Marty Graham 5:30 p.m., Jan. 19
Kitchen 4140 promises much, delivers little
"New American" bistro in Bay Ho fails to live up to the pricey standards it sets for itself.
At first look, Kitchen 4140’s summery patio and dining room ooze charm. The place looks phenomenal, like a little oasis secretly hidden in the industrial park ugly of Morena Boulevard in “Bay Ho,” which Google assures us is the correct neighborhood.
“Come. Sit here in the breeze and be wined and dined,” the artful trappings call out.
All the way back in 2012, back when Miley Cyrus still had some of her innocence, Mary Beth Abate gave a thoroughly damning review of 4140’s brunch service. She called it out as overpriced and underperforming. Kitchen 4140 (4140 Morena Boulevard, 858-483-4140) is still hard at work. Perhaps the place had tightened up its act since Mary Beth’s lackluster experience?
Sadly, no. Clumsy service and underwhelming food prevail. Watching servers repeatedly send drinks and plates to the wrong guests, sometimes even the wrong tables, raises suspicions of the managements overall professional abilities. Systems should be in place to prevent such things. How can they not be?
Sweet chili-lime calamari ($14) lived up to its name inasmuch as it was sweet. Sweetness level: Chinese takeout. Combine that with overzealous battering and the dish was thoroughly “meh.”
The short rib gnocchi ($21) had a rich, beefy flavor, but the gummy gnocchi sapped the joy from the dish. The saucy aspects of the dish had the velvety smoothness of a beef consomme, but there was nothing to punctuate that richness, so it quickly became unbearable.
“Morimoto inspired” angry duck ($38) made so many promises, showcasing its extravagant pricetag like a banner of assumptive excellence. At $20, the dish might have seemed like a good deal, considering the generous portion of duck. But the soggy breast, pulverized confit, and salty potatoes didn’t live up to the hype of an amateurish bit of cooking. Best part of the dish? A few carrots laid betwixt the two ducks, covered in a bright sauce of uncertain provenance. Crispy, fresh, and livelier than anything else on the plate. Fact: the roast duck at Saigon on Fifth (that appeared in Feast! just a few days ago) was twice as good at half the price.
The better dish, sadly, was the $19 burger. This is mostly because the thing was enormous and exploded with braised belly meat in addition to a huge patty. But, hey, Carnitas’ does a burger of equal indulgence for, like, eight bucks, so it’s hard to be that impressed by a big, gnarly burger.
If this sounds harsh, it’s meant to be. Kitchen 4140 prices itself into good company, as if it should be in league with George’s California Modern menu and other restaurants of that calibre. The very idea that 4140’s dishes are all “composed” (their word) indicates that great love, skill, and attention went into each one. It’s a beautiful sentiment, but one that’s clearly misapplied. If 4140 cut the price of every item by half, it would be worth a visit on the way to and from Costco, but hardly meriting a special trip up Morena.
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