San Diego Restaurant Week has officially begun — 8 days, 180 restaurants, and a myriad of special dishes from some of Southern California’s culinary gems.
A couple weeks back, we indulged in a sneak peek preview of the incredible menu at Nine-Ten in La Jolla. Chef Jason Knibb, known for giving traditional dishes a simple, elegant twist, was born in Jamaica. He didn’t attend culinary school and instead, fine-tuned his craft and creativity by working in the kitchens of celebrated chefs across the country.
The restaurant has a seasonal style of “Evolving California Cuisine” and a menu dedicated to fresh products that come from the bounty of the sea and local San Diego artisans like Crow's Pass and Chino Farms.
Pre-first course: We enjoy a glass of Rosé of Cabernet Franc from France, the Brandied Pear Cocktail with housemade cinnamon syrup, and a basket of fresh made bread with flakes of sea salt to get us started. The butter is whipped in house and when we comment on its softness the staff replies — yes, like feather butter.
First course: Thai Lobster Salad with mango, mint, fresno chiles, peanut, lime, scallions, cilantro, coconut, and chili lime aioli. The Baby Beet & Persimmon Salad with shaved carrots, pistachio purée, cocoa crumb, local citrus, mustard frill, fennel gel, and citrus vinaigrette. And a surprise from Chef — the Cacio e Pepe. Porcini mushroom spaghetti (with the porcini dried before being put into the semolina pasta dough), cured egg yolk, parmesan, cracked black pepper, and shaved mushroom. Rich, creamy, incredible. We settle in.
Entrees: We go for the Baja Striped Bass — with cauliflower mushrooms, pickled young ginger, tatsoi (an Asian green with spoon-shaped leaves), aromatic Asian style dukkah, leafy yu choy, and a Japanese curry sauce. And the prime, 10 ounce, New York steak. It has roasted sunchokes, baby broccoli, pickled onion, watercress, mushroom demi-glace, and a beautiful herbed lobster compound butter.
Beside us, a woman finishes the last bites of her dessert. “This was an epicurean adventure,” she tells her waiter.
Dessert: Our waiter and sommelier extraordinaire, Ross, suggests the S’Mores and the Poached Pear and Pistachio Semifreddo. The latter of the two has shortbread cookies, orange cream, red wine reduction, and a sour cream ice cream. Ross pairs the dish with a few inches of Royal Tokaji’s Furmint dessert wine. We learn that the Tokaj Region in Hungary has a misty fog which encourages botrytis cinerea, or “noble rot, in the thin skin of these grapes (causing the grapes to dry and shrivel and the sugars to concentrate).
This particular wine is listed at ‘5 puttonyos’ — a Hungarian unit of sweetness measurement that moves from 3 to 6 puttonyos with 6 being the sweetest. The S’Mores, on the other hand, are made with chocolate & banana cream, graham cracker, marshmallow, and peanut butter ice cream. Ross pairs them with some sips of Solera 1927. It hails from Spain’s southern coast and is made with the prized Pedro Ximénez grape — with its warm flavors of fig, we can taste the timelessness of Alvear’s founded-in-1729 vineyard.
The dining experience at Nine-Ten was one of our favorite kinds — innovative and artfully-crafted dishes, a passionate sommelier who teaches us new things about wine, and an elegant atmosphere where diners are enthusiastic to learn about where ingredients and ideas come from. It's the type of meal where we stay for hours, immersed in the courses, casually becoming the last diners to leave.
Eat for a Cause: San Diego Restaurant Week and the California Restaurant Association dedicate themselves to numerous philanthropic efforts throughout the year. They support The American Red Cross San Diego/Imperial Counties, Jacobs & Cushman San Diego Food Bank (the largest hunger-relief organization in San Diego County) and Mama’s Kitchen, a volunteer-driven non-profit who focuses on providing AIDS and cancer victims with the basic necessity of life – nutritious food.
To learn more about the charity-driven efforts of San Diego Restaurant Week and the California Restaurant Association, visit their website or follow them on Instagram @calrestaurants & @sdrestaurantwk.
A big thank you to the Nine-Ten team, Chef Jason, Ross, and Josephine Clements at Mcfarlane Promotions for the beautiful evening.