By using bold, down-home flavors in the comfort food he serves in North Park, Chef Matt Gordon, the mind behind Urban Solace and the menus at True North Tavern and West Coast Tavern, is at least partly responsible for revitalizing the neighborhood's now booming culinary scene.
Meanwhile, it was flashy, forward-thinking gourmet preparations that catapulted Chef Jason Maitland to local success. Relying on molecular gastronomy (using methods in the kitchen that might seem more suited to a chemist's lab), Maitland has engineered edible powders, gels and foams to adorn the dishes served at Arterra, his restaurant in Carmel Valley.
Despite their different approaches in the kitchen, these two chefs have something in common-later this month, each will throw open the doors to a new beachside restaurant in North County.
"I had scouted quite a few locations, then just happened to drive down the 101 in downtown Del Mar and noticed that Sunset Bar and Grill had closed," says Maitland. "It's a little bigger and higher profile than I imagined my first restaurant would be, but a spot like that only comes along once-if ever-in an entire career. I had to go for it."
He went for it. At Flavor Restaurant and Lounge, Maitland aims to provide a relaxed, casual atmosphere and food to match. For the latter, he'll mix his trademark innovation with more accessible flavors.
"My short ribs have always had a great following, so I'm taking them with me, but developing a new braising liquid and technique," says Maitland. "I will have several vegetarian and lighter-fare options; and there's the bar and lounge menu, where I'll put my twist on some classic American favorites."
Further north, Gordon notes a parallel between his old stomping grounds and his new digs.
"Downtown Encinitas is going through what North Park is going through," he says. "People are hungry for something new."
And he intends to give it to them, in this case courtesy of Solace and the Moonlight Lounge, a 5,000-square-foot, two-story combo-restaurant-and-bar that will be the new westerly outpost for Gordon's ideals-serving environmentally responsible, sustainability-minded, health-conscious food.
"We like what we do and have built a reputation for it," says Gordon. "Urban Solace and Solace [and the Moonlight Lounge] will share some signature dishes. Moonlight Lounge will have an integrated raw and liquor bar with oysters, shrimp, meats and cheeses-cold stuff to compliment the beverages and make it a nice after-work, happy-hour place."
Somone once said, "Go West, young man!" These two chefs did just that, using sharp knives and a keen entrepreneurial spirit to take a stab at North County's beachside dining scene.
Solace and the Moonlight Lounge 25 East E Street, Encinitas, eatatsolace.com
25 East E Street, Encinitas, eatatsolace.com
Flavor Restaurant & Lounge 555 Camino Del Mar, Suite 322, Del Mar, flavordelmar.com
555 Camino Del Mar, Suite 322, Del Mar, flavordelmar.com