Walter Mencken 11 a.m., July 25
Uninspired in Clairemont: Kitchen 4140
Kitchen 4140 is in an unlikely location on Morena Boulevard better known for design studios, carpet stores, and Costco. Chef Kurt Metzger describes his culinary style as "ingredient-inspired and ingredient-driven". I'm not sure what that means.
I saw a rotisserie chicken in my refrigerator this morning, so I made a chicken sandwich for breakfast. Is that being "ingredient-inspired"? I guess it is. But they also boast an "organic vegetable garden" on their website. I love to garden, so I was excited about visiting and eating there.
Well, the organic vegetable garden was a disappointment. I know it's winter, but I've got some beautiful beets, lettuce, rosemary, spinach, sage, parsley, thyme, and rainbow chard growing in pots on my three by ten foot apartment balcony. I'd kill for those raised beds and the southern exposure and was sad to see them sitting unused. Winter in San Diego is a great time to grow all sorts of lovely, leafy things. But I'm here to eat, not to garden.
I selected the Steak Hash ($14), after asking what kind of steak it's made with (blackened hanger steak). It comes with wild mushrooms, red onion, fire roasted peppers, two poached eggs, chive-chervil crème fraiche.
I must have stared at my plate in disbelief for a full minute after our server set it down. Not to put too fine a point on it, but those aren't poached eggs. Those are eggs that have been put into a plastic bag and boiled. Now, I've heard of doing this to "poach" an egg, but it's not correct, for a number of reasons.
By definition, poaching anything means you put the food directly into acidulated liquid that is between 140 and 180 degrees until it's cooked to your liking. It's a simple chemical process that takes a bit of practice, but it's Culinary School 101, and anyone who puts "chef" in front of his name ought to know how to do it properly.
This boil-in-bag technique (besides it's basic incorrectness) forces the egg into an unnatural shape, so that the pointy end gets rubbery and the rest of the white is uncooked. You can see the clear, raw egg white ready to run all over my plate. Which it did, for both eggs. While I'm on the subject of technique, "blackened" food should not actually be black, as in charred. Especially with hanger steak, which turns tough and chewy when improperly cooked.
And "hash" is chopped meat and potatoes mixed and cooked together, sometimes with other vegetables. This was more like a beef stir fry with a side of fried potatoes. As long as I'm griping, a half of a slice of bread? Really, a half slice? For $14?
John's Blue Jumbo Lump Crabmeat Benedict, with caper hollandaise, potatoes, on a rosemary biscuit ($15), was problematic as well. In addition to the plastic bag eggs, which prompted a Gordon Ramsey-esque "It's RAW!" from him, the crab was not fresh, a bit stringy and watery. The rosemary biscuits would have been good on their own, or with a nice sausage gravy, but they completely overwhelmed the delicate blue crab.
And, one of them was burned black. How does anyone put food that's obviously burned (or obviously undercooked) in front of a paying customer? He did enjoy his glass of pineapple orange banana juice though.
Our bill for one juice ($3.50), one coffee ($2.95) and the two breakfast plates was $35.45 before tax and tip. That's a lot of money considering each of us got both raw and burned food on our plates. An ingredient-inspired, ingredient-driven disappointment.
4140 Morena Blvd.
San Diego, CA 92117
Monday - Friday - 9 am - 3 pm
Sunday - 9 am - 2 pm
Free lot parking.
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