Southern California is a mecca for fresh treasures from the sea. Here are two of CSL’s new favourites.
Executive chef JoJo Ruiz’s take on modern coastal cuisine at this Gaslamp Quarter restaurant in San Diego is accomplished with the Asian tinged menu that pairs well with clever cocktails. The two-storey dining room mixes posh industrial elements and a dark and brooding atmosphere with subtle maritime details. Begin with a requisite order of addictive crisp rock shrimp with gochujang and Japanese aioli —its mild heat will warm up your taste buds. Follow this by the indulgent butter poached king crab leg with herbaceous matchstick-fine chiffonade of crisp leeks, roasted garlic butter and bright lemon topped with caviar. The bezerk specialty roll with shrimp tempura, avocado, luxurious salmon belly, negi (Japanese green onion), with hints of citrus and sweet soy is a good example of every ingredient taking its turn on centre stage.
RAYA AT RITZ CARLTON LAGUNA NIGUEL
Embraced by a sweeping view of the Pacific Ocean (Catalina Island is across the water), dinner is full experience, where the cuisine matches the scenery. With nuevo latino at its core, influences of Peru, Japan, Mexico and Korea are woven throughout to create harmonious dishes with unique ingredients. Small plates like the lobster tacos, cutely held together with a miniscule clothespins holds a creamy black bean puree, chile de árbol salsa and succulent lobster meat, the wild mushroom huarache with crisp masa, an array of caramelized onion and deep earthy mushrooms topped with goat’s cheese is a vegetarian dream. Chef de Cuisine Jaclyn Corrales Arroz Negro’s play on Spanish paella, is translated into forbidden black rice with enough texture to be satisfying, and an underlying depth that lies somewhere between nutty and roasted corn, topped with Maine lobster, prawn, calamari and Dungeness crab. The meaty halibut with truffled boniato purée, corn salsa and tempura jalapeños is fragrant and balanced. End your meal with the impossibly light churros served with chocolate sauce and nuts.
This original travel article first appeared in the Summer 2019 issue of City Style and Living Magazine.