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Mister Natural

Place

Jsix

616 J Street, San Diego

Christian Graves, the new chef at J-Six, is proud to be a card-carrying Slow Foodie. If you haven't heard about it yet, "Slow Food" doesn't mean you'll have an hour's wait for your appetizers, or that everything's stewed -- although it is the opposite of mass-produced, unhealthy fast food, a movement dedicated to preserving traditional ways of farming, cooking, and caring for our food and planet. A serious side effect: wholesome, tasty fare.

The Slow Food movement started in Italy, and Alice Waters was the first to practice it in an American restaurant (Chez Panisse). It begins at ground level with saving and growing diverse heirloom seeds, rather than buying sterile, patented commercial hybrids from mega-corporations. It includes farming with organic and sustainable growing methods in place of pesticide drenchings, and raising animals naturally and humanely (for better flavor and healthfulness, as well as contented cows). It encourages contact between the growers and the cooks (e.g., at farmers' markets) and choosing fresh local products as much as possible, rather than foods shipped from half a world away. And it involves supporting products made by small-scale artisans, ranging from honeys to handcrafted hams to cheeses and honest breads.

At J-Six, the kitchen bakes the breads, chef Graves cures charcuterie and makes sausages, and the friendly, knowledgeable waitstaff serves gently reared free-range meats and local produce. (We're lucky in San Diego, surrounded by farms with a year-round growing season. It must be tough to be a Slow Food maven during a Minneapolis winter.)

Stepping into J-Six is like entering a theater where the play's in progress, the bar and open kitchen stage sets with a golden glow. The dimly lighted dining room snakes around them, divided into more intimate areas by tall, plush sound-absorbing booths, which keep the noise level painless. Mike and Scott were with us, and Mike ran around the room like a kid, testing the comfort of the different banquettes (he liked them all) and barely resisting the temptation to horn in like Harpo Marx on a couple cuddled in a rounded floral shell of a booth. In the area where we were seated, the decor runs off in three different directions: The ceiling has upside-down white foam flowers, like a fake Italian palazzo; one wall is hung with strips of translucent round beads resembling a Filipino capiz-shell curtain; another wall is mysteriously bedecked with dozens of identical Moroccan fezzes hanging from pegs. "My father hates the decor," said our waitress, who seemed to have a family connection to the place. "He didn't like it when they were putting it up, and he doesn't like it any better now."

The menu has a more coherent diversity. It's divided into "small plates--starters," "large plates," and "share bites" of appetizers or cocktail noshes serving two to six -- plus a few side dishes. (Unlike a steakhouse, entrées come with veggies, so the sides are meant as extras.) The table breads are a light olive-and-herb loaf and a denser red-pepper bread, served with a spread of Kalamata olives, sun-dried tomatoes, and olive oil that you ladle on with a spoon. "Talk about addictive -- I can't stop eating this," said my partner.

As a foursome dining "family style," our attention went straight to the "share" plates. We began with a trio of summer salads. There were heirloom tomatoes with fresh mozzarella, a standard dish on local menus but distinguished here by luscious green-ripe tomatoes with a light pesto beneath them. I loved the cantaloupe and prosciutto, another conventional combination, improved by a garnish of red onion slivers and a lemon verbena gastrique. A block of herbed French feta surrounded with diced cucumbers and onions lacked something, though. "This is like the dressing on a Greek pita sandwich, minus the yogurt," Mike observed.

We couldn't pass up a platter of the chef's house-made assortment of charcuterie. The juicy unsmoked sausage, similar to fresh Italian sausage, was plated over coarse-ground mustard. We loved it, but I was even fonder of the thinly sliced, mild bresaola (cured beef) -- tender and pleasing wrapped around crunchy cooked green beans dressed in tarragon crème fraîche. The smoked ham turned out to be house-cured duck prosciutto, made from the plump breast of a Moularde (foie gras) duck.

We turned our attention to the "small plates," which were not so small. First arrival: steamed Manila clams in a deep bowl filled with a salty, complex broth of seafood stock and tomatoes topped with crumbled house-made chorizo (a bit bland); bread fingers perched on the edge of the bowl. "This is the perfect sharing dish," said Mike. "Lots of bread and sauce and flavor." "And if you tackled this whole thing by yourself," Scott added, "you wouldn't want an entrée." As we worked our way through the dish, we experimented with the table breads for dipping. The red-pepper bread had the right stuff.

