We all love a good imposter. The magician who makes the Statue of Liberty disappear, but doesn’t really. The lounge singer who does an impeccable Elvis. The inexpensive furniture that looks cast of two European hands and a simple, old tool. We even secretly admire the catfish who, unbeknownst to his wife and three children, keeps a year-long relationship online by pretending to be a woman of strong bikini descent.
One of the best imposters I’ve ever seen is on a plate in Coronado.
It’s a lemon. You know it’s not. But take a look at the photos above. One is an honest to goodness lemon from a real tree. The other is the mind-bending trickery of Master French Chef, Patrick Ponsaty. Ponsaty’s been in my top three chefs in San Diego for years. He’s bounced around, started and stopped. Even had a restaurant named after him in Rancho Santa Fe.
But now he’s landed at the iconic Hotel Del with his false citrus.
I’ve had dishes like this before, from art grads turned chefs. And, nine times out of ten, the flavor doesn’t live up to the magic trick. Your eyes get to enjoy the magic show, your mouth is the poor sap who has to clean up afterward.
But Ponsaty’s is delicious, and it shows just how good a time it is to visit the Del (it’s summer, also, which is the hotel’s mating season).
The lemon is served atop a bed of lemon-mint aspic (a fancy person’s Jell-O). The exterior (pocked and corrugated like the real thing) is white chocolate with natural yellow coloring and gold dust. Crack through that, and you find a white chocolate mousse with yuzu juice (yuzu is a Japanese lemon variation). Then, in the center, Meyer lemon poached in lemon juice and sugar, a fresh lemon segment, chocolate mint from the hotel garden, and finger lime.
It’s textural like a Cadbury egg. The rich white chocolate anchors the many levels of citrus so that they don’t invoke pucker. The treat lives up to the magic.
1500 Ocean, Hotel Del Coronado, 1500 Orange Avenue, Coronado, hoteldel.com