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Matthew Lickona 6 p.m., Nov. 17
Close dining scene observers were surprised last year by the sudden separation of chef Jason Maitland from his former restaurant, Flavor Del Mar. After all, he'd been very enthusiastic about the venture and worked tirelessly to get it open and put his unique stamp on it. But not everything pans out and he and ownership went in different directions.
For Maitland, that direction was south to downtown's Gaslamp Quarter, where, near the end of the month (in around two weeks) his new kitchen will open inside the combination dining room and social house, Red Light District.
Named after the Gaslamp's seedier early 1900 nickname, the space will draw design inspiration from Northern Europe. Think red velvet drapes, crystal chandeliers, antique French furniture and herringbone patterned flooring with retro photography lining the walls. Perhaps the most important furnishing is a floor-to-ceiling temperature-controlled white oak wine cellar that holds up to 400 bottles. That vino will be available indoors, in the VIP area, at a communal dining table or on the outdoor patio.
Like the design concept, Maitland's menu will draw European inspiration while infusing elements of the Far East. The food bill will be split into tongue-in-cheek categories such as "Foreplay," "Down to Business," and "Special Treatments." Offerings within those categories will include creme fraiche risotto, cast-iron baked escargot, Chinese five spiced duck breast and bacon fat mac-and-cheese.
Dishes will have a bent toward comfort, but will employ artisan elements such as home-made sausages and terrines, plus modern techniques including 24-, 36- and 48-hour sous vide cooking and spherification. Some dishes will be simple casseroles while others will feature elaborate tableside preparations. It's a hodgepodge, but an intriguing one for sure.
Red Light District will be located at 409 F Street and will be open daily from 11:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. (the kitchen closes at 11 p.m.