The showpiece of the meal was a plate of truffled white-corn ravioli with butter-sautéed, whole, fresh, chanterelle mushrooms (yeah -- fresh, not dried, and what a difference!) aswim in a chive and lemon fondue, which proved to be a luxurious but not-too-heavy cream sauce. My first raviolus was perfect, bursting with the sweetness of slow-roasted Chino Farms corn. The second was undercooked, the pasta thicker than expected. But the filling was so devastating, it could have been wrapped in paper towels and I'd barely have noticed -- definitely one of the year's best bites.

At this point, nearly done with our starters, we took to wiping the platters. "This is the first place we've gone with you where we're using the bread to sop up the last of the sauces," said Scott. "Usually, halfway through and that's enough." "Right," said Mike. "We're like starving Third World children lapping it up."

"Our seafood is the freshest in town," the waitress told us as we were choosing entrées. "The fish was cut five minutes before the doors opened." The signature dish, she said, is the seared sea scallops. We tried them, and sorry to say, they didn't taste all that sparkling. Although not phosphated or otherwise mistreated, they were nearly flavorless -- cut today, perhaps, but probably caught a couple of days before. They were overshadowed by the accompaniments -- a fondue of "box shucked" corn (rasped from the cobs on a box-grater, with all their sugary juices), dotted with English peas and ricotta gnocchi. The naked cheese gnocchi (in Italian, they're called gnudi, like "nudie," because they're like ravioli filling without the pasta skins) were tender and tiny -- all two of them. (I got the plate first, and I counted.)

A thick hunk of grilled Hawaiian ahi was well done on the surface, rare at the center, but even the reddest core tasted more like albacore than like ahi (which is usually yellowfin). Instead of ahi's near-beefy flavor, the impact was closer to cooked pork. (Maybe it was "the other white meat" of the sea?) It came with a red wine gastrique with thick batons of good smoked bacon, undercooked white beans, and lemon-braised baby artichokes of uneven doneness -- some soft, some on the tough side. (What's with the hard white beans I'm running into all over town? The better the restaurant, the harder the beans -- did some New York celebrity chef declare them de rigueur? If Mario jumps off a cliff, do you have to jump off it, too?)

Oddly -- given the chef's previous stint at San Francisco's famed and fabulous Farallon seafood restaurant -- things went much better with the beef dishes. Braised Angus short ribs are the menu's sole holdover from previous chef Deborah Schneider. The boneless beef is slow-baked for three hours with rosemary, garlic, and Chianti. Great flavors and a delicious gravy are the high points, but the casserole's liquid content should probably have been attended to more closely during baking, as the texture was a tad dried out. Alongside are ricotta-whipped potatoes, which take some getting used to. The lean ricotta modifies the rooty flavor of the potato, producing refinement in place of earthiness.

We ordered our rib-eye steak rare, and so it arrived, well-browned on the surface and juicy inside. It's naturally raised meat from Brandt Beef, grass-fed until the final stages when it's switched to conventional corn for fattening up. Grilled over a gas flame, it comes with fine accompaniments -- a salad of tomatoes (including those great green-ripe ones served with the salad plate), green beans, and, best of all, Point Reyes goat cheese, a perfect, tangy complement to the steak. Although none of our main courses quite lived up to the promise of the starters, this was the favorite entrée of our table. We wished we had one more person with us, though, so we could also try the brick-roasted organic chicken, made with prized little black-skinned Jidoris.

I took advantage of a three-wine white flight. (Whenever I write "white flight," I want to make real estate jokes, but...never mind.) It included a Coppola Pinot Grigio (a dishwater blonde), a good Spanish Albariño, and the star, a Te Awa Sauvignon Blanc from Hawk's Bay, New Zealand. Unlike the Marlborough-grown Sauvignons from that country, it wasn't dry and citrusy, but a rich mouthful, great with clams and scallops. A glass of Melville Viognier proved full bodied enough to hold its own not only with the meaty ahi but against the rib-eye. Scott tried the red flight and evidently liked it, since he kept it all to himself.

We managed to try some desserts, all house-made. Best was a molten lava cake that was more like a lava cupcake -- short, round, and flattened. It was small enough to please without cloying, lightened with a scoop of Tahitian vanilla ice cream and a shallow pool of devilishly delicious pistachio-studded crème anglaise.

