Au revoir à la carte: Addison debuts new tasting menu-only format

Chef William Bradley in his kitchen at Addison.
(K.C. Alfred / Union-Tribune)

Addison, San Diego’s first and only Michelin-starred restaurant, has once again blazed a unique trail in the region’s dining scene by becoming the county’s sole high-end establishment to adopt a tasting menu-only format.

The ultra-luxurious contemporary French restaurant in Carmel Valley recently unveiled a five-course menu for $165 and a 10-course option for $265, eliminating à la carte ordering. Already known for meticulously seeing to every detail of a customer’s meal, Addison will now also curate each aspect of the elevated culinary affair.

“With our new tasting experiences, we will continue showcasing world-class and seasonal ingredients, while offering two focused menus that fully express our culinary vision at Addison to provide a superlative and memorable meal for our guests,” executive chef William Bradley said in a statement.

The tasting menu-only concept was in the works for several months and predates Bradley earning a coveted Michelin star for Addison on June 3. Tailored wine pairings will also be offered but customers can still choose from the 12,000-bottle wine collection.

In debuting the tasting menus, Bradley follows in the footsteps of his mentor Thomas Keller, who perfected the practice of creating a procession of flavors, textures and sensations at his celebrated restaurants The French Laundry, in Yountville, and Per Se, in New York. His courses are made up of just a few bites, or sips.

Exclusive tasting menus are common in elite dining cities like New York, Chicago and Paris. In recent years, however, some food writers and diners have decried what’s been described as the tyranny of the tasting menu, with their stratospheric prices and epically languorous succession of courses.

And while Addison might be the swankiest San Diego restaurant to forgo à la carte ordering, it’s not the only eatery to do so. For years, the Wine Vault & Bistro in Mission Hills has been serving only set, no-exceptions multi-course dinners, with optional wine pairings. And the 13-seat sushi bar Hidden Fish, on Convoy Street, made a splash in 2018 when it opened with an all-omakase menu. “Omakase,” in Japanese, means to entrust yourself to the chef. Hidden Fish gives diners the choice of a 50-minute, 12-piece $50 “omakase teaser” or a 90-minute “premium experience” of 18 pieces for $90.

In the wider region, the Valle de Guadalupe’s Corazón de Tierra, named to the list of Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants, curates its tasting menu daily based on what’s fresh in its garden or what the kitchen procured from neighboring farms and fishermen. Headed up by noted chef Diego Hernández, Corazón de Tierra’s arguably most singular feature is being able to decide the number of courses you’ll have during your meal, based on how full or hungry you are.

At Addison, among the dishes common to both tasting menu are: yogurt fouetté (whipped) with green tea and yuzu granité; Alaskan king crab, with coconut, Thai basil and passion fruit; loup de mer (Mediterranean seasbass) with artichokes, bottarga and tapenade; and sweet corn ravioli with smoked sweetbreads, chanterelles and black truffle bouillon.

Addison, at the Fairmont Grand Del Mar, 5200 Grand Del Way, Carmel Valley. (858) 314-1900.