When we last left Del Mar's Sea & Smoke, chef/owner Matt Gordon was ridding the space of all vestiges of its former tenant, Paradise Grille.
Since then, the restaurant's design plans have been submitted and approved (more on that soon), the foundation for the new 2,300 square foot patio is nearly completed and Gordon's just waiting for last construction quotes to come in before beginning the demolition. If you're haven't been following along on the chef's personal blog, do.
But even before any work had been done, or any plans been made, there was a menu. A menu that was written last November, the week that Gordon and his wife first toured the space (they didn't sign a lease until January). Gordon had a wood fired oven on a wishlist for his third restaurant, but didn't know that Paradise Grille's kitchen held the treasure of a wood and gas fired oven until he visited the Flower Hill Promenade space. He says the menu came together quickly, partly because he wanted to convince himself that a wood oven-driven concept could be viable.
Here, he unveils that menu, which he plans to launch with Sea & Smoke (the opening is still scheduled for late May). The chef has an extensive background in catering, so he's used to planning menus in advance and pulling together ingredients and flavors that make sense, even before picking up a pan. In the coming weeks, look for some of these dishes to pop up as specials at Gordon's Urban Solace and Solace and The Moonlight Lounge; he'll use the two restaurants' kitchens as testing grounds before the menu's official debut.
All the meat and seafood will be cooked in the oven: starters include roasted mussels and charred octopus; mains include chickens (whole or half), lobster, whole local fish and local pork chops. The proteins aren't pre-matched with specific sides and starches (choose your own from a list that includes yellow beet gratin, braised bacon kale and duck fat roasted potatoes); all plates are meant to be shared, family-style. It's a menu that's intended to be interactive and Gordon says that everything is designed to be make for a sensible pairing, or a good stand-alone dish on its own.