Vanilla panna cotta in plum "soup" topped with candied lemon zest and mint leaves was a little heavy and custardy for my taste. (I prefer panna cottas as airy as you can get 'em.) Last and least was a very moist crustless pumpkin cheesecake, tasting sweet and creamy but nothing more. "Maybe the current pumpkin shortage affected this dessert," said Mike. "There wasn't enough pumpkin to get any into the cheesecake." On the other hand, the house coffee is a superb dark French roast called La Colombe. If you prefer weak American breakfast coffee, don't order it, and I'll drink your share.

To review J-Six without a side trip to the rooftop J-Bar lounge would be criminal. To avoid arrest, we returned to explore. They've got a swimming pool up there, and firepits, heat stanchions, some tented cabanas that groups can reserve for bottle service, and open-air tables with a view of the construction equipment raising more surrounding condos. If you choose a table close to the elevator, a server will demand and hold your credit card until you're ready to pay up -- evidently they've experienced some misdemeanor escapees. We arrived during happy hour (4:30--6:30 p.m.). Half the patrons were filtering in after work to meet friends, some still in office drag, others in more casual wear. One large, young group were hotel patrons evidently vacationing from a colder climate. They clustered around a fire pit wearing tank tops and cut-offs on a chilly (for San Diego) November evening.

But we were there for the food, just the food, ma'am. Fried calamari were a credit to their race -- small rings and lovely little tentacles, crisp and succulent in a light batter that wasn't oversalted. They came with lemon wedges and a smart and tasty mayo-free tartar sauce based on thick Greek-style yogurt dotted with diced house-pickled vegetables. A Hawaiian-style pulled pork sandwich offered flavorful (if fatty) premium pork strips in fruity sweet-sour sauce on a bun, accompanied by house-made kettle chips. And knowing we could trust the beef, we ordered a rare burger "with everything" (avocado, bacon, grilled onions, cheddar). Thick and juicy, it met expectations and came with thick frites that had shared their frying oil with the branches of fresh rosemary that garnished the plate. The ketchup was lively, amended with something bright and tangy that I couldn't quite identify. (Other J-bar dishes include skewers of chicken or skirt steak, a mini-pizza, grilled shrimp, and various sandwiches.) A frozen Mango Piña Colada, sweet and suave, resembled an alcoholic smoothie and made us wish that summer were just beginning.

ABOUT THE CHEF

Christian Graves became executive chef at J-Six about six months ago, after cooking at many of San Francisco's top restaurants, including five years as chef de cuisine at Farallon, a famed downtown fish house. Graves spent his childhood in the South, but his peripatetic parents moved to San Francisco by the time he reached his teens. He started his career as a dishwasher in local restaurants, until a chef let him start doing prep. "I loved cooking, and when I finally decided to go to school for it, my family were very supportive and confused as to why I hadn't figured out earlier that this was what I wanted to do. I went to a junior college in Santa Barbara and the city college where they have a hotel-restaurant program. Meanwhile, I was working in restaurants. That's where I started to get a lot of love and knowledge. I worked for a really good guy who was really into teaching me, and I was hungry for knowledge as well."

Why did he leave one of San Francisco's top restaurants to come to San Diego? "J-Six was a perfect fit," he says. "I'd worked with seafood at Farallon. I'd been at Aqua and One Market and Roti. I kind of specialized in fish. My friend, Jim Birnbaum, who's a famous chef, was helping [Bill] Kimpton [of Kimpton Hotel Group, owners of Hotel Solamar and other boutique hotels] with trying to find placements for this restaurant, and it was such a natural fit for me. My wife's parents live in Orange County and we wanted to be closer to them, so my family and I, with two little boys, moved down.

"At J-Six, we're really trying to change the whole restaurant. My style of food is very different from the previous chef. I'm trying to do everything in-house. We make our own breads, pickles, our own charcuterie. We're trying to do as much as possible with organic ingredients and definitely hand-selected ingredients. I'm not trying to break the sound barrier with food -- I'm humble. I'm really into solid food. I like classic techniques as well as classic ingredients. I'm really into Slow Food, which to me is about using all-natural ingredients and traditional techniques. I use produce from local farms as much as possible and a small-scale meat vendor who can select carefully because he's not buying masses of fillets. I love food, fresh food. I love family and celebrations with food and with each other, and I love cooks who cook. One of the best things about San Diego is that the chefs here are really interested in each other's work and support each other -- it's not a competitive, cutthroat thing like San Francisco can be.

"The thing with J-Six is, we really want to be a neighborhood restaurant -- we want to be like those San Francisco places where you can go again and again. I miss just dropping in to places like Chez Panisse Café and Zuni and Oliveto in the Bay Area, and that's what we want to be to San Diego."

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Place

Jsix

616 J Street, San Diego

Christian Graves, the new chef at J-Six, is proud to be a card-carrying Slow Foodie. If you haven't heard about it yet, "Slow Food" doesn't mean you'll have an hour's wait for your appetizers, or that everything's stewed -- although it is the opposite of mass-produced, unhealthy fast food, a movement dedicated to preserving traditional ways of farming, cooking, and caring for our food and planet. A serious side effect: wholesome, tasty fare.

The Slow Food movement started in Italy, and Alice Waters was the first to practice it in an American restaurant (Chez Panisse). It begins at ground level with saving and growing diverse heirloom seeds, rather than buying sterile, patented commercial hybrids from mega-corporations. It includes farming with organic and sustainable growing methods in place of pesticide drenchings, and raising animals naturally and humanely (for better flavor and healthfulness, as well as contented cows). It encourages contact between the growers and the cooks (e.g., at farmers' markets) and choosing fresh local products as much as possible, rather than foods shipped from half a world away. And it involves supporting products made by small-scale artisans, ranging from honeys to handcrafted hams to cheeses and honest breads.

At J-Six, the kitchen bakes the breads, chef Graves cures charcuterie and makes sausages, and the friendly, knowledgeable waitstaff serves gently reared free-range meats and local produce. (We're lucky in San Diego, surrounded by farms with a year-round growing season. It must be tough to be a Slow Food maven during a Minneapolis winter.)

Stepping into J-Six is like entering a theater where the play's in progress, the bar and open kitchen stage sets with a golden glow. The dimly lighted dining room snakes around them, divided into more intimate areas by tall, plush sound-absorbing booths, which keep the noise level painless. Mike and Scott were with us, and Mike ran around the room like a kid, testing the comfort of the different banquettes (he liked them all) and barely resisting the temptation to horn in like Harpo Marx on a couple cuddled in a rounded floral shell of a booth. In the area where we were seated, the decor runs off in three different directions: The ceiling has upside-down white foam flowers, like a fake Italian palazzo; one wall is hung with strips of translucent round beads resembling a Filipino capiz-shell curtain; another wall is mysteriously bedecked with dozens of identical Moroccan fezzes hanging from pegs. "My father hates the decor," said our waitress, who seemed to have a family connection to the place. "He didn't like it when they were putting it up, and he doesn't like it any better now."

The menu has a more coherent diversity. It's divided into "small plates--starters," "large plates," and "share bites" of appetizers or cocktail noshes serving two to six -- plus a few side dishes. (Unlike a steakhouse, entrées come with veggies, so the sides are meant as extras.) The table breads are a light olive-and-herb loaf and a denser red-pepper bread, served with a spread of Kalamata olives, sun-dried tomatoes, and olive oil that you ladle on with a spoon. "Talk about addictive -- I can't stop eating this," said my partner.

As a foursome dining "family style," our attention went straight to the "share" plates. We began with a trio of summer salads. There were heirloom tomatoes with fresh mozzarella, a standard dish on local menus but distinguished here by luscious green-ripe tomatoes with a light pesto beneath them. I loved the cantaloupe and prosciutto, another conventional combination, improved by a garnish of red onion slivers and a lemon verbena gastrique. A block of herbed French feta surrounded with diced cucumbers and onions lacked something, though. "This is like the dressing on a Greek pita sandwich, minus the yogurt," Mike observed.

We couldn't pass up a platter of the chef's house-made assortment of charcuterie. The juicy unsmoked sausage, similar to fresh Italian sausage, was plated over coarse-ground mustard. We loved it, but I was even fonder of the thinly sliced, mild bresaola (cured beef) -- tender and pleasing wrapped around crunchy cooked green beans dressed in tarragon crème fraîche. The smoked ham turned out to be house-cured duck prosciutto, made from the plump breast of a Moularde (foie gras) duck.

We turned our attention to the "small plates," which were not so small. First arrival: steamed Manila clams in a deep bowl filled with a salty, complex broth of seafood stock and tomatoes topped with crumbled house-made chorizo (a bit bland); bread fingers perched on the edge of the bowl. "This is the perfect sharing dish," said Mike. "Lots of bread and sauce and flavor." "And if you tackled this whole thing by yourself," Scott added, "you wouldn't want an entrée." As we worked our way through the dish, we experimented with the table breads for dipping. The red-pepper bread had the right stuff.

