Flavor Del Mar

>> Thursday, April 19, 2012

Date of Dining: 4/18/2012 
Price: $72 for tasting menu, $39 for wine pairing
Location: 1555 Camino Del Mar #322, San Diego, CA 92014
website


The Quick Bit:

+ great products and ingredients used for tasting menu
+ well executed and flavor packed french-asian fusion
+ high caliber wine pairing for the price
+ great view of the ocean from the dining room
+ great knowledgeable service staff
Δ the parking validation only lasts for two hours
Δ tasting menu only available Sunday-Thursday

When I last mentioned Flavor Del Mar, I actually wrote a review about the adjoining wine bar Sip. While I had been hoping to try the tasting menu at Flavor Del Mar after dining at Sip, the menu took a little longer to materialize than expected, and some other obligations prevented me from getting back to Flavor until recently. I finally found some time to check out Flavor, and I was excited to see what Chef Redzikowski had planned.
As mentioned before, Flavor is run by Chef Brian Redzikowski. To quote myself from the SIP story:
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.
 I was excited to finally put myself in Chef Redzikowski's hands and experience the best he had to offer.
prosecco
To start off the meal, we were given a complimentary glass of prosecco to stimulate the palate.
tangerine jalapeno - peligroso reposado tequila, cointreau, fresh squeezed tangerine juice,
lemon, lime, jalapeno puree, chili-lime salt rim
I followed up the prosecco with the house special tangerine jalapeno cocktail. The cocktail was the house take on a margarita. Overall the cocktail was good and paired well with some of the seafood courses that was offered, but I thought a stronger jalapeno component for spice would have elevated the cocktail even more.

First Course:

tuna crisp - red onion, shiso, white truffle oil, nasturtium
leth gruner veltliner
The first course was a feast for all the senses. The white truffle oil (powder) carried the scent of truffle to the nose, while the plating was a work of art. If that wasn't enough the flavors of this dish outshone my expectations. You would probably expect me to say that the tuna was awesome (and it was), but it was not the star of the dish; the real star of the dish was the soy crisp below the tuna. The soy crisp was a play on a Chinese scallion pancake - fried to crispy perfection and infused with the flavor of green onions. This flavor was contrasted by a pickled red onion and topped off with the white truffle oil. The tuna served as a balancing agent to keep the onion and truffle flavors from overwhelming the palate.

Second Course:

grilled hiramasa - shiitake, brussel sprouts, onion, mustard miso
domaine lb chenin blanc
This fish tasted so fresh that I felt it must have still been swimming two hours before. The fish was lightly grilled and was a perfect amalgamation of the fresh oily raw flavors of hamachi with the cooked buttery savoriness more similar to a chilean sea bass. The shiitakes added some earthiness while the brussel sprouts added a peppery contrast. The miso mustard sauce added some extra umami oomph to really brighten the dish, but may not have been required as the fish alone was the star of the dish.
The Domaine LB was my favorite white wine pairing and had a lot of the buttery sweetness more usually associated with a chardonnay. However, the LB also had a more complex finish than most Chardonnays, which made it really work. The pairing with the fish really worked as the sweetness played well as a counterpoint against the mustard.

Third Course:

lobster tempura - serrano chile, sweet ponzu, cilantro
von hovel riesling
The lobster was the one item we enjoyed that can also be found on the regular menu. I previously enjoyed this course and was happy to see it back in a more refined state. The spice of the serrano was still present to really surprise and elevate the flavor of each lobster, and the other elements remained as well. Each lobster fritter was fried to perfection and contained a fresh succulent morsel of maine lobster.

Fourth Course:

wagyu A-3 ribeye - pickled ramps, wasabi kazomi, tosazo
becker estate pinot noir
Even with the recent trip to Totoraku, I am a sucker for really high quality beef. The a3 designation on the Wagyu indicates the tenderness and quality of the beef. Getting real high quality Wagyu beef was a real treat and this beef was cooked very rare to perfection; with each bite of the beef, it was so tender that I almost felt as if the beef would melt in my mouth. When I did chew, it was only with the most minimal amount of effort. I was especially a fan of the preparation, which included the wasabi kazomi, which is a pickled preparation of fresh wasabi. This was a pickling of fresh wasabi, which still contains the spice, but at a milder level, which allows more depth to develop in the flavor. The grilled ramps added some garlic flavors to round out and unify the dish. 
The Becker Estate Pinot was a surprise as the pinot carried a really long finish that was almost more reminiscent of a syrah, yet retained the bright fruity nose of a pinot. 

