Upscale Mexican tasting-menu restaurant now open in Oceanside
Renowned Baja chef Roberto Alcocer will debut Valle, inspired by the food and wine of the Valle de Guadalupe
Baja California chef and restaurateur Roberto Alcocer always hoped that one day he could open a restaurant outside his native Mexico, but his priority of putting his wife and children first always outweighed his business ambitions.
Then, during a two-week period in 2018, two things happened that sparked the chain of events that led to Friday’s opening of Valle restaurant at the Mission Pacific Resort in Oceanside. The oceanfront, 155-seat restaurant will serve a prix-fixe, four-course $95 tasting menu of the modern Mexican cuisine Alcocer has been perfecting over the past eight years at his acclaimed Malva restaurant in Baja’s Valle de Guadalupe.
Three years ago, a restaurant industry consultant from Colorado dined at Malva and asked the now 37-year-old chef if he’d like to create a menu for a future restaurant project in San Diego. Then, a couple weeks later, Alcocer’s 2-year-old son was diagnosed with autism. Because Mexico doesn’t have the advanced therapies and educational programs that San Diego could offer his family, and because Alcocer’s son is a U.S. citizen, he started thinking bigger.
What if, instead of selling a few of his Malva recipes to a San Diego restaurateur, he offered his own services as full-time chef so he could move his family north of the border to help his son? When the Colorado consulting firm, Two Roads Hospitality, was acquired by Hyatt Hotels a few months later, Alcocer’s restaurant project came along for the ride. Valle became the new signature restaurant for the Mission Pacific Resort, a 161-room luxury boutique hotel that the JdV by Hyatt division opened at the foot of the Oceanside Pier on May 25.
When the ground-floor restaurant was being constructed earlier this year, Alcocer insisted that its front door face Pacific Street rather than into the center of the U-shaped hotel. That’s because he wants Valle to become a destination not just for hotel guests but also for local residents seeking a taste of the new Mexico, as well as food tourists from L.A. and Orange counties, who can take the train down. The restaurant is a five-minute walk from the Oceanside Transit Center.
There’s another reason Alcocer moved with his wife, 9-year-old daughter and now-5-year-old son to Carlsbad earlier this year. Restaurants in Mexico won’t be eligible for Michelin stars until 2023, but the first California Michelin Guide arrived in 2019. Alcocer has his sights set on at least one Michelin star for Valle.
“Michelin has been in my head since day one,” he said, in an interview earlier this week. “I started my cooking career 20 years ago as an apprentice in a Michelin-starred restaurant in France. If I’m leaving my stability and moving to another country, I’m going to play for all the marbles.”
Born in Mexico City and raised in Ensenada, Alcocer found a passion for food as a young boy eating in fine-dining restaurants with his paternal grandfather and gorging at buffets with his maternal grandmother. After high school, Alcocer asked his parents if he could take a sabbatical year before attending college and he moved to France, where he apprenticed for a year in an award-winning restaurant in the Bordeaux region.
His father, an auto mechanic who races cars, wasn’t a fan of Alcocer’s plan to become a chef until his son cooked for him. Then he was proud. After attending culinary school in Puebla, Mexico, Alcocer moved to Spain, where he worked in Madrid’s Michelin-starred La Broche, and later worked at Mexico City’s Pujol, which ranks No. 9 on the World’s 50 Best Restaurant List. Alcocer also worked for a time as the corporate chef for Sempra Energy’s Casa Azul retreat near Ensenada. Finally, in 2014, he opened his own restaurant, Malva Cocina de Baja California in the Valle.
Alcocer said diners who visit Valle in Oceanside will see a few of the dishes that made Malva famous with the Baja foodie community, including his aguachile dish, his bone marrow crème brûlée and his stuffed eggplant dish. But most of the dishes will be new and they’ll change seasonally, with a new dish or two every couple of weeks, and a holiday menu arriving at the end of November.
Alcocer said Hyatt officials have worked with him to re-create the style of doing business that’s practiced in the Valle de Guadalupe. He has been given the freedom to order black cod from Ensenada purveyors, import wines from the Valle de Guadalupe and do much of his food prep in-house — baking bread, fermenting vegetables and making his own ice cream — rather than order from large corporate suppliers. He was also able to take his Valle restaurant staff to Malva to get an authentic feel for the environment they’re re-creating in Oceanside.
Alcocer also decorated the restaurant with artisan wares from Baja, including a hammered copper bar from the former Corazon de Tierra restaurant in the Valle, artwork from Valle sibling artists Einer and Jamex de la Torre, and a floor made of laja stone, which is native to the Valle. The succulent landscape on the 50-seat patio is also a tribute to the Valle’s Finca La Carrodilla winery.
Valle becomes the third Mexican fine-dining restaurant to be opened in San Diego County since Baja chef Javier Plascencia debuted Bracero Cocina de Raiz in Little Italy in 2015. It closed and rebranded in 2017. Local chef Claudette Zepeda opened El Jardin at Liberty Station in 2018, but it also lasted only a year before closing and rebranding.
Although some critics have claimed that San Diegans aren’t willing to support high-end Mexican food in the land of 99-cent fish tacos, Alcocer doesn’t buy that argument. He blames high rent prices, partnership problems and other reasons for the closures of Bracero and El Jardin. Alcocer said that Valle doesn’t have to pay rent to Hyatt for the space in Oceanside, which will give him the time to build a clientele who are interested in a style of dining and cuisine that isn’t being offered in San Diego County right now. He’s confident he’ll succeed and he’s willing to put in the work required to make it happen.
“I want a Michelin star. I’m not playing around and I want to do things right. I will sleep in the restaurant to make that happen,” he said.
Hours: 4 to 9 p.m. Wednesdays-Sundays
Where: 222 N. Pacific St., Oceanside
Phone: (866) 723-8906
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