If you watch Top Chef and live in San Diego, then you are likely familiar with the name Brian Malarkey. In the span of 2 years, he has opened an impressive five restaurants in San Diego. I have to give Chef Marlarkey and his partner credit for the clever names based on different material--Searsucker, Herringbone, Burlap, Gingham, and Gabardine. I have tried Searsucker on 2 occasions and am not a fan of the restaurant--the food was subpar, and the ambiance was very "sceney." (You can find my review, as P.K., of Searsucker on Yelp back on April 19, 2012.) So, when Mr. Tall took me out to Herringbone, I was a bit skeptical but had an open mind (and an empty stomach, as they would say on Iron Chef America ...).
Located in a converted warehouse in La Jolla, Herringbone looks nondescript from the outside. But, of course, the interior and decor were thoughtfully hip with nods to the ocean (many artistic interpretations and uses of blow fish) and four olive trees among the dining tables (I guess, that's the "field" portion in their "Fish Meats Field" motto). The open kitchen is enclosed in glass windows; unfortunately, it is not as easy to admire the work of the kitchen staff as the kitchen is slightly elevated from the dining room. The ambiance was casual and lively. The front bar was bit loud, but the dining room area was not loud at all--Mr. Tall and I were able to comfortably converse throughout dinner without having to yell and huh at each other.
Along with the olives and almonds "compliments of Chef Amanda" (you may remember her from season 7 of Top Chef), I ordered a glass of Albarino and Mr. Tall got a Trumer Pilsner, served in a really interesting, cylindrical beer glass. They also have a nice selection of intriguing cocktails (which I may have to try on our next visit). Our nice waiter suggested that the chef intends for the menu to be ordered as a 3-course meal of "Cold Fare," "Hot Fare," and "Plates." So, that we did.
Mr. Tall is not a big fan of most seafood (he only eats fish; no raw fish either), but the seafood-heavy menu at Herringbone still had enough options for pickier eaters. We started off surf-and-turf style from "Cold Fare"--tuna and beef carpaccio, served with pistachio, lemon oil, and a micro salad. The carpaccio was sliced paper-thin, super tender, and tasted mild. The pistachio provided a nice crunch and saltiness; the lemon oil and micro salad added a much needed acidity and pepperiness to the dish.
We followed up with a smoked trout dip and toasts. The menu only says smoked trout and toasts, but luckily our waiter clarified that the smoked trout is in a hot, cheesy dip and made sure that we were okay with the dish before taking our order. We decided to go for it, and we were glad that we did. The unusual and surprising combination of smoked fish and cheese totally works! There was a lot of acidity in the dish, which I think helped to make the flavors really stand out.
Our waiter said that they are "known" (not sure how you're "known" for a dish when you have only been opened for 2 months, but I'll run with it) for their Day Boat Alaskan halibut dish, and also suggested the whole roasted Tai snapper. I was not feeling those dishes, so I went for my go-to dish of seafood stew with mussels, fish (I think it may have been sea bass), fennel, tomato, and harissa aioli--and, of course some toasted bread to sop up the juices. The seafood stew did not disappoint. There was a lot of fresh, plump seafood (the shrimp were huge!), and I love the addition of fennel. I was expecting a real kick from the harissa aioli, but it tasted more like a plain aioli, which was still flavorful.
Mr. Tall went the "meats" route and ordered the braised lamb shank, served with mashed potatoes and baby broccoli. The braising gravy had black olives, orange, and piquillo peppers. Mr. Tall enjoyed this new American dish with great Middle Eastern flavors and very tender lamb.
Of course, Mr. Tall and I couldn't leave without trying some desserts. The Herringbone sundae (chocolate ice cream, espresso caramel, sea salt blondies, caramelized cocoa nibs, and marshmallow cream) immediately stood out on their dessert menu. It had the best of both sweet and salty; the caramelized nibs added an amazing crunch and deep chocolate flavor; and the espresso caramel was perfect. We loved this dessert!
Mr. Tall and I really enjoyed our meal and would likely return to Herringbone to try more of their menu offerings. Casual, cool ambiance, solid food, and good service. It may not be our favorite restaurant in San Diego, but it is a place worth checking out if you are near the area and looking for something different than the usual spots on Prospect or in downtown La Jolla. Mr. Tall and I will probably check out Gabardine in Point Loma in the near future, and will definitely blog about it! Eat well and until next time!