Monday, July 16, 2012

Searsucker @ Gaslamp District, San Diego

Shrimps "Spicy" and Bacon Grits

Our first time in San Diego, we were staying in Coronado and decided to walk around in the Downtown Gaslamp District.  I was keenly interested in this one Thai restaurant down the street, when we walked past this popular place that drew my attention; I loved the interior and the vibe of the place (it's not exactly the best measure of a good restaurant, but the attention to detail and the crowd does give some indication of its popularity and trend) and so we veered off the path and walked in...

It was a packed house, but there were bar seats available at the counter by the kitchen; we love sitting and watching the Chefs in action so it was
a no brainer...and in front of the dessert section no less, (killer front row seats to the food show just adds to the experience!)

So that night was just such a perfect dining experience, that when we had the opportunity to come back to San Diego, we knew the first place to go was back to Searsucker..

Click below to

Searsucker is the creative F&B venue concept by Chef Brian Malarky, whose recognition derives from the hit show, Bravo's 'Top Chef' reality show.  He was a finalist in the competition, but he was a winner in the personality category and was very memorable  (Brontosaurus T-Bone anyone?)  And so Seersucker along with his other venues reflect this personality.  All his restaurants bear the name to a certain fabric, thus Searsucker, (there's Gabardine, Burlap, Herringbone and Gingham).  The cuisine is new American, a take on traditional classic and popular, contemporary items, with a quirky twist to it.

You can see Chef Malarky's personality throughout, from the names of items on the menu to the hip, lounge casualness of the service delivery, it's range is pretty vast for the location and customer type for the area.  It's fun to people watch, both from the window area looking out to the people dining inside; the Gaslamp District has a melange of vibes that a show unto itself. (sometimes a circus....)

Searsucker is enormous; it's three venues rolled into one.  With a full bar section big enough to be it's own entity, a lounge area in the center providing a relaxed feel and then a full dining room, there's enough diversity in character in each space to fit the personalities that walk through the door. A note: it can get very loud if you're seated in the center, there's no soft surfaces to absorb any of the noise so be prepared-it's part of the ambience!! (no quiet date nights here) I suggest you sit near the windows or the counter by the Kitchen for a conversation!

One thing that we remembered about our experience was the seating at the counter....The bar seats were so uncomfortable, and although design wise, they worked with the space, those chairs were torture!  They were these metal chairs with wood seats and reclining back providing little comfort, resembling an elementary school chair, but in bar seat version.

When we came back the send time, they had replaced the good looking, yet torture to sit in chairs with these:  Sturdy wooden chairs with padded seats that one: looked stable, two; were comfortable to sit in, three: we could sit and enjoy our experience-score for Seersucker!!

Now onto the food:
Peter Rabbit
We started off by having a drink, The Peter Rabbit:  Pimm's #1 with Basil Lemon and a Pickled Carrot on top. The drink was refreshing with the Basil that's a twist on Mint and the Lemon complimented the Pimm's.

And as you ponder over the menu in cool categories with really cryptic descriptions (makes you interact with the server more) out comes a cone of fresh Cheddar Puffers to your table.  I love their bread, the popovers are fresh from the oven, light and airy.

An awesome show  with a front row seat!
Menu Rundown:

Farm Bird Lollipops + Snake Oil +Bleu Fondue
Artichoke Hearts + Gruyere + Tomato
Duck Fat Fries + Tomato Jam
Egg + Bacon 'Pork Belly'
Shrimps 'Spicy' + Bacon Grits
Squid 'Sweet Heat'

Strawberry Tart + Basil Cream + White Chocolate Ganache + Balsamic Reduction

We are the type to order a lot of appetizers, so mainly our order consisted of the 'Smalls' category; I'm betting all of others dishes are great too, we're just hardwired for lots of small good eats.. 

Farm Bird Lollipops +Snake Oil +Bleu Fondue

We didn't ordered these the first time we were here, and the Snake Oil intrigued me, (never did ask our server what it was) so we got them; they came in these bite size chicken balls on long toothpicks that went easily down.  They were well marinated, robust in flavor, dipping them into the Bleu Cheese was a great starter to open the palate....Gotta ask what's in the Snake Oil was next time....