Fifth Course:

skuna bay salmon - hedgehog mushrooms, garlic and parsely puree, spinach, fennel
bergstrom cumberland reserve
This was my favorite dish of the night. The salmon was perfectly cooked and all the side elements of the dish really worked in harmony to advance the salmon. My favorite element was the olive oil pudding. At first I found it hard to identify what the flavor was as it was so familiar, but came in a different form. The sauteed vegetables added individual elements of brightness and contrast to the dish, which really showcased how versatile the salmon was in holding up to the contrasting flavors. Further, the salmon was paired with a pinot that happened to also be my favorite wine of the evening. The minerality and flavors of the bergstrom really highlight what I appreciate in pinots and the pairing worked really well against the wild salmon.

Sixth Course:

flat iron steak - potato, shallot jam, sorrel,  brussel sprouts, soy-garlic glaze
chateau roques mauriac
This steak showed off the technique of sous vide followed by grilling to finish. This technique really allows the beef to cook perfectly and epitomize the pure flavors of beef. This beef was made special due to the shallot jam. The shallots were actually caramelized to the point where they caramelized and there was actually a sweet flavor from the shallots. This pairing really worked well with the beef (although I personally prefer the wasabi pairing). 
The wine was an excellent bordeaux pairing and displayed why bordeauxs generally pair well with red meats. While the wine was still young and contained a lot of tanins, this actually seemed to work in favor of the pairing as the tanins provided some extra contrast that seemed to be absent from the dish.

Seventh Course:

foie gras doughnut - acacia honey, tangerine, arugula, chive
chateau rieussec
The foie gras was cooked perfectly medium rare and the doughnut contained a warm fluffy interior while maintaining a slight crunchy exterior. In short, the technical execution was perfect. The foie gras was cooked to perfection and really came through in flavor of a seared foie.

Eighth Course:

butterscotch budino
krocher auslese
The butterscotch budino was really the perfect way to end the meal. The caramel was slightly hardened to almost give a creme brulee crunch in some areas, yet the pudding retained a really smooth and rich texture and flavor throughout. I thought that this take was even superior to the budino I enjoyed at Pizzeria Mozza.

Conclusion:

Chef Brian Redzikowski is cooking some great food at Flavor. He is really showcasing the combination of French techniques, asian flavors, and modern technique to present high quality cuisine. The ingredients used are of the highest quality and that is reflected in the end product at the restaurant. While San Diego has had some really talented chefs leave recently, I really hope that Chef Redzikowski has found a great home and is willing to stay. As San Diegans, we should show our support for Chef Redzikowski so we don't lose another great chef.
My experience at flavor really as excellent as the cuisine was tasty, the plating was artistic, and the service was very good as well. For the entire experience, I give Flavor Del Mar the terrabyte award.

3 comments:

Rodzilla April 20, 2012 at 12:03 AM  

I too was really impressed by meal at Flavor, the food was impressive as anything and they have the staff and setting to match.

I'm not sure why there hasn't been more buzz about chef Redzikowski, his resume alone is damned impressive, and he seems to be showcasing all of it on the menu. I think it's a top spot in SD, can't wait to go back for the tasting.

James April 24, 2012 at 8:22 AM  

I think to get more renown in SD as a chef, you have to compete in competitions, go to culinary events, and host chef celebration dinners. You can join groups like the slow food or cooks confab. I don't think Chef Redzikowski has done these things yet. Hopefully he gets around to it.

I think Chef Barron's star really took off when he won Chef of the Fest at the food and wine festival.

Summer At Sea June 20, 2012 at 5:34 AM  

I absolutely loveeee Flavor and the budino is like heaven! The sweet and salty mix is just perfect.

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