So remember a few months back when I boldly proclaimed Encinitas has established itself on Southern California’s dining map? Well, let’s add another notch to that status with the February 3 opening of Chef Dan Moody’s Relate, a pop-up, or temporary, dinner only restaurant within the breakfast and lunch only St. Germain’s.
First off, let me give a more thorough description of this concept that has already gained traction in Los Angeles and New York. Chef Moody will leverage the kitchen of an already-established restaurant (St. Germain’s) and re-invent the atmosphere for diners during it’s off hours for a short run. The dining space will undergo a complete transformation, including new art, table settings, music, etc. to become a fine dining experience during dinner service. The concept is also a platform to celebrate young chefs. By eliminating the substantial up-front costs required to open a restaurant, the pop-up allows the chef to experiment without the risk.
Chef Moody, a San Diego native is CIA trained and comes with some serious credentials. He trained at L’Orangerie in Los Angeles and most recently, helped launch and provided ongoing support as Sous Chef at LudoBites in LA as well. LudoBites has become the phenomenally successful pop-up concept by Chef Ludo Lefebvre. Going way back, Chef Moody traded in his football uniform at Torrey Pines High School to work in the original Roadhouse in Leucadia and Jakes in Del Mar. It was there he gained the kitchen chops needed to qualify for enrolment at the Culinary Institute at Hyde Park, New York. So yes, he has the experience to make this endeavor work.
With this column running three days before Relate is scheduled to open, I wanted to provide readers a little more than a definition of a pop-up restaurant and chef background. So I approached Chef Moody with the idea of providing a taste of his cuisine for me to share with readers. To my surprise he was all for it so we agreed to meet for lunch at his home where he provided a sample, three course meal. Based on this experience, I can say with no hesitation that Chef Moody is the real deal and you should probably make your reservation for Relate immediately because it’s going to be a tough ticket once word gets out.
While he was unable to provide a menu due to his obsession with only the freshest ingredients, Chef Moody describes the cuisine at Relate as contemporary French. If you happened to see the No Reservations episode with Anthony Bourdain in Paris highlighting the new breed of French Chefs, this is an exciting development in French Cuisine. This style puts new, lighter twists on classic French dishes and invents some new ones altogether. Don’t hold Chef Moody to the contemporary French thing either as I’m sure he will be venturing off into different directions occasionally.
As a sneak preview, here is a taste of what he can do in the kitchen. The first course was a roasted baby beet salad, yam and Rainier cherry puree, baby fennel, citrus, cinnamon and lavender.
I will admit I was never a big beet fan but I am now. Enough said. Second course was butter poached lobster, leeks, tarragon lobster oil, onion froth, beet chip, and fennel jam. Sounds wonderful right? Yep, that it was. We finished up with a third course spiced petite fillet, spinach avocado puree, crispy truffle spaetzle and a Guinness gastrique. The petite fillet mignon was prepared sous vide style, vacuum sealed and cooked in a water bath at 125 degrees for 1 hour then seared at 350 degrees using induction burner in grapeseed oil until well browned then seasoned with salt and Chef Moody’s spice mix, which contains Chipotle, ancho chili, coffee, ginger, clove, and cinnamon. A cutting edge preparation for sure and it worked on every level.
So this is the deal, the changing menu will be a 5 course, prix fixe for $55 without wine and $70 with wine. Desserts will also be made on premise by Chef Moody. Reservations are strongly suggested but walk-ins are welcome and there will be a wine bar with small bites. Opening night is February 3 and will feature a menu with beer pairings coordinated through Tap Hunter . Relate is only around from February 3 -26 on Tuesday through Saturday from 6pm – 10pm then it’s gone. Make your reservation today at www.relaterestaurant.com or call 858.367.3709. It’s located at 1010 S. Coast Highway 101 in Encinitas.