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Kitchen 1540 vs. Lodge at Torrey Pines vs. Rancho Valencia?

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We have an anniversary coming up and I'm looking for which of these restaurants will not disappoint. Any thoughts on which is the most progressive and won't try to rush us out the door for the next table? Should we be considering George's Modern in this list too? Thanks in advance for any direction.

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  1. Kitchen 1540. The chef of Rancho Valencia moved to 1500 Ocean.

    1. If money is no object, you can book for the TBL3 experience at George's.

      Info here:
      http://www.georgesatthecove.com/TBL3

      (Note to moderator: I'm not affiliated with any of these blogs, just trying to provide some info, the first two can be linked off the official link, so if you feel a need to edit please just remove from this note
      )http://www.chuckeats.com/2011/06/27/g...
      http://ulteriorepicure.com/2011/07/19...
      http://insert-food.blogspot.com/2011/...

      1. You MUST try the White Flag Menu at KITCHEN 1540. Definitely something special. They send out food until you "waive the white flag." And you get to meet the chefs that create each dish. Will be a night to remember!

        -----
        KITCHEN 1540
        1540 Camino, Del Mar Del Mar, CA

          1. Of those three Kitchen 1540 is probably the best, but A.R.Valentien Grill (The Lodge) wouldn't disappoint and if I were to add one restaurant it would Addison at the Grand Del Mar which seems to be the consensus "best" of San Diego right now.

            1. Fork,
              I stayed at RV last May as a quick staycation and had a great time. Chef Bauer's food is very good - KILLER gnocchi. This being said, I've also had great meals at both Kitchen 1540 and AR Valentien. My recommendation is to stay at RV (great rooms, private patio with nice hot tub)and head over to Market for dinner. It is very close in proximity. We did that one night when we stayed there and it couldn't have gone down better. 6 courses at Market and then hung out in the room's hot tub with a nice bottle of champagne. Heck of a night.

              18 Replies
              1. re: mjill

                The food at Market is very uncreative and not on the same level as the other three restaurants. It;s a restaurant to go to if you want to play it safe and find a place nobody will find anything on the menu which might surprise them. In addition, I also found it overpriced for what you get.

                1. re: honkman

                  I guess the multiple Beard nominations Schroeder has for best chef pacific tell a different story from your limited opinion....

                  1. re: honkman

                    I beg to differ. I've had an outstanding meal at Market recently, they are at the top of their game right now. It's expensive of course, but so are the other options. When was the last time you went there and what did you have?

                    Of the options, I'd say either 1540 or Market.

                    1. re: chezwhitey

                      Supposedly Market is revamping the entire menu after Restaurant Week is over, so maybe we'll see some more exciting items soon.

                      1. re: chezwhitey

                        We haven't been this year but the two years before we went two times and were both times disappointed by the quite boring food, technically well prepared but always dishes you could get also at other restaurants with no culinary suprises. It tells a lot that their "signature dish" are short ribs (the most overused dish in any restaurant anywhere) which were actually OK but nothing outstanding. Good restaurants are expensive but Market is compared to restaurants like 1540, Blanca, Rancho Valencia etc more expensive with much less interesting food and not on the same level.

                        1. re: honkman

                          Find a place that isn't using short ribs or shoulder or some sort of "lesser" cut of meat these days as a signature item. It's a sign of the times, economy is bad, so everyone has to adapt including high end restaurants.

                          1. re: chezwhitey

                            Secret ingredient on Iron Chef last night? Short ribs. Allez Cuisine

                            1. re: chezwhitey

                              Market was using short ribs, like a lot of other places, well before the economy tanked. I think what honkman is saying is that Market has not evolved since it's beginnings in terms of food or creativity.

                              1. re: daantaat

                                Thanks, exactly what I meant. Short ribs are not a sign of the time and bad economics as they were used by Market (and others) long before the 2008. And there is nothing wrong with using "lesser" cuts of meat but some restaurants, like Market, never evolve and are still stuck with short ribs.

                                1. re: honkman

                                  It isn't an issue of evolving. If you look at the menu just about everything else changes frequently. This is an issue of giving the customer what they want. The people that keep the lights on there love the short ribs I'd say, which is why you see them there always.

                                  Unlike a hotel restaurant where they can be allowed to operate at a loss, a brick and mortar place like market has to pay the bills every month. This ties your hands a little bit in terms ability to change every single menu item. I know in honkman's world its about constant thrills and taking big chances (that won't pay off with 95% of the clientel, maybe even less in a market like SD). I think the reality is the average person who eats at market frequently (RSF, Del Mar, LJ types) are not into avant garde dining and just want delicious food they can approach in a chic place. I think market constantly over deliviers on this.

                                  1. re: mjill

                                    What are the "other things" on the menu that are evolving? Granted, I haven't been to Market for some time, but the last time I was there, the rest of the menu was "good" but didn't seem to "evolve" in terms of new flavors, techniques, etc compared to when they first opened.

                                    1. re: daantaat

                                      They had a nice miso marinated cod over house made ramen noodles last time I went in addition to a nice short rib dish. While they had a short rib dish a year ago when i went, this was hardly the same dish. I'm not sure what you are expecting with them using new techniques, sous vide, liquid nitrogen? Are you expecting them to reinvent the wheel? We aren't talking about el bulli or wd-50 here.

                                      1. re: chezwhitey

                                        Yes, I was a huge fan of the black cod with house-made ramen. They had a great ramen too! My cod had an excellently crisped chicken skin cracker on top as well, which I would say was enough to get it into the "trendier" cuisine.

                                        1. re: karaethon

                                          if you like the crisped skin cracker, yakitori yokohama makes this except 20x larger.

                                          1. re: chezwhitey

                                            I don't think they make chicken skins 20x the size of the cracker I got....

                                        2. re: chezwhitey

                                          I am not expecting (or needing them) them to pull off molecular gastronomy but something besides the "baby beet salad with nectarines and microgreens" type of thing.

                                          Ramen in that way is something I would consider "evolved" for them.

                                          1. re: daantaat

                                            Fair enough. So I can understand where you are coming from, what's a dish from one of the places mentioned above that has "excited" you or piqued your interest recently.

                                            1. re: chezwhitey

                                              I think escargot is in (in SD) - and I don't mean the classic preparation where a lot of butter and garlic is used to hide the taste.

                                              I've had some preparations where the flavors really shine and are highlighted in a nice way.

                      2. Kitchen 1540 has been one of my favorites, but my recent visit, after they reopened, was not up to par.

                        For starters, the service was really off. We had a decidedly brusque waiter, forgotten drink orders, and various dishes coming out in no discernible order. I guess the idea of the sample/savor concept is that they're served tapas-style, whenever they are ready? We as a group asked for them in more of an appetizer / main flow, but we ended up with some people getting the dish they ordered 20 minutes after the next person -- for the same dish. I was a also disappointed with the minimum-person requirement for dishes like the pork shoulder. I wanted to try it, but since I couldn't convince three other people, it wasn't an option.

                        As for the dishes themselves, the foie gras was very underwhelming. The "cake" and sauce didn't go with it very well at all and the "stone seared" concept just seemed out-of-place at a restaurant like this. I expect the kitchen to cook it appropriately at a restaurant like this, not to try and figure out how long it needs to stay on the hot rock before I pull it off.

                        The sweetbreads were also disappointing. I thought the dish sounded quite creative, but I thought the flavors ended up far too subtle. The texture of the sweetbreads themselves was mushy and the toasted rice cake that accompanied seemed out of place.

                        It wasn't all bad. I enjoyed the white corn agnolotti and the five-onion consomme. I got to try some of my friends' dishes and the rabbit, I thought, was excellent. The salads, especially the farmhouse one, were also good. Other people said that the heirloom tomatoes and cheese fries side dishes were tasty, although the ribeye was universally derided as boring.

                        It makes me sad. This was one of my favorite restaurants in San Diego before that trip. I really hope it was just them getting settled into the new menu and that my next visit will be better.