La Valencia on 9.22.13 (because it will change a lot)
I'm not big on the reviews that identify every dish and every morsel. I don't take notes when I eat, I don't ask fellow diners to tell me five adjectives to describe the dish they're eating. And if there's not good light, I don't take pictures.
I do, however, enjoy sharing my food experiences and I feel an obligation to CH to offer as much as I receive in guidance and suggestions.
Lots going on here, and they've been in something closely related to a State of Chaos. New owners, a parade of new chefs, extensive renovation and modernization, and ruthless (for some) evisceration of the grand olde Whaling Bar, a nexus of many memories for La Jolla locals.
Time moves on, and so does LaV.
Last night, MrsName and I had dinner with two of the La Jolla Cognoscenti- dear friends and regulars for years at LaV. I know it was going to be difficult for them. Many LaV favorite employees had been unceremoniously dumped with previous management changes, and their favorite spaces gutted with promises of more even more change.
We'd heard about Daniel Barron, the new Executive Chef there, and thought we'd jump in to the deep end during this time of great change.
Yes, we loved it.
One has to like Barron's style of food, which I'd classify as "without restraint". His words were something like " Where other people stop, I just keep going further, way over the top". If that's not your style, you will likely dislike this place.
We had all kinds of food- the brussels sprouts with guiancale, a tasty appetizer of hummus and other gooey stuff, a beet salad (tasted better than the predictable kind). We shared another appetizer that closely resembled a seared product illegal in the State of California served on yummy toast with some sort of sweet berry reduction and about a thousand other ingredients. Must have been faux.
About this point, the sunset had happened, and it started getting a little cold, so management moved us (with our consent) to the dining room, which was empty. Completely empty. Wonderfully quiet, beautiful view, and blissfully empty.
Good company, extremely high-level food and a quiet room- Fake Name Heaven.
Barron explained earlier that he had a wedding in another room, and had a few portions of Chilean Sea Bass leftover. Yes, the erstwhile ugly Patagonian Toothfish, redlined by the fish people who claim it's overfished (and may be correct). But there are boats taking Patagonian Toothfish in a sustainable way, and are certified by the people that certify such things. Mine arrived in Barron style- cooked perfectly in Foie Gras fat, with a poached egg on top, some guiancale underneath and a sauce of a thousand-ish ingredients in a puddle on the plate. Over. The.Top.
Other dishes around the table included a badass pork chop with the long bone intact, providing a lovely handle for my friend who, to my great admiration, gnawed it down like a global tyrant. Some salmon with a billion ingredients- all well-received by diners.
Overall, a very good meal with close friends in a warm, welcoming environment that was hushed and wonderful.
The picky: LaV is in a state of transition, and will likely be that way for several months. What was once the Whaling Bar is a construction zone, and the dining room we enjoyed is slated for rehab/remodel/refit/re-do soon as well. Didn't interfere with our meal, but definitely has that "temporary" feel to it. The meal was a financial splurge. I didn't see the bill, but our friends have the undying gratitude of our family, and I'm confident they'll be able to sell a car or something before the credit card bill arrives.
Still, I'd go back tonight. And tomorrow.
Fascinating in-depth review of a memorable meal. Sounds like one for the books!
I just hope La Valencia doesn't destroy the ambience of the bar in the same way that the Grant Hotel did theirs. The Whaling Bar was just right just the way it was. When the Hotel Del remodeled they pretty much wiped out the ambience of the old lobby area, including eliminating the lobby bar entirely. These classy, classic old hotels need bars that have a consistent atmosphere. For "trendy modern" there's no shortage of other places to go.
All hail Chef Daniel Barron, I hope he and the venue (newly minted as "The Med". Get it? The Mediterranean Room - newly to be hip and happening = The Med.) get the accolades (and crowds) that they deserve. As your friend Tommy says "get here" and "get some".
Oh, and the global tyrant's convertible sports coupe may be for sale.
Lastly, two words: food hangover.