“You control the heat, you don’t let the heat control you.” Herringbone’s pony-tailed chef de cuisine Amanda Baumgarten was out of her glass-walled kitchen and sharing her Heat Manifesto.
The dining room buzzed with chill DJ tunes, young punctual waiters, and an earthy-chic crowd checking out the latest fabric restaurant from Brian Malarkey (“Top Chef” season 3) and co.
Baumgarten (“Top Chef” season 7) is in charge of the Herringbone menu. *She talked cooking technique with my table--specifically about the King Salmon, caught by Washington state’s Quileute Tribe. It was a head turner, we said. That crackly skin! The meat inside like a color swatch easing from a Monticello peach to a Bermuda pink!
“It’s too early to write a review, don’t worry,” I came clean. Herringbone had only been open for three days by then. It's the latest in an SD-restaurant portfolio that includes Searsucker, Burlap, Gingham and Gabardine.
Located on Herschel Avenue in a freestanding, brick-and-ivory spot with little signage (look for the fish logo lined with a herringbone pattern), Herringbone’s already upping La Jolla’s hipness.
At the entrance of this seafood spot there’s an open-area lounge mashing up beach-house comfort (sofas, fireplace) with showiness (glittery bar; century-old olive trees planted among the tables and throughout the entire space). The dining room pushes the nautical theme—puffer-fish light fixtures, a curved wooden ceiling so like the inside of a great ship. There’s another glittery bar here.
And while it’s criminal for a food writer to judge a place so early, some quick Day-3-of-This-Restaurant dinner impressions:
Our table happily clucked over Baumgarten’s free-thinking ceviche presentation. A raw fish head and tail played bookends to bite-sized pink snapper pieces marinated in cilantro, lime and chilies.
We slurped a mild 'n creamy array of Pope’s Bay and Fanny Bay oysters.
We OMGed over the hamachi. The chili-enhanced raw fish was made even more buttery with tiny, rolled up scrolls of lardo garnishing each sleek piece.
We were stumped about the vegetable on our wood-roasted pizza with pancetta, an over-easy egg, and milky Fontina cheese. It was a stellar cluster of stinging nettles! Which are like spinach but occupy a sweeter flavor zone.
And of the Snake Oil Cocktail specialty drinks, all built around fragrances and served with perfume strips, the Tokyo Love Hotel was my fave. A twist on a John Daly, it’s a housemade sweet-tea vodka with agave and fresh pressed lemon, shaken until it gets a foamy head, then finished with Snake Oil's "Oriental" fragrance (their words!). It's a gentle scent (ginseng, saffron, toasted rice, and golden grapefruit) and a refreshing buzzer.
We got into five other dishes, and closed with a complex array of chocolates from dessert wunder-sweetie Rachel King.
But this is not a review. This is just one novelty hound talking to another, and telling you what I saw at the new Herringbone.
Read more of Keli Dailey's food reviews and first bites on utsandiego.com