Darrin DuFord 3:30 p.m., Dec. 26
Limone: San Diego's Newest Pop-Up
After my fun-times at Cellar Door, I was eager to try the newest underground restaurant that popped up on my foodar: Limone. Limone's chef, Accursio Lota, is originally from Sicily, but, as with Logan of Cellar Door, he made his way to San Diego via San Francisco. Both cited San Francisco's vibrant pop-up restaurant scene as inspiration.
The team behind Limone are newlyweds Corinne Goria (an immigration attorney) and the aforementioned Accursio, a chef by trade who has cooked at the Four Seasons in Milan and the Biltmore in Santa Barbara. He currently spends most of his kitchen time at the Marine Room in La Jolla. Accursio was born and raised in "a farming town by the sea."
The day of the meal, I was emailed the address to Corinne and Accursio's home, which is a 15-minute drive east of Downtown. When we arrived, we were led past the table in the front room, through the kitchen, and to a deck overlooking a large backyard with areas of tilled soil, chickens roaming free, and pet rabbits hanging out and hopping around in their hutch.
Accursio cures his own sausage. After a toast of Prosecco, he presented three varieties: garlic and fennel, red wine, and five-chile. He'd also cured and seasoned peppers and olives, but I went right past those to the bread, which was baked using yeast Accursio had cultured himself from golden raisins. The bread is not pictured, as it disappeared too quickly.
It was a chilly evening (Corinne was quick to grab me a scarf when I shivered), so I was happy when the group made its way indoors. Eight diners, including me and David, chose our seats. The table seats 10, but one couple had made a late cancellation. Still a good turnout, considering this was Limone's "opening night."
Much effort had obviously been expended. Before I even get into the details of the almost-molecular-gastronomy of the dishes, let's go back to the bread. Several kinds of bread, all baked by Accursio, were on offer, and each design (sticks, rings, buns, etc.) had its own flavor. The bread was paired with olive oil from Accursio's home town; D.O.P. Val di Mazara, which is available in San Diego.
The theme of the menu was Lu Mari West, and featured all locally-sourced seafood. We began with an amuse bouche, octopus with kalamata olive bits in a marinara-type sauce. I was happy to see I wasn't the only one at the table to use bread to get every last bit of it into my mouth.
After the amuse was cleared, we received a strange looking dish that frightened me as much as it excited David. House-smoked Catalina halibut, pickled red onion, and an oyster emulsion. The halibut was delicious, and went well with the pickled onions, but after two bites, I was done and passed the rest to my partner. David, who'd cleared his plate, was already satisfied with his generous portion, and didn't want any of mine.
Next up was a more reasonably-sized plate of squid ink ravioli filled with liquified Baja shrimp, atop a sweet pea and wild fennel puree. We were instructed to eat this dish with the spoon provided, and to pop an entire ravioli into our mouths at once, rather than attempting to dissect them. Having the warm, flavorful liquid (a thin broth) explode in my mouth added a fun sensory experience to each bite.
The entree was my favorite dish of the evening: Baja California sea bass filet with artichokes, fingerling potatoes, and a roasted tomato that made everyone moan. This dish was so popular that the table was silent for a long stretch of time, prompting the people in the kitchen (Accursio, Corinne, and their friend Marco, who'd come down from Newport Beach to help out for the night) to peek around the curtain to make sure everything was okay.
We received a pre-dessert to our dessert-dessert. As I listened to the strange sound of a hairdryer working in the kitchen (what were they doing in there?) I enjoyed a demitasse of strawberries and cream with a tangy, viscous balsamic vinegar.
The evening ended with an interesting bang when we received our deceptive dessert. What I thought was a giant slice of chocolate cake, was actually iced chocolate-cardamom foam, served with raspberry mouse and crumbled angel cake.
This was the first of what Accursio and Corinne hope will be many such dining experiences on offer at Limone. If you want to be in the know, get on their list by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
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