Where: Serẽa, Hotel Del Coronado, 1500 Orange Ave.
When: January 13th 6-9 p.m.
In this month’s review, I tackled Serẽa, the big renovation of Hotel Del’s signature dining room, spearheaded by chef JoJo Ruiz. One of the most remarkable things about Serẽa is that an institution as established as the Del let Ruiz make the changes he did—sourcing all sustainable, mostly local seafood for their menu. (This is a big deal because most hotels have established purveyors, longstanding relationships, and often get big price cuts to keep those contracts, even if the seafood from those sources isn’t sustainable). Ruiz has already earned a nod from the James Beard Foundation as a Smart Catch Leader, and now he’s started an educational, interactive dinner series about local and regional seafood. He’s bringing in some big-name friend chefs for the series, and this one features James Syhadout, who earned two Michelin stars at Commis in Oakland.
Where: Fort Oak, 1011 Fort Stockton Dr, Mission Hills
When: Dec. 31, two seatings (6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.)
I’ve got my daughter for New Year’s Eve, so I’ll be cooking. But if I was doing a night out at a restaurant, my next two events are where I’d go. On the most recent "Happy Half Hour" podcast (our food podcast for San Diego Mag, if you haven’t listened yet, check it out on Spotify), we picked our best restaurant openings of the year. And mine has to be Fort Oak. Chef Brad Wise and co-owner/front-of-house man Steven Schwob have something special with Wise’s wood-fired cooking and Schwob’s five-star hospitality background. It’s a neighborhood restaurant that low-key has some of the best service in town. Their chef’s counter is located right in front of their wood-fired grill, and for NYE you can reserve one of ten seats in two seatings. If there’s ever a night for a 45-day house dry-aged Tomahawk, this is the night.
Where: Nine-Ten, 910 Prospect St., La Jolla
When: Two seatings (5:30 p.m. and 10 p.m.)
From the new to the veteran guard, Jason Knibb at Nine-Ten is still one of the best chefs in the country, and most criminally underrated. In any other city, Knibb (and a few others) would have Michelin stars and Beard Awards and the like. But forget all that. Sometimes it’s better that the talent in our backyard has remained relatively obscure. Every year, I ask chefs for their favorite chef, and every year they point at Knibb. So if you haven’t, make a reservation for his four-course prix-fixe menu (I don’t even have the menu yet, and I can honestly tell you it doesn’t matter—this is a chef I regularly tell people to just go and say "mercy of the chef," and let him send dishes until you quit). I just paid $325 with no wine pairings for a tasting at French Laundry, which was fantastic. But I can tell you that this won’t be terribly far behind it, at a third the cost.
Cost: $110 ($165 with wine pairings)