Dave Rice 12:35 p.m., May 23
It’s getting to the point where numerous chefs are becoming household names in San Diego. Seeing people care not only about their food, but who makes it, is a good thing. It illustrates a level of recognition that’s as important as understanding ingredients or where they come from, or respecting time-honored dishes along with the regions they hail from and cultures that birthed them.
With recognition of the craftspeople behind the scenes comes the need to keep track of them. From line cooks to head toques, cheffing, in general, is a transient vocation. As someone who keeps an eye on all the comings and goings, just when you think you might have it figured out, a promising sous gets axed or an exec who’s been with the same employer for over a decade gives notice. There’s no way to predict all that will transpire, making constant surveillance absolutely necessary.
I certainly didn’t foresee the latest ripple in the San Diego scene. Chef Lhasa Landry has left The Lion’s Share (629 Kettner Boulevard). It’s a simple sentence with a lot of meaning for those who have followed the short but eventful life of this Marina District eatery. Few new restaurants have garnered as much across-the-board praise from food writers and diners alike as The Lion’s Share, which debuted last December.
Landry sparked initial interest and locked up a regular clientele with her menu of hearty, game meat-inspired fare and thoughtfully composed bar snacks. Dishes like Bourbon-glazed wild boar ribs and buffalo Bolognese with bone marrow kept the place—a gastropub with a craft cocktail bent—packed with District denizens and visitors from parts far and near. It was the kind of early success any new restaurateur and their chef covets. But, in the end, even it wasn’t enough to keep the opening team together.
Landry—a youthful chef with a strong presence; steadfast set of principles; and resume sporting entries from Blanca, Café Chloe, and Starlite—was unable to find common ground with the powers that be behind The Lion’s Share. As a result, she is a free agent and her former right-hand man, Jacob Rodriguez, has taken over the kitchen. He’s no slouch. Another Café Chloe vet, he is more than capable of handling his new responsibilities, and will look to adjust the menu slowly while staying true to dishes and ideologies that made The Lion’s Share such an out-of-the-gates hit.
In addition to the changing of the guard, look for the entire cocktail program to be overhauled. From the get-go, mixed drinks were to be as important as the edibles at The Lion’s Share, but they failed to make anywhere near the splash the food did. Even so, this was my favorite restaurant to open in 2011. With any luck, this hiccup won’t lead to a sophomore slump as they approach the onset of year two.