven new menu predominated by shared plates accented with Asian flavors and an arsenal of innovative techniques and offered in two tasting sizes: Sample, a petite one-person portion, or Savor, which is big enough to split among friends. 

Start with the Farmhouse Salad, a happy holdover from the previous menu. Though it’s composed of a dizzying list of ingredients and different preparations, at its core, it’s a study in fresh organic produce—raw curls, shavings, and slices of seasonal vegetables set upon a sun-dried tomato, garlic, and basil gelée. 

Roasted Sweetbreads

Raw oysters, though faultlessly fresh, were overpowered by their toppings, a mix that included cured pork fatback, a blackberry granita, and a fizzy version of classic mignonette. A plate of serrano ham was shaved so tissue-thin that it came off in clumps, rather than deliciously succulent slices. 

And the black cod was another unfortunate miss. The silky fish, one of my favorites, and accompanying maitake mushrooms, were drowned in a toasted rice consommé that was under-seasoned and unappetizingly murky. The saving mouthful? A single lobe of San Diego-harvested sea urchin. 

Steamed buns, stuffed with pork cap—the marbled outer layer from the rib end of a pork loin—got dinner back on an upward trajectory. The handheld pockets were served with a trio of homemade sauces; the best was a sweet and savory fish sauce-dressing akin to a Vietnamese dipping sauce.

In the end, it was the two most exotic plates that impressed me most. The first, a quite literal example of nose-to-tail cookery, featured tenderized and deboned pig tails, the meat remolded into fat disks that were seared until crispy on the exterior and dabbed with smoked barbeque sauce. We savored each crunchy and luscious bite, and enjoyed the supporting sides of coleslaw and warm potato salad. 

When they first arrived on a flying saucer-shaped dish, the roasted sweetbreads looked more like contemporary art than anything edible. A composition in stark black and white, the sweetbreads were entirely enrobed in a syrupy Japanese sauce called tsume, usually prepared by simmering down soy, mirin, and a seafood broth, dyed an opaque black with cuttlefish ink, giving the sauce an extra dose of briny character.

Though it looked startling, it was a smart and completely craveable dish; sweetbreads were fairly mild in flavor and the earthy sauce gave them an umami roundness of flavor, whose richness was contrasted by translucent white shavings of pickled daikon radish and asparagus. 

Returning to the down-home-cooking that’s also comfortably in McCabe’s wheelhouse were the cheddar-topped fries with a red pepper Romesco sauce, white corn grits so sweet and kernel-laden they tasted more like creamed corn, and a simple but very flavorful sauté of squash with garlic and bacon. The squash, and much of the produce, comes from Temecula’s Crows Pass Farm; the restaurant is even growing some of their own in a zigzag of pipes that form vertical gardens installed on the dining room’s outdoor patio. 

A shared dessert, a white chocolate panna cotta, was a bit too gummy in texture to finish, but our nightcap proved a memorable way to end the evening. After we chose an absinthe from the after-dinner drink menu, our server lit ours aflame and poured it into a small tumbler of root beer. He put a napkin over the mouth of the still-hot glass, now empty of absinthe, to trap in the warm, anise-scented fumes, which we sucked in through straws in between sips of the cocktail. A total party trick, yes, but a fun one.  

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

More »Related Stories

San Diego's Best Breakfast

Whether you lean savory or sweet, light or indulgent, boozy or caffeinated, there’s an a.m. meal for every taste. It’s time to rise and dine!

Restaurant Review: Bracero

Javier Plascencia takes Mexican food to the next level

La Vida Vegan: Toast of the Town

We try the avocado toast at Little Lion Cafe
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Most Popular

  1. The Ultimate San Diego Bucket List
    Whether you’re a native or a newcomer, we’ve got 50 things every San Diegan must do. Now, get started!
  2. 26 BIG Ideas
    San Diego's most innovative thinkers tell us how they would make America’s Finest City a whole lot finer.
  3. Be Seen This Fall in Rancho Mirage
    Enter To Win a 2 Night Stay Package at The Luxurious Westin Mission Hills Golf Resort & Spa
  4. FIRST LOOK: Kindred
    Death metal vegan has arrived in San Diego. From the creative minds behind Craft & Commerce, Noble Experiment, LOVELIKEBEER—plus one of the country's top vegan chefs—comes Kindred. It's in South Park. It's gonna blow some minds.
  5. FIRST LOOK: The Crack Shack
    After the huge success of Juniper & Ivy, chef Richard Blais and owner Michael Rosen launch all-day, ethical-chicken breakfast joint called The Crack Shack. Could this be the McDonald's for the food- and ethics-conscious foodie generation?
  6. San Diego's Best New Restaurants 2015
    From upscale modern Mexican to a hole-in-the-wall Thai spot, food critic Troy Johnson reveals his 10 favorite new eateries of 2015
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Promotions

More Than 1,300 Prizes are Ready to be Given Away

What are you waiting for? Buy your raffle ticket now

Not Your Grandma's Orthotics

New year, new – shoe? Staying on your feet for long hours at a time just got a whole lot more comfortable with Wiivv’s BASE custom insoles

Go Ahead... Ask McMillin!

At McMillin Realty, we are encouraging you to bring us your real estate questions. We will answer these questions….. for free.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module
Edit Module

Connect With Us:

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Sponsored

“Will You Marry Me”?

Sharon Jenks, CEO of 6 Degrees, on building business relationships

More Than 1,300 Prizes are Ready to be Given Away

What are you waiting for? Buy your raffle ticket now

Go Ahead... Ask McMillin!

At McMillin Realty, we are encouraging you to bring us your real estate questions. We will answer these questions….. for free.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags