During the San Diego Restaurant Week in July, Mr. Tall and I visited Chive, located in Gaslamp Quarter. I am usually skeptical about Gaslamp restaurants as more often than not they fail to impress and overpriced, but Mr. Tall and I were hopeful about Chive since it was voted by San Diegans as Best of the Best of moderately priced restaurants, tied with Jsix at Hotel Solamar (also located downtown). Chive is one of the three San Diego restaurants under the directin of restauranteur Tracy Borkum. The urban, minimalist decor is pleasant but not particularly impressive--and not as innovative as its cuisine. The small-plate or tasting-style menu, created by Chef Joe Magnanelli, is contemporary American. Many food critics and bloggers usually cringe at the concept of "contemporary" or "fusion" as it usually translaters to "confusion." However, Chive was far from confused. Its usual menu offerings consist of “Small Plates to Begin” (appetizers), “Medium Plate to Share” (entrees), “Extras for All” (side dishes), and “Sweets to End” (desserts).
Mr. Tall and I perused through Chive’s Restaurant Week menu and decided on our three-course choices as well as an additional medium plate to share. From its regular menu offerings, the Crispy Duck Spring Rolls was the first to arrive. Perched on a bed of watercress salad, the crispy spring rolls, filled with duck prosciutto and drizzled with wasabi cream, was surprisingly light and delicious. Mr. Tall’s first course was the Sweet Summer Corn Soup, brought in a cast-iron kettle and poured into a bowl tableside over candied lemon yogurt and smoked maple bacon. The soup had an amazing essence of corn and its flavor brightened by the refreshing lemon yogurt. My first course was Chive’s signature Beet Terrine with goat cheese, toasted hazelnuts, and port gastrique, topped with micro-arugula and a taro chip. The terrine was as beautiful to look at as it was to eat—it is a must-try dish.
Mr. Tall’s next course was the Korubuta Pork Tenderloin with Japanese cabbage cake dumplings, Fuji apple compote, and black bean preserve.
This had an obvious Chinese and Japanese influence; the pork was not overcooked, and the dish was well executed as a whole.
My second course was a Pan-fry Salmon with mushroom and fingerling potato mash and topped with wilted Chinese broccoli and a tart cider reduction. The salmon was slightly undercooked, but the other components had a nice balance of flavors to help redeem the dish.
Finally, the “Sweets to End” were Rice Pudding topped with green tea crème brûlée and fresh berries and Bittersweet Chocolate and Hazelnut Mousse Torte.
Both desserts were enjoyable but nothing particularly spectacular. All in all, for an unpretentious contemporary American dining experience, Chive is a unique eatery among the dizzying choices of steak houses and Italian restaurants in the Gaslamp District.
Little Miss Contrary
Coming (soon): LMC's 24th birthday dinner at George's Ocean Terrace and Scandinavian culinary adventures--and meeting Marcus Sameulsson in Sweden!