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I, like many, was shocked when Paul McCabe turned in his whites at L’Auberge Del Mar’s KITCHEN 1540 in October, leaving to take on the kitchen and partnership in Rancho Santa Fe’s 19-year-old restaurant, Delicias. And I, like many, have been eager to check out the food at his new place. Yet, we, he, and his staff have had to wait things out while the dining room was redesigned and the new menu put in place.

During that span, McCabe and company were preparing Delicias’ old menu, much to regulars’ delight. After four years of enjoying McCabe’s food, I can say he’s the kind of talented chef who can and will cook just about anything exceptionally. But, in coming to Delicias, he was rightfully excited to have control over all things culinary, so dishing out the dishes he was eager to replace had to be a bit less than satisfying.

Over the weekend, I ventured out to RSF and found a chef that was anything but dispirited. The guy was charging about, smiling wide, and downright bullish about the quality of his new menu, which is finally in place.

Amid the backdrop of the new dining room, with its soft earth tones, stone fireplace and aquamarine banquettes, I tasted rib-eye cap that had been sous vide in an immersion circulator, then deeply browned in a smoldering sauté pan, producing the perfect interplay of juicy, succulent pink meat with the type of beefy exterior caramelization that makes meat fanatics weak in the taste buds.

Even better, was a brioche crostini topped with uncooked meat—bison to be exact. Sometimes, buffalo comes across a bit bland, but that was certainly not the case with this appetizer, thanks to McCabe’s addition of zesty ground espelette pepper, and a salty, smoky bacon sabayon. All of the components are presented in the right doses and come together beautifully.

It was a bit of a drive-by by tasting standards, but the kind of promising quick bite that has me eager to return. In the meantime, do your own scouting if you’re so inclined. Delicias is located at 6106 Paseo Delicias.

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