SIP @Flavor Del Mar

>> Thursday, November 3, 2011

Date of Dining: 10/22/2011
Price: $7-15 per tapas plate
Location: 1555 Camino Del Mar, Suite #322, Del Mar, CA 92014
sip website
flavor website

The Quick Bit:
+ New chef with a great tapas menu
+ Food directly from Flavor Del Mar restaurant
+ Great selection of wine with friendly staff
+ Great ambiance with the racks of wine
Δ High bar chair seating doesn't necessarily suit everyone
Δ Some garnish re-use in the dishes
If you're confused with the headings read here. With the name SIP, I couldn't resist.
While there has been much turmoil in the Del Mar/Solana Beach dining scene with Blanca closing and Chef McCabe leaving Kitchen 1540, the hiring of a new chef at Flavor Del Mar has largely gone unnoticed. However, one of my fellow bloggers at Gourmand's Review was keen to this development and invited me to go sample some of the fare. Instead of going into the restaurant, we decided that we would sample the food at the attached SIP wine bar so that we could sample a variety of dishes and hang stay at the restaurant later.

SIP is a wine bar that is attached to the kitchen of the Flavor Del Mar restaurant. While Flavor may be more of a fine dining restaurant, SIP provides a more casual atmosphere to have a snack and a drink rather than an entire meal. The dishes at SIP are currently directly from the menu at Flavor, but this may be just because the new chef is still settling in.
Flavor is owned by restauranteur and entrepreneur Jeff Hunter. Mr. Hunter owns several businesses in several different industries in Canada, but has recently set his sights on Del Mar. His first endeavor in the United States is Flavor Del Mar. General Manager Jerome Astolfi runs both Flavor and SIP. Mr. Astolfi is an expert at opening and running successful restaurants. His resume includes many successful restaurants in New York City and San Diego.
Chef Brian Redzikowski was recently hired as the new chef at Flavor Del Mar. Chef Redzikowski graduated first in his class from the Culinary Institute of America where he worked at Alain Ducasse and Le Bernadin during his monthly stages. He competed on Iron Chef America in 2008 and was named StarChefs Rising Chef Nominee in 2010. Chef Redzikowski previously worked at Nobu Matsuhisa in Aspen and Joel Robuchon at the Mansion in Las Vegas. Chef Redzikowski was largely influenced by Asian flavors after a trip to Southeast Asia - his cooking style is to use the freshest seasonal ingredients and combine French and Asian flavors using modern techniques.

foie gras doughnut - persimmon, arugla, acacia honey
We started the evening with the foie, which was prepared perfectly. However, another star of the dish was the perfectly fried doughnut topped with the sweet honey. The crispy yet soft, moist, and warm doughnut was the perfect compliment to the foie. The persimmon was a nice compliment to the foie in using a seasonal fruit.

lobster tempura - serrano chile, sweet ponzu, cilantro
The lobster was fried perfectly and the flesh was tender, sweet, and succulent. The ponzu seemed to be fortified with a bit of dashi, which cut the acidity and carried the deep flavor through to the tempura more. The sliced serrano chiles provided a nice nip of heat to round out the dish.

mexican bay scallop ceviche - serrano, lime, tomato, red onion
This was probably the least successful dish of the night for me. The re-use of the garnish from the lobster turned me off a little and I felt that the lime flavor wasn't really strong enough to be the "tiger's milk" of the ceviche. The dish was not bad as it was made using top notch ingredients, but it just seemed a little bit off my expectation of a ceviche.

pickled potatoes - creme fraiche, chives
I was surprised to find that I thoroughly enjoyed this dish. The potatoes were cooked and seasoned perfectly. The pickling gave the potatoes a touch of acidity that made them stand out.

big eye tuna tacos - guacamole, red onion, micro cilantro, sour cream
At first, I was again miffed by the re-use of the micro cilantro and red onion, but after biting into the crisp wonton wrapper with the tuna, I experienced an explosion of flavor and textures that made my mouth sing.

beef sliders - nima ranch beef, brioche, ketchup, mayonnaise, arugla, carmelized onion,
aged white cheddar, cherry tomato
Ostensibly, the burger was going to be part of the fine dining burger shootout, but I felt that comparing sliders to burgers wasn't really fair. Overall, these sliders were pretty good as the cherry tomato and the arugla are not usually found in burgers. The extra sweetness from the cherry tomato worked in the slider. However, the sliders were sauced a little too heavily for my taste and the bun to meat ratio had a little too much bun for my taste.

In conclusion, the food at Flavor/SIP seems to be coming along well. I really enjoyed my experience and look forward to a future visit at Flavor itself. All of the dishes were well prepared and aside from the constant re-use of the micro-cilantro and red onion topping, each of the dishes was unique showcased a different flavor profile.
As I attribute the food to Flavor more than SIP, I will refrain from assigning a food award until I visit Flavor. In the meantime, the great wine selection that was enjoyed with all of the bites is enough to award SIP with the oeno-byte award.


Rodzilla November 4, 2011 at 4:32 AM  

Everything sounds very good. Definitely a bar menu I would be happy with.

Any idea as to who is responsible for the menu? The stuff on Redzikowski's personal site looks a bit more exciting

Bobby @ Gourmands Review November 4, 2011 at 7:22 AM  

The menu is all Brian's. He is still getting everything set up. After two days in the kitchen he completely changed the old menu to his. Once he gets a little more settled in he is going to go towards the stuff you see on his personal site and add tasting menu's. Del Mar is has some what of a strange clientele, they try an act sophisticated but when they go out they want burgers and taco's in a fine dinning setting. He needs to slowly break the public into it.

Bobby @ Gourmands Review November 4, 2011 at 7:26 AM  

The foie gras donut, pickled potatoes and lobster tempura were my favorites. WIth the pickled potatoes being the big surprise. Tasted like salt and vinegar chips.

James- I thought you didn't like the taco's? The tuna definitely got lost in the mix of everything but I still enjoyed the flavors and texture of everything it was paired with.

James November 4, 2011 at 7:54 AM  

@Bobby - I didn't like the tuna itself, but I did like the other elements. I think I said it was somewhat of an average tuna taco, but it was still on a rather high level overall

@Rodzilla - The menu is all Chef Redzikowski's and I got word that they just finished a curing room today. They should have Chef Redzikowski's charcuterie ready to go in a few weeks.

Yao November 4, 2011 at 12:29 PM  

Can you get the full menu at Sip or is it a "bar menu"? Actually, what's the physical relationship between the two - is Sip just like a section within Flavor?

We picked up the Opentable coupon for Flavor, so will definitely try to go at some point...

James November 4, 2011 at 7:06 PM  

@Yao - The same kitchen provides food to both Sip and Flavor. For now Sip offers a subset of the Flavor menu, but there will probably be something like 70% overlap and 30% unique in both restaurants in the future.

This is what was suggested during the last visit.

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