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Chefs: You Gotta Love ’Em!

Dish


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THAT BRADLEY OGDEN GUY just won’t go away. The celebrated Bay Area chef and restaurateur has consulted at several prominent area eateries since 1992, most recently at Anthology, Little Italy’s big-city–style palais de jazz. Now an Ogden-written menu graces Illume Bistro, a fetchingly intimate spot on West Beech Street (619-550-5600). Irrepressibly Ogdenesque, the fare goes for bold flavors wrought from top-notch products, like an onion-crab “pancake” dressed with Meyer lemon aioli and tart-sweet, celery root–and–apple salad, and orange-glazed duck breast with wild-mushroom pudding. The chef’s spaghetti with meatballs and “tomato gravy” (as it’s called back east) is a tangy tribute to the neighborhood . . . Nathan Coulon, the third generation of his family to tempt San Diegans to ignore their diets, signed on as sous-chef at Ivy Hotel’s Quarter Kitchen last summer. Not long after, San Diego Union-Tribune food columnist Michele Parente enthusiastically credited Coulon with elevating the cuisine. Then-chef Damon Gordon and executive sous-chef Chris Jakubiec, both of whom later departed, apparently resented the kind words. “Neither of them spoke to me for a week,” confided Coulon, just days before becoming the Ivy executive chef on December 1.

REMEMBER THAT TIME PHARAOH threw a hissy fit and ordered Moses to have his people make bricks without straw? Over the years, chef Patrick Ponsaty has had similar challenges flung at him by demanding clients. The unflappable Frenchman recalls requests for risotto without rice, coq au vin without wine, even onion soup without onions——feats worthy of mention in the Guinness Book of Records, had he accomplished them. To their credit, patrons at Bernard’O——the affable eatery named both for Rancho Bernardo and proprietor Bernard Mougel——trust Ponsaty to serve memorable renditions of classics like Burgundy-style snails and silky French onion soup, which Ponsaty bakes under an extravagance of shredded Emmenthaler. Given the scarcity of real French cooking in these sorry days of fusion fare, it’s a delight to dive into Ponsaty’s elegant venison stew and satisfying, old-timey blanquette de veau . . . William Bradley, who hides considerable talents beneath a simple chef’s toque, has earned a rare 5 Diamond Award from AAA for Addison, the opulent contemporary French restaurant at The Grand Del Mar resort . . . Like Bradley, the marvelously named Orion Balliet maintains a modest profile but works wonders in the kitchen, and he rose to the occasion when the Brigantine group reworked its La Jolla flagship into The Steakhouse at Azul La Jolla. The new menu features expertly garnished prime steaks, chops and seafood (as well as inventive starters like saffron-scented lobster pot pie) and handsomely complements the new décor. The unrivaled view sweeps far up the coast.

IF YOU DON’T WORK in Sorrento Mesa, it’s a hop, skip and broad jump to Thierry Cahez’ new Opera Café & Patisserie. The trip offers rewards like mousse-filled chocolate bombes, crisp macaroons and traditional French tarts baked in long rectangles that nearly overflow with pastry cream and decorative arrangements of fruit. The surprise is the extensive menu, which starts at 7 a.m. with omelets, eggs Benedict and real French toast with fresh raspberry sauce, then goes on to a lunch list of clever salads, sandwiches and crêpes, along with exceptionally fluffy quiche Lorraine and admirable specials like wine-braised short ribs with salad and crisp frites. Dinner service commences soon (9254 Scranton Road; 858-458-9050) . . . After training traders for an international investment banking firm and working in sales at JP Morgan Chase, 35-year-old James Limjoco bartered his briefcase for a chef’s toolkit and opened Sublime Pizza in 4-S Ranch near Rancho Bernardo. Given the economy—— Limjoco says his work gave him “a firsthand look at why it’s in such a mess today” ——one wishes he had named the place Subprime Pizza. However, this would undermine the titles of his unrivaled selection of mac & cheese casseroles, such as Rapture (enriched with pulled pork), Infatuation (truffle oil and mushrooms) and Yearning (memorably flavored with applewoodsmoked bacon). As Limjoco says, this is gourmet comfort food, and the mac ’n’ cheeses can stand alone or preface a creative list of pizzas that rises to the sublime indulgence of the Midnight Bacon Cheeseburger pie, topped with all the name suggests (858-618-3333).

Side Dish

From Beverly Hills to Broadway
EVERYBODY CLAIMS to have worked for Wolfgang Puck, but David McIntyre actually did, putting in eight years at Spago–Beverly Hills, and then consulting on Cut, Puck’s reportedly glorious steakhouse in the Regent Beverly Wilshire hotel. With his wife, Mariah, McIntyre recently opened Crescent Heights Kitchen & Lounge on the ground floor of a new office tower on West Broadway at Kettner. The address seems a bit daring, although surrounding office buildings should provide lunch hour trade, replaced at night by guests from condo buildings and hotels. A neutral, 21st-century décor of gray, white and taupe flatters guests no matter what they wear, and McIntyre’s menu should please most tastes. The Crescent Heights salad is a very Lyonnaise affair of tartly dressed frisée, bacon, sliced fingerling potatoes and poached egg. Spanish chorizo, saffron beurre blanc and garlic clash sensationally in a cast-iron cocotte brimming with plump Bouchot mussels. The meuniere-style sauté of wild striped bass also is perfectly executed. In fact, all is lovely, though ambitious prices mark it particularly for celebrations.

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