Kitchen 1540 – Del Mar

For Christmas, Travis gave me the gift of a fabulous meal.  He printed out menus from all sorts of “higher end” spots in San Diego and said we could go anywhere.  We would get to see what San Diego cuisine has to offer and I wouldn’t have to think about how it would fit into our household “dining out” budget.  It was a pretty awesome gift.

After our trip to Portland and fabulously ridiculous meal at Castagna, I was curious about Kitchen 1540.  I had heard really good things about it, but also knew they had recently had a chef change.  I tried not to have huge expectations, but it turns out my fears were unfounded.

I’m a sucker for beet salads and this one did not disappoint.  Not only are the sweet roasted beets lightly dressed, but there are bits of pistachio brittle scattered throughout the salad.  Yum.  We were off to a good start.

For our second appetizer, we almost went with the bbq pig tails, since the server said the pig tails were boneless and sliced into little coins of meat.  We figured it would be weird (pig tails!) but not too weird since we wouldn’t be nibbling off little tail bones.  But before we ordered, something smelling wonderful went by our tables, sizzling and making my mouth water.  It turned out to be stone-seared foie gras.  We almost didn’t order it because I didn’t want to get something Travis wouldn’t truly enjoy. But, he admitted it smelled really good, too, so we went for it.  Besides, you gotta get it while you can, right?

Stone-seared foie gras, placed on a bed of thyme, served with banana bread, huckleberry jam, peanut powder, and a ramekin of something-delicious reduction.  Our server told us we could leave the foie gras on the stone to let it cook more, but advised us 45 seconds was probably enough.  Once he left and I took a picture, we figured that was enough cooking time and moved it off the stone.

I’ve only had foie gras cold, spread on brioche with jams like a fabulously meaty butter.  If I didn’t know where foie gras came from, I would have sworn we were eating a beef product.  The foie gras was perfectly salted, fatty and smooth and velvety.  It was like eating bone marrow, but richer, if that’s even possible.  We took small bites, savoring every bit of it.  We tried it by itself, with banana bread, with peanut powder, with jam, with the reduction, and bites of everything all at once.  The banana bread, jam, and peanut powder was delicious, and the jam offset the richness of the foie gras.  The banana bread itself was amazing.  The perfect bite was almost the foie gras by itself, but dipped into the whatever-reduction was pure bliss.  When the foie gras was gone, we took pieces of bread, sopped up the leftover foie gras fat, and dipped that into the reduction sauce.  And then we went straight to bread dipped in reduction.  If the seared stone hadn’t been so hot, I probably would have tried to lick it to get every last drop of goodness off the plate.  This is one of those dishes where I’m glad I didn’t eat it all by myself but I also kind of wish I could have hoarded it just for me.

I realize there are many arguments against foie gras, which is why there’s a ban going into effect, but I can also tell you that we will be going back for that dish at least one more time while it’s still “legal”.

Our entrees were beef tenderloin and a seared tai snapper.  The beef came with smoked croquettes, brussels sprouts, chanterelles and a house made steak sauce that was fabulous.  You could taste the smokiness in the croquettes and the veggies were pleasantly crisp.  The tenderloin, though, was one of the tenderest filets I’ve ever sliced through.  Plus, the entire piece was consistently medium and pink.  As for the steak sauce, let’s just say I would have asked for more on the side except that the beef disappeared so quickly that I wouldn’t have needed it.  The snapper had a golden crust on the edges that was crispy and buttery.  The fish itself was flaky and so moist it was beautiful.  And it was all sitting on a bed of butternut squash puree.  When Travis was done, you couldn’t see a single smear of butternut squash left.

By now you should know that I will always eat dessert. Unless we’re somewhere I know does not have good dessert (yes, those places exist) because I refuse to eat mediocre dessert.  But, given the fabulous meal we had just consumed, I had high hopes for these desserts.  And, because Travis loves me, we got two desserts so I wouldn’t have to choose!