The showpiece of the meal was a plate of truffled white-corn ravioli with butter-sautéed, whole, fresh, chanterelle mushrooms (yeah -- fresh, not dried, and what a difference!) aswim in a chive and lemon fondue, which proved to be a luxurious but not-too-heavy cream sauce. My first raviolus was perfect, bursting with the sweetness of slow-roasted Chino Farms corn. The second was undercooked, the pasta thicker than expected. But the filling was so devastating, it could have been wrapped in paper towels and I'd barely have noticed -- definitely one of the year's best bites.

At this point, nearly done with our starters, we took to wiping the platters. "This is the first place we've gone with you where we're using the bread to sop up the last of the sauces," said Scott. "Usually, halfway through and that's enough." "Right," said Mike. "We're like starving Third World children lapping it up."

"Our seafood is the freshest in town," the waitress told us as we were choosing entrées. "The fish was cut five minutes before the doors opened." The signature dish, she said, is the seared sea scallops. We tried them, and sorry to say, they didn't taste all that sparkling. Although not phosphated or otherwise mistreated, they were nearly flavorless -- cut today, perhaps, but probably caught a couple of days before. They were overshadowed by the accompaniments -- a fondue of "box shucked" corn (rasped from the cobs on a box-grater, with all their sugary juices), dotted with English peas and ricotta gnocchi. The naked cheese gnocchi (in Italian, they're called gnudi, like "nudie," because they're like ravioli filling without the pasta skins) were tender and tiny -- all two of them. (I got the plate first, and I counted.)

A thick hunk of grilled Hawaiian ahi was well done on the surface, rare at the center, but even the reddest core tasted more like albacore than like ahi (which is usually yellowfin). Instead of ahi's near-beefy flavor, the impact was closer to cooked pork. (Maybe it was "the other white meat" of the sea?) It came with a red wine gastrique with thick batons of good smoked bacon, undercooked white beans, and lemon-braised baby artichokes of uneven doneness -- some soft, some on the tough side. (What's with the hard white beans I'm running into all over town? The better the restaurant, the harder the beans -- did some New York celebrity chef declare them de rigueur? If Mario jumps off a cliff, do you have to jump off it, too?)

Oddly -- given the chef's previous stint at San Francisco's famed and fabulous Farallon seafood restaurant -- things went much better with the beef dishes. Braised Angus short ribs are the menu's sole holdover from previous chef Deborah Schneider. The boneless beef is slow-baked for three hours with rosemary, garlic, and Chianti. Great flavors and a delicious gravy are the high points, but the casserole's liquid content should probably have been attended to more closely during baking, as the texture was a tad dried out. Alongside are ricotta-whipped potatoes, which take some getting used to. The lean ricotta modifies the rooty flavor of the potato, producing refinement in place of earthiness.

We ordered our rib-eye steak rare, and so it arrived, well-browned on the surface and juicy inside. It's naturally raised meat from Brandt Beef, grass-fed until the final stages when it's switched to conventional corn for fattening up. Grilled over a gas flame, it comes with fine accompaniments -- a salad of tomatoes (including those great green-ripe ones served with the salad plate), green beans, and, best of all, Point Reyes goat cheese, a perfect, tangy complement to the steak. Although none of our main courses quite lived up to the promise of the starters, this was the favorite entrée of our table. We wished we had one more person with us, though, so we could also try the brick-roasted organic chicken, made with prized little black-skinned Jidoris.

I took advantage of a three-wine white flight. (Whenever I write "white flight," I want to make real estate jokes, but...never mind.) It included a Coppola Pinot Grigio (a dishwater blonde), a good Spanish Albariño, and the star, a Te Awa Sauvignon Blanc from Hawk's Bay, New Zealand. Unlike the Marlborough-grown Sauvignons from that country, it wasn't dry and citrusy, but a rich mouthful, great with clams and scallops. A glass of Melville Viognier proved full bodied enough to hold its own not only with the meaty ahi but against the rib-eye. Scott tried the red flight and evidently liked it, since he kept it all to himself.

We managed to try some desserts, all house-made. Best was a molten lava cake that was more like a lava cupcake -- short, round, and flattened. It was small enough to please without cloying, lightened with a scoop of Tahitian vanilla ice cream and a shallow pool of devilishly delicious pistachio-studded crème anglaise.