Artichoke Hearts + Gruyere + Tomato

Our next App was the Artichoke Hearts, which turned out to be different than we expected.  It may had been that the cheese had hardened from the oven, it didn't melt into the Heart and there wasn't a definitive taste of Tomato, so it was hard to eat with the accompanied Bread...We like the Artichokes, but the dish didn't deliver on it's ingredients. So, not our favorite dish.

Duck Fat Fries + Tomato Jam

We had ordered the Duck Fat Fries before and couldn't get enough, and they served larger portion this time! It's got great flavor: nice thickly cut fries locked in the oil and potato soft texture, with a plethora of Herbs sprinkled on top with Parmesan. The Duck Fat worked with the Tomato Jam, an twist on your regular Ketchup.  We loved this dish that has finally come into it's own as the main dish, rather than a side!

When I say that the Kitchen was a show, I mean, there was DRAMA!  On both occasions, we saw there a lot of tension.  Now, the Expeditor has a pretty tough job, they have to coordinate the timing of the dishes so no table is waiting for one dish to arrive.  You have to fire up immediately after apps are done; a lot of communication needs to happen between the FOH (Front of House) and BOH (Back of House) to insure smooth service.  So it can get testy!  Well, he was pulling major GR (Gordon Ramsey) with the Grill Master- I mean barking and yelling; there was even a stare down at one point...

It was like, give me some Popcorn, cuz there's fireworks going on on the line!  We were privy to the Expeditor's rants, raising his voice before; sometimes it's hard to watch because the line is working their butts off to get everything out...I kinda felt bad for the grill Master, so I told him he was doing a great job (even though we didn't necessarily order much from the Grill)...Such is the life of F&B!!!

Egg + Bacon 'Pork Belly'

Now we're heading towards the 'Power House' category here: the Egg with Bacon 'Pork Belly' has to be our favorite: Soft Poached egg with a fatty piece of Pork Belly on thickly sliced, buttery Toast with a heavenly cream sauce on top-it's better than a Brunch dish, better than a Dinner item, it's an all around thing of beauty!  They could make this into a Main  and I bet you everyone would lick their plate-it's perfect. A definite must-have item if you're a carnivore!

Shrimps "Spicy" + Bacon Grits

I guess we were at the right place at the right time, the expeditor came over and brought us a dish, apparently the Kitchen had made a mistake with another table's order and had made an extra order of Shrimp and Grits and we were there to eat it for them!  We thanked her, and knowing how good it was from the last time, we gobbled it up!  Creamy Grits that soaked up the tomato sauce had a robust flavor, add to it the firm flesh of the shrimp, it's comfort food elevated to a higher level of sophistication!  (she wasn't the Expeditor that was screaming..btw).

Squid Sweet Heat
One dish that surprised us was the Squid Sweet Heat: a soft chewy texture batter fried light enough to envelop the moistness; while the crunchy exterior is soaked in a sweet and spicy sauce, vague hint of Eastern influences, an ode to to the Southeast perhaps?  

We were amazed that portions had grown larger for a lot of the dishes, and we almost ordered too much, (which would have been tragic, because Dessert is one of the best courses here!)  Luckily, we had room for one last bite!   

Headed down the home stretch, we focussed our eyes towards the dessert section right in front view.. we fell in love with the lovely creator of our evening's finally curtain call: Strawberry Tart + Basil + White Chocolate.   Last time we had the Red Velvet Cake and the Milk Chocolate Mousse which was decadently good.  I loved the tart, so light and the crust stole the show!
I usually shy away from it, but it complimented the Basil and Strawberry profile-with the White Chocolate adding the sugar component.

Strawberry Tart + Basil Cream + White Chocolate Ganache + Balsamic Reduction
It was another amazing night at Searsucker, I am beginning to get really attached to this restaurant; the service was on point-I have to commend the General Manager for the smooth delivery.  I love the food, there's a lot of favorites here, and it's gonna be the destination restaurant whenever we get our way back to San Diego!

Searsucker on Urbanspoon
Ratings (Out of Five Stars)
Food:          4.5
Ambience   4.5
Service:      5