Despite pandemic, Addison aims to deliver Michelin level dining outdoors
San Diego’s only Michelin-starred restaurant reopened Aug. 1 with its full staff, menu and service ethos
In June of last year, the inaugural California Michelin Guide was released with just one San Diego restaurant, Addison in Carmel Valley, among its 90 honorees for 2020.
But this year, June came and went without the release of the hotly anticipated 2021 California guide. The COVID-19 pandemic has derailed the restaurant industry over the past five months and many Michelin-starred eateries have delayed reopening due to public health orders and uncertainty, reinventing what they serve or closing their doors for good.
Addison is one of the lucky ones. Chef and Director William Bradley reopened the 13-year-old restaurant on Aug. 1, offering diners what he promises is the “full Addison experience.” Two-thirds of the restaurant’s 18 tables have been moved outside to the restaurant’s existing patio terrace overlooking Los Peñasquitos Canyon and a nearby golf course. And all 32 of the restaurant’s kitchen, sommelier and service staff have been brought back to prepare and serve Bradley’s menu, which is $175 for a five-course tasting menu and $275 for 10 courses, with premium wine pairings starting at $375.
“We’ll be implementing all the proper safety protocols including masks, gloves and sanitation guidelines, but what we’re doing with the concept is 100 percent the same,” Bradley said. “The only change will be seasonality. We didn’t get to do a spring menu, but we’re now in the beauty of the unbelievable vegetables and fruits that we get this time of year.”
Although the Guide’s fleet of culinary inspectors finished their judging for the 2021 books this past spring, Michelin has postponed publishing most of its new guides until the pandemic fog begins to lift. On July 22, Michelin reported that only 8 percent of the Michelin-starred restaurants in the U.S. have reopened for indoor dining, though nearly 50 percent have reopened for take-out. California’s restaurant industry has been especially hard-hit by the pandemic, so its 2021 Michelin Guide has been postponed. A Michelin spokesperson said the California guide release date will be announced within the next month.
Among the Michelin-recognized restaurants that have closed since June are Ludo Lefebvre’s one-star Trois Mec in Hollywood; Ray Garcia’s Michelin Bib Gourmand-rated Broken Spanish in downtown L.A.; Chicago’s one-star Blackbird; and New York City’s one-star vegetarian restaurant Nix. Nico, a one-star restaurant in San Francisco, is unlikely to reopen after a prolonged closure. Taco Maria, a one-star Costa Mesa restaurant, reopened Wednesday after a one-week closure because an employee tested positive for COVID-19. And José Andrés’ two-star L.A. restaurant Somni closed for good this week, though its shutdown was tied to a landlord dispute, not the pandemic.
On July 22, Business Insider magazine reported that nearly 16,000 U.S. restaurants have closed permanently since March 1 as the result of the pandemic, and many more are coming. California, which has banned indoor dining for all but six weeks of the past five months, has the highest rate of closures with 14.4 percent of the national total. It’s followed by Texas, with 8.5 percent of the national total, and New York, with 8.4 percent. While these numbers are steep, they’re not nearly as extreme as the 80 percent closure rate many analysts were predicting in March. But the longer the indoor dining restrictions and the pandemic’s spread continues, the more permanent closures there will be, analysts say.
Fine dining restaurants have been especially hard hit by the pandemic because their food doesn’t easily translate to take-out service and many Michelin-starred restaurants only offer indoor seating so they can better control the variables of the customers’ dining experience, such as weather, noise and flying insects. Bradley said he feels especially fortunate because Addison had a vast and scenic patio as well as mild, sunny and mostly bug-free Southern California weather.
“It will feel very much like the dining room did, which already had 6 feet between tables. It will be very quaint and some tables will even be all by themselves in little nooks,” Bradley said. “We’ll be limited in the steps we can take with customers. We’re known for explaining the dishes in detail and we can’t do that. And we’re doing a wine list on a QR card that can be scanned. It’s all about making people feel safe and comfortable.”
Bradley said dinner reservations are booking up well, despite the sharp decline in national and international tourism. The restaurant has a loyal following of local diners as well as drive-in diners from Orange and Los Angeles counties who have made up for it.
“It’s nice to get more notoriety and people from around the country and world, but we also love our locals and how they’ve supported us over the years,” Bradley said. “We’re doing well with bookings, considering the times. We’re headed in the right direction. As time moves on and people become more aware we’re open, it will continue to improve.”
Before the pandemic hit, Bradley said in February that he wasn’t stressing over whether the Michelin inspectors would renew his star for 2021 or push Addison up to two stars, which many local chefs have predicted. The Michelin judges, he said, are looking for a history of consistency in providing fine food, wine and service, rather than trendy dishes and flashy decor. Bradley’s modern French style of fresh, seasonal cooking has been the same since he opened the 60-seat restaurant in 2006.
In the years since, Bradley has become a favorite of culinary icon Thomas Keller, has won the Robb Report’s Culinary Masters competition, been named a Relais & Chateaux Grand Chef and was nominated for a James Beard Award. Besides its Michelin star, Addison has been ranked as a Forbes five-star, AAA five-diamond and Wine spectator Grand Award winner for 11 years in a row.
Bradley said the pandemic-related shutdown this spring was the first extended break he has had from the restaurant in 13 years, and he cherished the time at home relaxing, exercising, reading and spending time with his two children. He said the time off reinvigorated his passion for cooking.
“You have to keep moving forward and understanding the climate we’re in. If you still have the ability to do what you love to do, it’s a blessing,” he said. “For me it’s really about delivering the Addison experience and keeping my staff and guests as safe as possible.”
Addison at 5200 Grand Del Mar Way, is open for dinner from 5:30 to 8 p.m. daily. Visit addisondelmar.com.
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