Vanilla panna cotta in plum "soup" topped with candied lemon zest and mint leaves was a little heavy and custardy for my taste. (I prefer panna cottas as airy as you can get 'em.) Last and least was a very moist crustless pumpkin cheesecake, tasting sweet and creamy but nothing more. "Maybe the current pumpkin shortage affected this dessert," said Mike. "There wasn't enough pumpkin to get any into the cheesecake." On the other hand, the house coffee is a superb dark French roast called La Colombe. If you prefer weak American breakfast coffee, don't order it, and I'll drink your share.

To review J-Six without a side trip to the rooftop J-Bar lounge would be criminal. To avoid arrest, we returned to explore. They've got a swimming pool up there, and firepits, heat stanchions, some tented cabanas that groups can reserve for bottle service, and open-air tables with a view of the construction equipment raising more surrounding condos. If you choose a table close to the elevator, a server will demand and hold your credit card until you're ready to pay up -- evidently they've experienced some misdemeanor escapees. We arrived during happy hour (4:30--6:30 p.m.). Half the patrons were filtering in after work to meet friends, some still in office drag, others in more casual wear. One large, young group were hotel patrons evidently vacationing from a colder climate. They clustered around a fire pit wearing tank tops and cut-offs on a chilly (for San Diego) November evening.

But we were there for the food, just the food, ma'am. Fried calamari were a credit to their race -- small rings and lovely little tentacles, crisp and succulent in a light batter that wasn't oversalted. They came with lemon wedges and a smart and tasty mayo-free tartar sauce based on thick Greek-style yogurt dotted with diced house-pickled vegetables. A Hawaiian-style pulled pork sandwich offered flavorful (if fatty) premium pork strips in fruity sweet-sour sauce on a bun, accompanied by house-made kettle chips. And knowing we could trust the beef, we ordered a rare burger "with everything" (avocado, bacon, grilled onions, cheddar). Thick and juicy, it met expectations and came with thick frites that had shared their frying oil with the branches of fresh rosemary that garnished the plate. The ketchup was lively, amended with something bright and tangy that I couldn't quite identify. (Other J-bar dishes include skewers of chicken or skirt steak, a mini-pizza, grilled shrimp, and various sandwiches.) A frozen Mango Piña Colada, sweet and suave, resembled an alcoholic smoothie and made us wish that summer were just beginning.

ABOUT THE CHEF

Christian Graves became executive chef at J-Six about six months ago, after cooking at many of San Francisco's top restaurants, including five years as chef de cuisine at Farallon, a famed downtown fish house. Graves spent his childhood in the South, but his peripatetic parents moved to San Francisco by the time he reached his teens. He started his career as a dishwasher in local restaurants, until a chef let him start doing prep. "I loved cooking, and when I finally decided to go to school for it, my family were very supportive and confused as to why I hadn't figured out earlier that this was what I wanted to do. I went to a junior college in Santa Barbara and the city college where they have a hotel-restaurant program. Meanwhile, I was working in restaurants. That's where I started to get a lot of love and knowledge. I worked for a really good guy who was really into teaching me, and I was hungry for knowledge as well."

Why did he leave one of San Francisco's top restaurants to come to San Diego? "J-Six was a perfect fit," he says. "I'd worked with seafood at Farallon. I'd been at Aqua and One Market and Roti. I kind of specialized in fish. My friend, Jim Birnbaum, who's a famous chef, was helping [Bill] Kimpton [of Kimpton Hotel Group, owners of Hotel Solamar and other boutique hotels] with trying to find placements for this restaurant, and it was such a natural fit for me. My wife's parents live in Orange County and we wanted to be closer to them, so my family and I, with two little boys, moved down.

"At J-Six, we're really trying to change the whole restaurant. My style of food is very different from the previous chef. I'm trying to do everything in-house. We make our own breads, pickles, our own charcuterie. We're trying to do as much as possible with organic ingredients and definitely hand-selected ingredients. I'm not trying to break the sound barrier with food -- I'm humble. I'm really into solid food. I like classic techniques as well as classic ingredients. I'm really into Slow Food, which to me is about using all-natural ingredients and traditional techniques. I use produce from local farms as much as possible and a small-scale meat vendor who can select carefully because he's not buying masses of fillets. I love food, fresh food. I love family and celebrations with food and with each other, and I love cooks who cook. One of the best things about San Diego is that the chefs here are really interested in each other's work and support each other -- it's not a competitive, cutthroat thing like San Francisco can be.

"The thing with J-Six is, we really want to be a neighborhood restaurant -- we want to be like those San Francisco places where you can go again and again. I miss just dropping in to places like Chez Panisse Café and Zuni and Oliveto in the Bay Area, and that's what we want to be to San Diego."

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