The excitement about one of the year’s most-anticipated restaurants has heightened with chef Jonathan Bautista joining Kingfisher, the upcoming modern Vietnamese eatery and cocktail bar coming to Golden Hill. An alum of The Art Institute of California’s culinary school, Bautisa started his career at Roy’s in La Jolla and impressed as chef de cuisine at Kitchen 1540 at the L’Auberge Del Mar before joining George’s at the Cove, where he spent five years overseeing culinary operations alongside executive chef/partner Trey Foshee.
Kingfisher co-owner Kim Phan, who also runs the Crab Hut restaurants with her partners, was a frequent diner at George’s when Bautista worked there and has long been a fan of his cooking — noting its Asian sensibilities.
Bautista, who is of Filipino heritage, was most recently with the team behind Convoy Street’s Common Theory, where he also created the menu for Realm of the 52 Remedies, Eater’s 2019 Bar of the Year.
The chef has been doing a deep dive into Southeast Asian food, learning the foundations of Vietnamese cuisine with Phan’s family, and says his goal is to stay faithful to traditional dishes and flavors while bringing in elements of his expertise, including exploring the country’s French influence.
Bautista has been previewing his menu through Kingfisher’s sold-out pop-ups — multi-course takeout dinners paired with drinks from cocktail pro David Tye — through dishes that include olive oil-poached shrimp salad with kohlrabi, banana blossom, morning glory, toasted dried shrimp, citrus dressing, and culantro and Vietnamese chicken curry with confit chicken thigh, tapioca dumplings, Chino Farms sweet potatoes, lemongrass, and vadouvan-coconut curry.
Phan says they’ll continue with the monthly pop-ups up until Kingfisher’s opening, which is currently set for late June/early July. The next pop-up is scheduled for February 12 to celebrate the lunar new year.