By Frank Sabatini, Jr. / Photos by Brevin Blach
Back by popular demand (by many of the city's top chefs), PacificSD proudly presents the second annual Chain of Gourmand, wherein a chef cites his or her favorite dish, and then the maker of that dish cites his fave. The only limitation: chefs must pick dishes from San Diego restaurants other than the ones at which they run the show.
This year's chain begins with chef Antonio Friscia, who dug his culinary roots while training in Italy and currently helms the kitchens of Stingaree, Campine Catering and Gaijin Noodle + Sake House in the Gaslamp. Friscia's favorite dish of late - the hamachi crudo at Herringbone - holds a tender spot in his heart, as he shared it this summer with his wife, Stacey, days before a burn accident left her in critical condition.
"We're planning on going back for more when she recovers," he says. (PacificSD is thrilled to report that Stacy is on the mend, and we can't wait to see her back on the scene, enjoying her favorite dish with our dearest Antonio.)
Friscia serves crudo (raw fish) at Gaijin, but he is particularly fond of the Old World Italian elements chef Amanda Baumgarten puts into her version at Herringbone: lardo, olive oil and spicy caper relish.
Antonio Friscia's favorite dish
Hamachi crudo at Herringbone
Created by executive chef Amanda Baumgarten
Lardo, a type of Italian charcuterie, delivers a bacon-y, fatty dimension to raw fish that is balanced by citrus. "Hamachi and pork fat - if they could elope to Vegas tomorrow, they totally would," says Baumgarten, who introduced the top-selling cold appetizer when Herringbone opened in June.
7837 Herschel Ave., La Jolla
Amanda Baumgarten's favorite dish
Truffle egg toast at Davanti Enoteca
Created by chef/owner Scott Harris
"It's a show-stealer," Baumgarten says. "I had it while sitting at the bar and reading The New Yorker during a quiet night alone that I rarely get. It's amazing, but so rich that I couldn't finish it."
Chicago transplant Scott Harris of Davanti Enoteca removes the crusts and hollows out the centers of Pullman white bread before layering it with Fontina cheese and fresh asparagus. He then inserts a warm egg yolk in the middle that is destined to ooze. The loaded bread receives a butter brushing before a light toasting in the oven. "It's such a simple dish, but people go nuts for it," Harris says.
1655 India St., Little Italy
Scott Harris' favorite dish
Black cod saikyo yaki at Nobu
By executive sous chef Andy Huynh
"The skin is cooked perfectly, and the sauce has a little bit of sweetness," Harris says. "I first had it at Nobu in New York for Valentine's Day and loved it. Now, I get the entrée every time at Nobu San Diego, because it's made exactly the same way."
Chef Andy Huynh has mastered cooking this top-selling dish, authored by famed chef Nobu Matsuhisa. The cod is first marinated in denmiso (miso, sake, sugar and sweet Japanese cooking wine), then broiled to a poetic crisp on the outside and served simply with pickled ginger. Expect melt-in-your mouth texture and sturdy flavors.
207 Fifth Ave., Gaslamp (at Hard Rock Hotel San Diego)
Andy Huynh's favorite dish
Caprese salad at Sora
By chef Noriyoshi Teruya
"It's different, because the tomatoes are in Grand Marnier - not too overpowering, but really nice," Huynh says. "The salad also comes with burrata cheese instead of regular mozzarella, making it much better than other caprese salads."
Japanese herbs, creamy burrata cheese and tomatoes marinated in Grand Marnier comprise the caprese salad at Sora, a downtown newcomer that flaunts attention-grabbing Asian-Italian cuisine masterminded by chef Noriyoshi Teruya. The orange-flavored liqueur injects an elegant sweetness to the tomatoes, while a puck of young curds (the burrata) nurtures the tongue with the right measure of cream.
Noriyoshi Teruya's favorite dish
Escargot risotto at Farm House Café
By chef-owner Olivier Bioteau
"I used to live in Europe, and this is a very traditional dish," Teruya says. "I love the flavor of the parsley butter and Parmesan cheese that goes into the recipe."
