Acclaimed chef Roberto Alcocer, whose seven-year-old restaurant Malva Cocina de Baja California is one of the essential dining destinations in Mexico’s Valle de Guadalupe, opens his first stateside restaurant on Friday, October 15 in Oceanside’s Mission Pacific Hotel. Appropriately called Valle, it’s positioned as a Southern California embassy of Mexican food and wine with the chef as its proud ambassador.
Like so many other areas that rely heavily on tourism, the Valle de Guadalupe has struggled during the pandemic. By opening in Oceanside, Alcocer hopes he can provide a taste of the wonders that can be found in the Baja region and encourage more diners to explore them.
While Malva is a charmingly rustic all-outdoor restaurant, Valle offers a more formal dining experience across a spacious bar, dining room, and patio overlooking the Pacific Ocean and Oceanside pier. With Michelin-star goals for this restaurant — the chef also oversees the hotel’s rooftop bar where he serves Ensenada street food — Alcocer tells Eater that Valle is also a preview of a similarly upscale and ambitious establishment that he plans to bring to the Valle de Guadalupe in the next two years.
Currently serving dinner only, with weekend brunch coming in the spring, the chef says he’s confident that he has successfully transported some of the magic of Malva to Oceanside, even faithfully recreating some of its most popular dishes down to their key ingredients, from Ensenada black cod to Baja abalone and oysters. And his chef friends from Mexico who have worked on projects in Southern California, including Enrique Olvera, Javier Plascencia, and Diego Hernandez, have helped point him to small purveyors and farmers in the region.
Alcocer, who relocated to Oceanside with his family, has a San Diego team that includes chef de cuisine Raul Casillas, who previously cooked at L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon in La Vegas, but has been spending time in the Malva kitchen getting to know its cuisine. Although Alcocer’s menu is intended to be enjoyed as a four-course tasting menu with optional wine pairings from a list that features many Valle de Guadalupe wineries including his own label, Bodega Era, the restaurant will also offer dishes a la carte.
Betabel Nixtamal: The betabel nixtamal is a textural celebration of beets, which grow easily in the Valle de Guadalupe. With crunchy beet chips and cool shavings of pickled beets along with balsamic chicharron, goat cheese quark, shiso, and homemade kvass (a fermented beverage), it also features a whole beet wrapped in masa that’s cooked over coals and sliced tableside.
Tarta: Elevating the humble onion, the tarta or burnt onion tart has a squid ink-tinted crust filled with a thick slice of onion that’s caramelized with black vinegar and seasoned with a vegetable demi-glace. The crowning touch: a luxe topping of Sevruga caviar.
Taco de Abulon: Created by Alcocer for the Festival de las Conchas, one of Ensenada’s premier food events, this taco de abulon features a black corn tortilla; farmed, sous vide Baja abalone; and aioli flavored with roasted and fermented habanero.
Borrego: Alcocer raises lambs on Malva’s property and braised lamb is one of his signature dishes. This garden-like presentation features a potato filled with the stewed meat alongside carrots, chickpea hummus, and a “soil” made from beans, mushrooms, and potato skin.
Chocolate de Metate: As Alcocer only serves local products at Malva, this restaurant gives him an opportunity to finally showcase a chocolate dessert. Chocolate ice cream and a chocolate crumble accent a chocolate shell, shaped like an iconic Abuelita hot chocolate tablet, filled with spiced chocolate ganache and garnished with gold leaf.
Valle, 201 N. Meyers St., Oceanside, 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday.