It was interesting to see that after three visits to this year’s Chefs Celebration dinner series each restaurant seems to have its specific patronage and that even though all participating chefs come from very different restaurants and backgrounds they all seem to review their dishes beforehand trying to cater to each restaurant’s clientele. The dinner at Pamplemousse Grille was overall good but the dishes were a bit on the safe side. Nine-Ten in La Jolla has a reputation of a well established restaurant with dishes which often have an emphasis on seasonal products. And Kitchen 1540 seems to attract a younger and “hipper” clientele which was reflected in the use of more unusual ingredients (e.g. lamb bacon, chocolate miso, and black garlic) and techniques (e.g. spherification, and liquid nitrogen).
The Chef Celebration dinner at Kitchen 1540 had a wide range of prominent chefs – Chris Kurth (Grant Grill), Anthony Sinsay (Harney Sushi), Amy DiBiase (The Glass Door, formerly at Roseville), Jim Phillips (Barona), Stefan Vukotich (Barona) and Paul McCabe (Kitchen 1540).
Kitchen 1540 is located in the newly renovated L’Auberge del Mar.
The dining room has a modern and sophisticated style with light-colored interior and overall a busy but at the same time relaxed ambience which we both enjoy very much already on our first visit to Kitchen 1540 for the Cooks Confab dinner last year.
We got a nice place close to the open kitchen which gave us a good opportunity to watch the kitchen operation. It looked very crowded with so many chefs working simultaneously in the kitchen but at the same very organized.
Kitchen 1540 has a nice bread service with many different options including foccacia with grapes but some of the breads tasted a bit stale.
Amuse Bouche: Dungeness crab, green almonds, asparagus, warm tomato citrus vinaigrette (Chris Kurth)
Good bite of Dungeness crab with a very intense tasting tomato citrus vinaigrette which would also be nice on a salad. Wine Pairing – 2008 Pinot Gris, Lucien Albrecht, Alsace (France) - had a good balance between sweet- and tartness with taste of lemon and apple.
Course 1a: Things to do in spring….types, textures, temperatures (Anthony Sinsay)
This dish had no ingredients listed on the menu and we were very curious what to expect. It was a very interesting and playful interpretation of seasonal spring ingredients, e.g. fava beans, peas, asparagus, orange, and lemon covering unusual temperatures (e.g. liquid nitrogen frozen pea foam) and textures (e.g. fava bean sponge cake). An unusual but successful dish.
Course 1b: Smoked lamb carpaccio with confit baby artichoke, preserved blood orange, Persian watercress, pine nut brittle and pecorino (Amy DiBiase).
Interesting variation on the classical beef carpaccio with light gaminess from the lamb. The artichokes which sometimes can be too woody were very tender. This dish had many different tastes and textures (crunchy pine nut brittle) and everything worked beautifully together – very strong dish. Wine pairing – 2008 Riesling Kabinett, Karl Molitor, Rheingau (Germany) - some sweetness but still good acidity.
Course 2a: Bacon & egg’s fried poached egg, lamb bacon, morel mushrooms, field mizuna, spring garlic, asparagus (Chris Kurth).
The different ingredients of the dish were well executed and it was interesting to taste lamb bacon with a very intense lamb flavor which would dominate most dishes if used more widely. But overall the different ingredients didn’t really work together and the dish felt somehow incomplete.
Course 2b: Grey pheasant leg and thigh stuffed with the breast, blazei mushrooms, spring peas, fava beans and white asparagus, fortified jus, cider vinegar pearls (Jim Phillips).
Very tender meat which got a lot of flavor from the filling of breast meat and different vegetables. The different spring vegetables supported the lightness of the dish. We had blazei mushrooms also known as almond mushrooms for the first time and they indeed had a slightly sweet and almondy taste. A very unusual twist were the small pearls of cider vinegar which were not only a spherification gimmick but added a sour contrast to the dish. The puff on top of the dish didn’t add much. Wine pairing – 2008 Pinot Noir, Jezebel, Oregon - quite fruity with tastes of cherry and strawberry and some light tannins.
Course 3a: Snake River Farms wagyu tri tip birch, fiddlehead ferns, morels, black garlic, foie gras hollandaise (Paul McCabe)
Wonderful tender meat which had a nice smoky flavor from smoking over birch. One highlight of the dish was the foie gras hollandaise which had a spread-like consistency topped with seared foie gras. Spreading some of the foie gras hollandaise over the wagyu beef created a very addictive combination. We wished we could have ordered more of it.
Course 3b: Brandied Eden farm pork tenderloin with plum glazed pork belly, broccoli spigarello, English breakfast radish and whole grain mustard (Amy DiBiase)
Good combination of pork tenderloin which paired nicely with the whole grain mustard and very tender pork belly which was accompanied by not too sweet plum. The broccoli spigarello is an interesting variation on broccoli with a more dominant broccoli flavor without the acidity of the regular broccoli. Wine pairing – 2008 Shiraz/Viognier, Angove “Nine Vines”, Australia - some spicyness at the beginning and finishes with fruit flavor and not too much tannins.
Pre Dessert: Lemon ravioli, thyme and milk foam
Interesting pre-dessert which could have had a little bit more of the lemon filling. Wine pairing - 2008 Silvaner, Dr. Heyden, Rheinhessen (Germany) which had some fruits and body but not too much acidity.
Course 4: Chocolate espresso fondant, macerated raspberries, strawberry cake, passion fruit mousse, vanilla roasted strawberries (Stefan Vukotich)
Surprisingly light and airy dessert with a strawberry jam layer between the strawberry cake and the passion fruit mousse. Wine pairing – Sparkling Red, Il Conte D’Alba “Stella Rosa” NV, Piedmont (Italy) – some strawberry flavors but not overly sweet. Good match for the dessert.
Espresso and Capuccino – we ended the night with a nice espresso and cappuccino with good microfoam.
We had a wonderful night at the Chef Celebration Dinner at Kitchen 1540. You could see in the open kitchen that the chefs had fun doing this tasting menu but you could also taste it with the dishes. It was enjoyable to experience such a great variety of very creative dishes which for us really characterize what such a culinary fundraiser should stand for – cooking without limits and only good taste matters. The dinner was made perfect by a good and affordable wine pairing which even covered amuse bouche and pre-dessert and a very professional service. It was good to see that similar to the dinner at Pamplemousse this night was very well attended.
1540 Camino Del MarDel Mar, CA 92014