(left to right: peanut butter pot de creme, chocolate cremerie)

The peanut butter pot de creme was a rectangular block rolled in cocoa-ness, surrounded by caramelized bananas, peanut butter mousse, banana powder, and peanut brittle.  The cremerie was like a chocolate pudding, topped with candied citrus and big flakes of Maldon salt, with a hazelnut macaron.  The cremerie was fantastic and I would have declared it the winner until I discovered the magic combination of pot de creme and peanut butter mousse.  The pot de creme was not overly peanut butter-y; it was more like a chocolate-peanut butter pot de creme.  It was amazing.  I kind of wanted another one after we finished the first one.  I bet all the desserts are just as good.

I’ve eaten many meals in my life and some have been absolutely incredible, including the one where we traveled in and out of the Colorado State Forest at least four times, but I don’t remember being so constantly amazed, delighted, and giddy with every single bite as this meal.  On one hand, it makes me excited to see what else we can find in San Diego; on the other hand, why would I try to find something better than Kitchen 1540?

2012 has a big challenge ahead if there’s going to be a meal to top this one.  Unless our second meal at Kitchen 1540 is better than the first.  I don’t know when that will be, but I’m pretty sure it will happen at some point.  It has to.  Even if we just eat foie gras and dessert.  Mmm…

Kitchen 1540 at the L'Auberge Del Mar Resort on Urbanspoon


11 responses to “Kitchen 1540 – Del Mar

  1. How unusual that foie gras was served with banana bread. I’ve only had it once and now that the looming deadline of it becoming illegal in California, I might have to rush and have it one more time. Maybe it might have to be this place after your review — my mouth is watering right now thinking of the pot-de-creme!

    • The banana bread wouldn’t have been my first guess for a pairing, but the slight sweetness paired really well with the foie gras. I haven’t had much experience with other foie gras dishes in San Diego, but I can’t imagine they’d be more decadent than this one. Plus, the desserts were so good!

  2. What a super-thoughtful Xmas gift!

  3. Did you say peanut butter pot de creme?!?!! I just got really excited. I must have this! Everything else looks awesome, too, but I’m all about the desserts.

    • It wasn’t a true peanut butter pot de creme. It must have been more like PB-chocolate pot de creme, but with the peanut butter mousse thing on the plate, there was more than enough peanut-y goodness. Also, because it was not in an actual pot, we were able to scrape up every last bit. It was absolutely delish.

  4. How was the ambiance of the restaurant? Was it really loud – I didn’t think the place was all that ‘romantic’ b/c it just seemed chaotic the last time i was there. I’ve only had Foie once and was a little intimidated – still waiting for the right moment to try it again and hopefully it’ll be as memorable as the one you had at 1540! Nice post 🙂

    • We were there right when they opened for dinner, so the restaurant wasn’t too crowded. I don’t recall it being too loud or chaotic when we left, though. We were at a 2-top and I did feel a little too close to the other couple next to us… I think at a 4-top we would have felt more “secluded”.

      Foie gras is one of those dishes I’m never quite sure that I will like, but once it arrives in front of me I’m a very happy girl. I don’t know why I can’t remember that it’s delicious… I suppose it’s better for my wallet that way.

  5. You were right to go with the foie, I don’t think there’s anything better. I love it all, but if I had to choose, seared would be my preference.

    I’m refusing to give it up during the ban. So if you need a fix; find me: I’ll have it. It’s only illegal to make and sell – no fine for sharing 😀

    I’ve been meaning to try Kitchen 1540 for awhile, I think Johnathan Bautista is currently heading the kitchen and I’ve seen him do some pretty neat stuff.

    • Since it was our first visit to Kitchen 1540, I can’t compare “new chef” to “old chef”, but the food was outstanding!

      I am starting to think I prefer seared foie gras to cold foie gras… there’s something about hot, melting, salty fat to make you happy. I suppose making it at home might be something I’ll need to learn how to do, kind of like how I started roasted bone marrow at home because it’s so much cheaper!

  6. Pingback: SHIMBASHI Izakaya – Del Mar | Three Dog Kitchen

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