The summer launch of Sea & Smoke was one of the biggest restaurant openings so far this year and since then, Eater's Anatomy of a Restaurant subject has made a splash with local diners; ladies who lunch found a new place to be seen, businesspeople found a fresh spot for breakfast meetings and downtown dwellers proved they'd make the trek up north to just for a meal.
Located in Del Mar's Flower Hill Promenade, the American brasserie rebels against a typical shopping center environment via an open air courtyard patio with hanging lights and olive trees and table service for each meal of the day.
Notable chef Matt Gordon (North Park's Urban Solace and Encinitas' Solace & the Moonlight Lounge) introduced a menu format with the à la carte surf and turf concept and the gamble appears to have paid off; many are already hooked on the unique nibbles (squid ink crackers!), locally-sourced fare and sophisticated ambiance.
In a new edition of Good News/Bad News, here's a look at what the critics, Yelpers, bloggers and commenters across the internet have been saying about Gordon's Sea & Smoke.
The You Got Game News: Pile a meat and artisan cheese plate high with duck prosciutto, wild boar and venison, suggests Kirbie's Cravings, who maintained a carnivorous craving for the main course by ordering the "generous chunk" of Cook Pigs Ranch pork belly: "The pork was moist, fatty, just like it should be...the ginger marinade went well with it." [Kirbie's Cravings]
The Know It All News: This Chowhound poster took note of top-notch service: "The wait staff was super friendly, knew the menu, and was extremely enthusiastic." Is the best yet to come? "I can't wait until they work out the restaurant opening kinks and really work into high gear. I think it will be one of San Diego's best." [Chowhound]
The Veggie Let-Down News: The "blackened" yellowtail crudo with jalapeño ash, jicama and compressed watermelon "makes for a refreshing and interesting starter," but one vegetarian dish didn't do it for Gayot: "An effort is made to make the vegetarian plates hearty, but we weren't won over by the achiote marinated cauliflower with black bean purée, roasted avocado, cotija and coriander leaf." [Gayot]
The Breaking Breakfast News: This Facebooker found a reason to get up in the morning: "The lobster benedict and French toast are both to die for!!! Matt Gordon is a magician." [Facebook]
The Gnaw On This News: Bone marrow can be a risky pick, but this Yelper called Sea & Smoke's version "one of the best dishes of my year so far. Loved it. The server talked about it being like 'meat butter.' Great call." The jidori chicken that followed was "absolutely fabulous" (could be because they brine the bird for 24 hours). [Yelp]
The Bland Broth News: For one blogger, the Pacific mussels passed the test, but the broth they were swimming in "wasn't quite as deliciously flavorful as I had hoped. It was good but I felt like it was missing a little bit of depth in flavor. I actually preferred eating the mussels and broth with the house made bread rather than the grilled bread it came [with]." [The Plain Jane]
The Forked Up News: One Urban Spoon critic found the entire meal hard to swallow: "I found this to be mediocre and overpriced. I had the pork chop which was just okay. It cost $24 and didn't come with anything." (The family-style dining experience means sides cost extra.) "Their signature smoke dip was just a glob of cream cheese with a couple of smoked oysters on top. I complained about it and they did nothing." [Urban Spoon]
The Already a Regular News: This fan has already been more than five times: "We have had just about everything on the menu and have not found fault with any. The duck was overcooked just a bit though. The salmon has been our favorite along with the cheeseboard and speciality cocktails." [Open Table]
The Weighing In News: Despite a lineup of gluten-free items, this healthy eater was less than impressed. "There's a lot of fried food for "farm-to-table". I liked my mushroom dish (with poached egg, smoked lentil mousse), but did it really need potato chips on top of it?" [Foodie Mom]
The Sip On This News: Drinks taste better during happy hour, when Culture Brewing Co. beers are $4 and Mucho Aloha cans cost $2.50. Atmosphere gets extra points, too. A Yelper writes "Small tables, a comfortable leather couch/lounger and a nice bar only a couple feet away. ?I can easily make this a go-to happy hour destination when in the area, especially if you want to get out of that awful rush hour traffic." [Yelp]