Vegetable broth meets Arborio rice in this silky risotto dish chef Olivier Bioteau of Farm House enhances with escargot. The rice is finished off with parsley butter and beurre blanc, giving the tender snails their rightful French flair amid a Roman injection of garlic and Parmesan. "A lot of people serve escargot with just garlic butter and bread. That is too '80s," says Bioteau.
Farm House Café
2121 Adams Ave., University Heights
Olivier Bioteau's favorite dish
Pork sandwich at Carnitas' Snack Shack
By chef-owner Hanis Cavin
"It's absolutely delicious," Bioteau says. "There is a lot of pork with some sort of spicy sauce, all in one bun - perfect for a late-night dinner after I leave my kitchen."
Known otherwise as "The Triple Threat," this Carnitas' Snack Shack favorite is a circus of swine, offering pulled pork, bacon and schnitzel on a Kaiser bun. The pork is pulled from a shoulder cut after it's braised for nearly seven hours with tomatoes and sweet onions. Chef-owner Hanis Cavin, who garnishes the sandwich with house-made pepperoncini relish and aioli, says it's "a little crazy, but with great flavors that are realistic."
Carnitas' Snack Shack
2632 University Ave., North Park
Hanis Cavin's favorite dish
Braised beef cheeks at Urban Solace
By chef-owner Matt Gordon
"The cheeks were gorgeous and rich without being mushy," Cavin says. "They had perfect texture and went very well with the smoked tomato jam. You knew you were eating a quality beef product."
Grass-fed cattle serve as the source for these coveted cheeks, which chef Matt Gordon of Urban Solace rubs in a spice mixture before braising in red wine, celery and garlic. Gordon serves the dish with mustard jus and smoked tomato jam, which has been bringing devout carnivores back for more for the past four years.
3823 30th St., North Park
Matt Gordon's favorite dish
Whole wheat pancakes with tart cherry syrup at Café Chloe
By chef Katie Grebow
"As a pancake connoisseur, I order these a lot," Gordon says. "Their texture is really light, with an earthy flavor. And the sweet-tart cherry compote works very well."
Sticking to Café Chloe's Parisian slant, chef Katie Grebow adds crème fraîche to the batter, a moisturizing trick she learned from her mother. The addition of wheat bran cranks up the healthy component in the pancakes, while a spot of brandy imparts a boozy undertone to the tart, cherry syrup. Protein is provided by a few tubby slices of apple-smoked bacon, which sit like ribbons atop this sweet gift for the palate.
721 9th Ave., East Village
Katie Grebow's favorite dish
Soy chorizo pizza at Blind Lady Ale House
By Chef Todd Renner
"The soy chorizo is made in-house, which is so cool," Grebow says. "It has a moderate heat level and goes on top with chili peppers. they make it as a delicious pizza without turning it into a taco."
The soy chorizo at Blind Lady Ale House boasts 16 spices, including coriander, cumin and smoked paprika. Chef Todd Renner drapes the kicky faux meat over the pizza with poblano peppers from local farms, along with bright tomato sauce and Fontina cheese. the latter can be replaced with a vegan option. Either way, the pie washes down swimmingly with "the Lady's" ever- changing beer selection.
Blind Lady Ale House
3416 Adams Ave., North Park
Todd Renner's favorite dish
Charred octopus salad at Isola Pizza Bar
By chef-owner Massimo Tenino
"The kitchen nailed it perfectly with tender octopus and fresh ingredients that were very visible," Renner says. "It's a shareable salad that also has potatoes and celery in it, a classic Italian pairing."
Isolo's chef-owner, Massimo Tenino, reveals that he first braises the octopus in wine, lemon juice and bay leaf before charring it inside his 900-degree wood-burning oven. "The process brings out the sweetness of the octopus," he says. "It's a recipe inspired by my family when I grew up in Italy."
Isola Pizza Bar
1526 India St., Little Italy