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Kitchen 1540 – 20 Dishes, 10 Courses – White Flag Tasting Menu

One last tasting menu with Chef Jonathan Bautista

Full review and photos: http://bit.ly/1jyK0vo

The first look when deciding on the next restaurant to visit is always for the online menu to get an idea about the cooking style and creativity of the chef and how it overlaps with our preferences. But the second look often immediately follows to the personal background page of the chef. It is always very interesting to read the vita of a chef and the different restaurants and chefs he worked for during his career. Having worked for well-known chefs or in prestigious restaurants obviously doesn’t guarantee that a chef will run a good restaurant himself but at the same time it is important to have experienced and successfully worked under high-pressure environments to fully comprehend the restaurant business. And so it is fascinating to put together “family trees” of well-known chefs like Thomas Keller, Charlie Trotter or Daniel Boulud to realize their far reaching impact on the dining scene in pretty much every part of the US and even beyond. But the impact of established chefs is not only apparent on the national level but can be quite strong on a local level which was nicely illustrated recently in an article about the influences of just two chefs, Daniel Patterson of Coi and David Kinch of Manresa, on the dining scene in San Francisco. Both chefs have trained and mentored many chefs over the years in their kitchens that their influence on the culinary landscape in San Francisco is undeniable through restaurants like Outerland, Commis or Rich Table but goes even to national acclaimed ice cream shops like Humphry Slocombe. The impact is perhaps best summed up by Chef Evan Rich with “(Kinch and Patterson) don't only teach you to cook. They teach you how to think about food”. And it illustrates that one of the backbones of a great culinary city are strong, visionary chefs who provide environments for aspiring chefs and reasons for them to stay in that city.

San Diego might not yet have the depth as a culinary city as San Francisco which can also be explained by the missing opportunities for young chefs to grow and get mentored by such established chefs but over the last few years several chefs, like Trey Foshee, Jeff Jackson, Matt Gordon and Paul McCabe, and their restaurants have started to fill out this role. We recently had the chance to experience two former chefs, Zach Hunter and Steven Molina, who had worked under McCabe at a pop-up dinner at Delicias. Steven Molina has since then moved to Sea & Smoke to run the day-to-day operations of the restaurant but we also met Chef Bautista again at that dinner whom we first encountered as sous chef at a tasting menu at Kitchen 1540. And it reminded us that it was more than time to set up another tasting menu at Kitchen 1540 where he was now running the show as Chef de Cuisine. Chef Bautista finished his culinary education at the Art Institute in San Diego in 2005 before he started working at Roy’s where he moved up the ranks to sous chef. He then moved over to Kitchen 1540 where he started working under Paul McCabe, worked briefly at Michael Voltaggio’s Ink in LA, before returning to Kitchen 1540 as Chef de Cuisine. Interestingly, when we finally made the reservation with Chef Bautista we pretty much found out at the same day that he was planning to start working as Chef de Cuisine at Georges Modern around the same time. Even though we briefly considered cancelling the reservation since it would be on one of his last days at Kitchen 1540 we also felt that it might be a good chance to experience his own cooking before he would work together with Trey Foshee, and it would be interesting to see how his cooking style will be influenced in the future. (The restaurant gave us a very nice but also very dark place and so the pictures are quite grainy)

1st Course: Hamachi, fermented plum, soy, cucumber, daikon
Raw fish is often seen as a start to a tasting menu since the delicate fish acts as a welcoming canvas for a wide variety of flavors to awaken the palate. Here we had a nicely done version with hamachi which was lightly torched to give it a unique flavor that held up against the soy yuzu sauce and the fermented plum. The daikon and cucumber added some textural contrast. Overall a very good start to the tasting menu especially with the sake pairing and its floral undertones.

2nd Course: Ocean trout, geoduck, aged parsnip, sorrel, wild trout roe
Wood sorrel gave the broth its deep green color and with its tangy, citrusy flavor paired well with the ocean trout. The crispy skin and a piece of geoduck added some crunch whereas the trout roe was integral to the dish with the small bursts of brininess.

3rd Course: Vegetables, caper, lemon, brown butter
The bounty of outstanding produce in San Diego is often depicted with a salad course but Chef Bautista took a different path by showcasing it through some outstanding lightly grilled/seared vegetables from Chino Farms ranging from cauliflower, aubergines to turnips. This course was really about the natural flavors of these vegetables only accentuated by a light lemony sauce. One of the highlights of the tasting menu, raising the question why not more chefs in San Diego use these flavors as centerpieces of dishes instead of focusing on meat.

4th Course: Cuttlefish, parmesan, dashi, basil
This course reminded us most on influences from Ink in LA – cuttlefish cut into thin pieces and pressure cooked so that it resembles visually and texturally pasta is combined with uni and abalone on one side and a parmesan and dashi sauce on the other side to give a Japanese inspired version of Spaghetti Carbonara. A really well thought out course which combines creativity with flawless execution and you would wish to have a really large bowl.

5th Course: Hamachi belly, Chino turnips, nettle chimichurri
It was interesting to see the different approaches between this course and the previous one – the cuttlefish course showcased many different ingredients, flavors and complexity whereas this course was all about simplicity and clean flavors. Succulent hamachi belly and slightly sweet turnips complement each other without blending the flavors. Both are wood roasted to accentuate their roles and the nettle chimichurri connects both with its herbaceous taste.

6th Course: Geoduck belly, razor clam, sunchoke, BBQ, yuzu
Tender geoduck belly stood up surprisingly well against the different variations of sunchoke, like sauce and chips, with its nutty flavor. The restrained use of yuzu helped to bring the plate alive. The sunchoke chips and razor clam added some nice texture.

7th Course: Local spiny lobster, fermented onion, crosnes, black trumpet
This might have been actually the first time that we had black trumpet mushrooms and it is easy to understand why they are so thought after with their meaty consistency and fruity and earthy flavor with reminiscence of black truffles. The butter poached lobster and the fermented onion sauce with its slightly sour, funky undertones were unexpected companions to the mushrooms but worked remarkable well.

8th Course: Pork short ribs, alba white truffles, potato polenta, kohlrabi
Beef short ribs might be one of the most overused ingredients on any menu currently and so it was a nice change to see pork short ribs especially with such an interesting mole-like glaze. The white truffles were an unexpected pairing but worked remarkably well as they stood up against the mole without overpowering the dish. The potato polenta acted as the base of the dish whereas the pickled kohlrabi, a vegetable which should be used more often by chefs, brightened up the dish with some acidity and muted sweetness. Another highlight of the night for which we wished for a much larger portion.

9th Course: Lamb, ash, parley, chestnut, oats
Very tender sous vide lamb is coated in ash which gives it a slightly bitter undertone, but what really sets this dish apart is the combination of three different sauces/puree – parsley puree, chestnut puree and fermented strawberry sauce. Each of the three sauces has a very different, distinct flavor which pairs well with the lamb and it’s interesting to try out various combinations of them with each bite. And as in many of his dishes Chef Bautista adds some textural component, here some oats, to avoid a too uniform overall consistency.

10th Course: Cinnamon bun, bay leaf ice cream
Kitchen 1540 doesn’t have a regular pastry chef and so Chef Bautista is also responsible for the sweet part of the tasting menu. We started with a wonderful light and airy “unwrapped” cinnamon bun which was accompanied by bay leaf ice cream. Bay leaf is one of these spices you often add to your dishes and it doesn’t have a very prominent flavor but it adds often an important base to many dishes. Here bay leafs took the center stage and the ice cream showed some floral notes with hints of nutmeg and some surprising sweetness. The shaved apple pieces completed this great dessert with some welcomed tanginess.

11th Course: Root beer, persimmon, maple
We normally don’t like root beer a lot and so we were a bit skeptical about the last course but actually the root beer foam had the typical herbal notes which often remind us on some medicine and toothpaste but paired well with the cake and the maple ice cream and was a good end to an outstanding tasting menu.

When we were setting up the tasting menu we were initially a little bit skeptical as it was on one of the last days of Chef Bautista at Kitchen 1540 and so it was hard to judge how much he would be willing to put a lot of efforts in this tasting menu. But at the same time we also felt that it was a last chance to experience his cooking (and potentially creative cooking in general) at Kitchen 1540. Once we started the tasting menu it turned out to be one of the best we had experienced in San Diego. This was one of these rare occasions where everything turned out to be a perfect night – great food, good pairings, relaxed yet professional service. Often even at the most well known restaurants or chefs some small annoyance happen, e.g. disappointing courses or rushed service but here we just sat down, had a great time and were surprised how fast more than four hours were flying by. Most importantly the food was on a very high level with many well thought out courses which often showed bold yet refined and complex flavors, perhaps best characterized by two of the highlights - the cuttlefish and the pork course. And so it is not really surprising that Chef Bautista decided to take the next career step by moving to Georges as Chef de Cuisine as he seems to be ambitious enough not to stay in this comfortable but not really challenging position at Kitchen1540. And since his cooking is already on a very high level the only logical step as he mentioned in a discussion was only to work under Trey Foshee or move somewhere else. It will be interesting to see where his successor, Chef Brandon Fortune, formerly of Amaya and Aquamoree, will push Kitchen1540 – continue as bastion of fine dining or converting it to a “hotel restaurant”. The cooking style of Chef Bautista shows influences from chefs he worked with and tends to be complex and perhaps sometimes even a bit overthought whereas Chef Foshee has a focused style often aiming at the elemental, pure flavor of the ingredients. Having both work together at Georges will be interesting especially for TBL3 to see how much they will influence each other and especially if Chef Bautista’s style will change over time. We are looking to meet him again at our next TBL3 experience !

about 17 hours ago
honkman in San Diego
2

Pizzeria Mozza on a quiet evening

I'll bet the middle of the pizza won't be flopless

about 23 hours ago
honkman in San Diego

Pizzeria Mozza on a quiet evening

" I had in mind the discussion here about the center of some of the pies flopping down. It did but we were able to manage" - this is the point which surprises me most in this discussions. I would be concerned with the pizza quality at Mozza if the center wouldn't flop down. Their pizza (at any of their locations or with similar styles in Italy) is not meant to be eaten with hands but knife and fork. I think with the complains about Mozza we are talking about two different issues - missteps with the service or prefering other pizza styles (which says nothing about the quality of the pizza at Mozza itself)

1 day ago
honkman in San Diego

Stuck in the Gaslamp District. HELP!

"This is a corporate store with a corporate opening, nothing more, nothing less. It has some big names associated with it, but I'd be very surprised if they had more than a passing involvement with the operation at this point" - I think we have to differentiate between kitchen and service. I heard and read that Chef Matt Molina stayed for a month in SD before the opening to train kitchen staff and so I think from a culinary standpouint they took SD very serious but simply hired the wrong people and should replace them. On the other side I think for the service they are going for the idea that people in San Diego are OK with this stupid laid back "service" we experience in nearly all restaurants in SD and didn't try to improve the service levels in SD. But I think a problem here is that the pool of good servers in SD is surpringly small. (Cafe Chloe had recently some changes in the FOH since a few people moved away from SD and it is obvious that John has problems to replace them with equally qualified people).

Apr 18, 2014
honkman in San Diego

Stuck in the Gaslamp District. HELP!

What's so unique about Mozza and having mixed opinions ? Many restaurants with potential service and quality issues (not only in SD) end up with mixed opinions depending which standard you are setting going in

Apr 17, 2014
honkman in San Diego

Brunch at Rancho Valencia or Sea & Smoke?

Rancho Valencia very recently lost their top two chefs and I am not sure if they were replaced yet, so going now might have the risk of experience a kitchen during a transition period without anybody experienced running it

Apr 16, 2014
honkman in San Diego

Stuck in the Gaslamp District. HELP!

Weak attempt at German humor, unfortunately the Internet is a very flat medium

Apr 16, 2014
honkman in San Diego

Stuck in the Gaslamp District. HELP!

There is some scientific indication that prions are most likely not only transfered through (eating) brains but most likely also through blood and other pathways - so why worry when eating brain from time to time (and it is really tasty and the consistency is not unlike tofu, so you really might like it) - Life is a game where you will lose at the end anyway, enjoy it as much as possible

Are you sure your not from the inside of Untersberg? - Just call me Barbarossa

Apr 16, 2014
honkman in San Diego

Stuck in the Gaslamp District. HELP!

If you would eat more in France you would see that those dishes (lamb, veal brain) are very common all over France (like all offal dishes in Europe). Have you ever tried it before you can say it is not good ?

Apr 16, 2014
honkman in San Diego

Solana Beach/Del Mar Eats

Blue Ribbon Pizzeria in Encinitas is very good

Apr 15, 2014
honkman in San Diego

Mr. A's

If you look into that type of more "old school" dining you should look into Mille Fleurs (Rancho Santa Fe). Same chef but better food.

Apr 15, 2014
honkman in San Diego

Mr. A's

I don't think they have great food (even their mussel bisque is just OK) especially for their prices

Apr 15, 2014
honkman in San Diego

Pizzeria Mozza--Underwhelmed

Than I guess you will find Napolitean style pizza (even though Mozza is not exact this style) gross.

Apr 14, 2014
honkman in San Diego

Pizzeria Mozza--Underwhelmed

Mozza pizza is a not made to be eaten by hand and will always flop down. Napolitean style are always "soggy" in the middle ( but I also heard that they are still not up to the same level of quality as their original location)

Apr 14, 2014
honkman in San Diego

Stuck in the Gaslamp District. HELP!

I actually think that more recently (last 12 months) Cafe Chloe improved quite a bit. The last few years one could get the impression that they were just doing their "day-to-day" cooking without great changes (which was still good enough to be one of the better resraurants in SD) but nothing unusual happened on their menu. More recently they are much more playing around with unusual ingredients (e.g. great lamb brain appetizer etc) or flavors (e.g. North African influences) and also their plates are getting better again (more focused, clean flavors).

Apr 14, 2014
honkman in San Diego

Old Town rec

Haven't heard about that one. What dishes are good ?

Apr 14, 2014
honkman in San Diego

If you could change the restaurant/bar scene in SD. .

Why feel sorry - I was also thinking about Berlin

Apr 11, 2014
honkman in San Diego

If you could change the restaurant/bar scene in SD. .

Why not burn down San Diego and start from scratch ?

Apr 11, 2014
honkman in San Diego

What cookbooks have you bought recently, or are you lusting after? April 2014 edition!

Even though you might not need another meat book but "The Great Meat Cookbook" by Aidells is very good and has a lot of information about the different cuts, sourcing, how to cook etc.

Apr 10, 2014
honkman in Home Cooking

List some of your fave lunch spots. .

A. R. Valentien on their patio with a cocktail

Apr 10, 2014
honkman in San Diego
2

What cookbooks have you bought recently, or are you lusting after? April 2014 edition!

"In Pursuit of Excellence" from Josiah Citrin chef/owner of Melisse in Santa Monica. We bought it at his restaurant when we had a tasting menu last Saturday. Will be interesting to cook some of the dishes and see how much we can replicate at home.

Apr 08, 2014
honkman in Home Cooking

Casual Date Night in North County SD

They seem to have quite rushed service as their main issue but if you order apps and mains separately you should be fine

Apr 06, 2014
honkman in San Diego

Casual Date Night in North County SD

If you are willing to drive to Del Mar Sea & Smoke (same chef/owner as Solace but Solace is by far the weakest of all three of his places) might be a good option

Apr 06, 2014
honkman in San Diego

San Diego breweries among best in the world....

But who defines what type of beer (or even IPA) should be used to define if a city has top quality or not ? It would be the same when somebody would judge the quality of cities regarding all their food solely based on Italian (or even better Nothern Italian) restaurant.

Apr 03, 2014
honkman in San Diego
1

Need Good recs for college students

If you are interested in exploring SD (and its food options) Coronado might be one of the worst places to stay (regarding local ption and distance to interesting places). I would try to find something else

Apr 01, 2014
honkman in San Diego

Maude in Beverly Hills. Any early reports?

So you are complaining that a restaurant focused on tasting menus (many small portions, constant change of cutlery and china after each course etc.) is serving you a tasting menu ?

Apr 01, 2014
honkman in Los Angeles Area

Just got a Sansaire (sous vide machine)! What should I cook?

Actually Scott Heimendinger is not one of the "original Modernist Cuisine guys" but joined their team more recently once Modernist Cuisine was already published

Apr 01, 2014
honkman in Home Cooking
1

Great coffee in SD..?

Zumbar, Caffe Calabria and Bird Rock are our three go to places

Mar 30, 2014
honkman in San Diego

BlueRibbon Rustic Kitchen. Yes, indeed.

Tried it last night from 10-11:30pm for their late night/bar menu and it is a great addition to our rotation - great food, good cocktails, relaxed ambience. The food had the same quality as their regular menu, good portion size and cheap, e.g. the pork belly was much better quality (meat/fat ratio), better prepared and actually larger than at Urban Solace (our regular place for pork belly) but just $8 instead of $23

Mar 30, 2014
honkman in San Diego

No evidence saturated fats promote heart disease, no evidence unsaturated fats reduce it

A huge number of studies on any field or topic doesn't prove anything in terms of the likelihood that the hypotheses are correct, especially if it is based on animals, tissue or cell data (and the majority of the studies you have cited are based on these kind of research). (And it is something you ignored you address in your reply). Same also with specificity of research - there are numberous cases where you will find many research articles on a particular field which in the end turned out to be not relavant for a disease, e.g p38 for certain types of inflammation etc etc.

I don't know how many papers you have submitted to peer-reviews journals or if you have reviewed submitted papers (I do both) but your expectations of how this works, especially the "examination of funding thoroughly" couldn't be further from the truth (publishers might claim this but they don't have any capacity to investigate anything and their only way to "prove" it, is by believing that the authors are honest when they fill out the online submission form)
I am just curious if you are working in any biology/chemistry/pharmacology related field ?

Mar 27, 2014
honkman in Food Media & News