Sky Room (closed)

>> Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Date of Dining: 12/21/2012
Price: $95 for 7 course tasting menu
Location: 1132 Prospect St, La Jolla, CA 92037

The Quick Bit

+ venturing into the culinary unknown
+ variations on the same ingredient
+ knowledgable and friendly service
+ great view
Δ dishes could be edited

Culinary trends are cyclical as time come and go; Oysters Rockerfeller turns into Oysters on the Half Shell until even that turns into Oyster Foam, before Oysters Rockerfeller returns in a deconstructed form. There are no beginnings or endings to in culinary arts - but this was an ending.
A warm breeze blows through the hills of Escondido, buffeting that late season chanterelle before passing into the Highlands of Torrey, where the nasturtium is germinating for the spring bloom, before that breeze collides with the cool onshore flow in the Cove of La Jolla. Here the hot and cold air battles as it blows by a solitary tower, a tower where the top is known as Sky Room.
Recently, it was determined that the Sky Room at La Valencia was operating as a restaurant without the proper permits. Rather than keeping the iconic restaurant, the owners elected to allow the restaurant to operate through its sunset provision and then close the restaurant. 
Fortunately, in the culinary world these endings can form into a new beginning. Chef Luke Johnson aspires for such a new beginning. With a resume that includes stints at Alinea (America's top restaurant) in Chicago and Melisse in Los Angeles, Chef Johnson pushes the envelope of modernist cuisine. His farm to table modern technique style showcases the same ingredients prepared in several ways on each dish. 
Our group, which included Rodzilla and {insert-food} decided to try Chef Johnson's food before he relocated, as we were unsure of his next destination.

First Course

oyster - kunomoto, salsify, grapefruit, chive
This was a great opening dish in both flavors and pace. The acidity and tartness of the grapefruit simultaneously cleansed the palate while causing the mouth the water. I felt the puree of grapefruit was the element that really tied the entire dish together. The three preparations of oyster were distinct and fun as well.

Second Course

lentil - onion, pig, yam
I really enjoyed the pork belly in this dish as it was cooked extremely well. The lentil soup reminded me of a time where I burnt some peas trying to create the Maillard reaction.

Third Course

lobster - turnip, orange, mushroom
I really enjoyed the preparation of the lobster as well as the lobster foam, which I found very aromatic. I liked the contrast in flavors from the lobster tail versus the lobster knuckles, and thought the mushrooms added a nice element of umami to the dish.

Fourth Course

gnocchi - beet, veal, lemon, parmesan
I thought this was the best dish of the night. The key to this dish was the candied lemon. When I ate the lemon, it lingered on my palate while I ate the other elements in the dish. Together with the beats and parmesan, the lemon flavors created a sauce for the gnocchi, which I really enjoyed. The gnocchi were cooked perfectly and were very fluffy. When I first ate the dish without the lemon, I felt it was missing something, but after enjoying the lemon, the rest of the dish really came together.

Fifth Course

venison - celery, pine nut, raisin, sage, coffee
I felt that the venison was cooked to perfection. The coffee sauce really added a lot of depth of flavor to the venison and complemented the game flavors very well. The pine nuts and sage added to the theme of the forest as well.


verjus gelee, mint
This was a nice palate cleanser to prepare for the dessert courses

Sixth Course

cheese - honeycomb, fennel, cornbread
The fromager d'affinois cheese was a great piece of cheese in both texture and flavor. Having usually skipped the cheese course, this course really educated me on how cheese works well in the progression of a meal.

Seventh Course

gourd - chocolate, spice, streusel, chestnut
This dish was one of my favorites. The butternut squash was served in juice form in the center of the plate and them it was complemented by an extremely light and airy puree. Every bite screamed out with a purity in flavor that really impressed me. I even appreciated the macarons, streusel and chestnut on this plate as they added interesting textures to highlight different variations of the squash flavor. Despite Chef Johnson not being a pastry chef, this dessert was superior to many desserts I enjoyed prepared by pastry chefs this year.


The most impressive quality to this meal was that I saw that Chef Johnson was not afraid to try new things and push the culinary envelope. While some of the dishes didn't work, Chef Johnson's work seems to be ahead of the other San Diego trends. That said, I do feel that sometimes one can be somewhat ambitious and push too far too fast. In some dishes, some of these envelopes were pushed too far and the dishes didn't work. With that said, I am still excited about Chef Johnson's food and look forward to his next venture.


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gastro bits is a blog that juxtaposes the geeky with the foodie; it is an attempt to be educational about food, yet entertaining at the same time.
None of the reviews are meant to dissuade you from trying anything by yourself, but simply to provide information for you to make a more informed choice.
If any special treatment is provided to the blogger, full disclosure is presented at the beginning of the post.

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