When it comes to dining in La Jolla, you don’t have to look far to discover great options. The hillside resort town near San Diego boasts an abundance of gourmet restaurants that range from casual neighborhood eateries and breezy seaside cafés to fine-dining establishments serving cutting-edge cuisine. Yet the dining scene keeps expanding. Here are two of the latest culinary haute spots heating up La Jolla:
Amaya La Jolla
Slated to debut on March 18, Amaya La Jolla is the area’s most-anticipated new dining venue, and there is plenty to look forward to, indeed. The restaurant will take cues from its celebrated culinary kinfolk Amaya, at Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star The Grand Del Mar. Much like its relaxed fine-dining sibling, the sister spot will incorporate Italian-inspired ambiance and a Mediterranean-influenced menu.
The La Jolla location will also embrace one of The Grand Del Mar family’s top culinary talents. Executive chef Camron Woods, who served at the original locale, will now tip his toque from the helm of the Amaya nouveau. Woods, who has been cooking in the shadow of the resort’s prestigious signature Five-Star restaurant, Addison, will finally get his chance to step into the limelight at a stand-alone venue.
Even so, he will carry with him an entourage of tried-and-true Amaya menu items. Farm-to-fork favorites like butter lettuce salad with blue cheese crumbles will remain the same, while starters like seared day boat scallops will get slight updates (parsnips instead of duck confit). Signature dishes, including crispy branzini with tangerine sauce and savory confit of fennel, tomatoes and Niçoise olives, will also be imported to the La Jolla menu.
In addition to the classics, Woods will bring a taste of his South Carolinian upbringing with rustic, reinvented comfort foods served family-style. Look for daily specials that hint of his Charleston roots, like shrimp and grits with collard greens, buttermilk-fried chicken plated with mac and cheese, and barbecue baby-back ribs alongside a green bean casserole. A trio of cheddar-herbed biscuits, jalapeño cornbread and deviled eggs will complete each dish.
As for the physical space that will house the new restaurant, expect it to be an experience unto itself. Warren Sheets, who created The Grand Del Mar’s opulent interior, transformed the 10,000-square-foot former art gallery into a luxurious dining venue complete with seating for 100-plus diners. Similar to the resort, its design is based on Mediterranean architecture, but this time, the inspiration is specific to Italy’s stunning Amalfi Coast. Standout features include hand-carved stonework, iron chandeliers bejeweled with crystals and walls hung with fine art.
Amaya La Jolla is in the heart of La Jolla’s upscale shopping and dining district. The restaurant will be open for dinner daily from 5 to 10 p.m. The lounge — which will serve beer, wine and hand-crafted cocktails paired with soothing live music each night — will welcome guests from 7 to 11 p.m. Sundays through Wednesdays, and from 5 p.m. until midnight on Thursdays through Saturdays.
Another new jewel lighting up La Jolla’s dining scene comes courtesy of celebrity chef and restaurateur Brian Malarkey of ABC’s The Taste and Bravo’s Top Chef fame. Herringbone, which is Malarkey’s latest venture in his long lineup of local fabric-named eateries, made its highly anticipated debut in May. The restaurant has continued to wow star-struck diners ever since.
Malarkey placed his talented fellow Top Chef alum Amanda Baumgarten at Herringbone’s helm. Executive chef Baumgarten’s thoughtful take on handcrafted cuisine echoes La Jolla’s light and breezy ocean-close location. The seafood-centric dinner menu features trendy, simple items such as raw oysters, whole fish ceviche and lobster ravioli, while lunch selections include local field green salads and small plates of shrimp tacos and jumbo lump blue crab cakes.
Like the menu, Herringbone’s ambiance is reflective of La Jolla’s Pacific proximity. Designed by Thomas Schoos, the quirky but delightful décor evokes the cozy feel of a laid-back boho beach house. An array of comfy sofas and flickering fireplaces add a welcoming touch while 100-year-old olive trees provide fresh foliage indoors. Other details seem downright nautical, if not a tad eccentric. Take, for instance, the chandeliers, which are composed of dried puffer fish that glow from within. Glittering bars throw in some glam for an overall vibe that’s undeniably hip.
While Herringbone dishes out lunch and dinner daily (and Sunday brunch), try to visit its Oyster Hour on Monday through Friday from 4 to 6 p.m. There are drink specials as well as single oysters available for just a buck per shuck. The eatery is hidden away in an ivy-covered brick building with minimal signage. Look for the herringbone-clad fish logo and perhaps a celebrity chef-obsessed paparazzo or two.
Photos courtesy of Chantelle Marie – Chantelle Photography and Amaya Restaurant