Robert Bush 6:31 p.m., May 18
Most of the time, when a restaurant gets a makeover, the reason they're in need of one has been extremely apparent for way too long. This isn't really the case with KITCHEN 1540, the fine dining option at L'Auberge Del Mar, which gets plenty of kudos thrown its way yet just underwent a multi-million-dollar lift that was far more than skin deep.
Yes, the decor has been updated to include a reddish-orange warmth that was missing from its old eggshell-and-earth-tone motif, but there's far more to what's going on. Chef Paul McCabe has been working hard the better part of the last year gearing his kitchen and dining room, as well as the staff that man both, for an all-points overhaul that will make for an eatery offering more ways to dine than any other in the county (or Southern California, actually).
I intend to do a full article getting into greater detail, but to summarize, guests will be able to order off the regular menu, which will change a lot more often than it has in the past thanks in part to an expanded number of relationships with specialty edible purveyors and the installation of a vertical garden in the outdoor dining area that provides McCabe and his crew plenty of otherwise unattainable herbs and the ability to create a number of unique flavor profiles.
Patrons will also be able to come in and enjoy spontaneously created multi-course meals that are based on their personal tastes and can be as short or as long as they want. Basically, McCabe's kitchen staff will continue to prepare dishes until the participating table waves a white flag. At that point, desserts will be sent out along with a check.
One of those desserts was on display at this weekend's coming-out party for the resto -- a liquid nitrogen-created ice cream (the ice cream base was sprayed into a ladle then dropped in the liquid nitro bath where it froze into a half dome) topped with peanut butter powder, salted caramel sauce, and rounds of deep-fried chocolate chip cookie dough that let loose of slow-moving miniature rivers of semi-sweet chocolate on first bite to make for a perfect warm-cold ratio. This dish is a part of the new menu, which is now available to all comers.
I'll be checking the venue out more extensively in the coming weeks to provide more info on what is, in concept alone, a standout in SD. In the meantime, feel free to share your opinions with me should you head out to Del Mar to get a taste.
KITCHEN 1540 is located at 1540 Camino Del Mar and serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily.