An occasional problem of restaurants with prime coastal locations is that there is a good chance that people will flock to them simply because of the view, and the food is almost secondary. When I sat down in the dining room at Flavor overlooking Del Mar, I was thinking that could easily be the case as it really is a world-class setting. Yes, I can be a bit cynical but alas, I could tell by the prompt service and one glance at the menu that Flavor was about to prove me wrong. What we were about to embark upon was a fabulous dining experience.
The kitchen, under Chef Jason Maitland sent out an amuse bouche of celery and pea tendril puree with crème fraiche and cilantro. It was an absolute delight with our prosecco.
My eyes lit up when I saw the suckling pig tasting menu, a three course prix fixe for $50, $66 with wine. I opted for the wine pairing as I really enjoy letting the experts do their thing. The pork fest started with a terrine of smoked pig trotter and shoulder with crispy ear, petite mustard green salad and a slow cooked farm egg with Stone IPA mustard. It was paired with a slightly chilled Lambrusco. Wow. The main course was a spring garlic spiced porchetta, housemade sausage with heirloom carrot mousseline, local sweet peas and grilled torpedo onion.
Porchetta originated in Central Italy and is a savory, fatty, moist boneless pork roast. It was spectacular paired with a Rhone style blend from Lioco.
I’m going to jump into my desert because yes, it also contained pork and I need to stay on the theme here. How about a steamed sponge cake with bacon gelato, bacon-pecan praline, salted butterscotch and white chocolate? All this paired with Tokay, a sweet Austrailian dessert wine. Somehow, this all worked.
Besides my pork freak out, I made it a point to sample my companions dishes which were all off-the-chart.
Her first course was the local asparagus and Speck Americano ham with baby artichokes, sweet peppers, green olive aioli and a parmesan twist. Everything worked but the parmesan twist which was a bit dry and did not add much to the dish. We also shared the snap pea and grilled spring onion ravioli with celery root puree, slow roasted cipollini onion and carrot chips. This dish was perfect.
As I check my notes here, I noticed we ordered two entrees, on top of the pig fest and starters. What were we thinking? We were thinking we could not decide between the grilled day boat scallops or local halibut en sous vide with rock shrimp Meyer-lemon risotto, pancetta, shaved fennel salad and saffron hollandaise. I’ve had beef cooked sous-vide but never fish and I was not disappointed. Halibut is a moist fish to begin with and cooking it that way just made it even more so. The rock shrimp lemon risotto has entered my top five risotto list and made for a perfect bed under the halibut. We left the wine pairings up to our very talented and accommodating server who did it right.
We were told by our server that Jose the pastry chef had a special chocolate bar dessert with hazelnut sable, caramel, espresso ice cream and chocolate cream. So yes, along with our bacon sponge cake delight we had to accept her suggestion. It was well worth it paired with a Tre Serre Brachetto D'Acqui, a sweet Italian dessert wine and it just about took us over the top into one of the most delightful food comas I’ve ever had.
This was one of the more indulgent dinner experiences in recent memory but it was one that was well worth it. Flavor is not an inexpensive place to eat, but I did not see an entrée over $34 and most were around $30. Given the location, quality of ingredients, and creativity coming from the kitchen, I’d say it’s a great value. I will also stress again that the staff at Flavor are on top of everything and made it a very enjoyable experience. Check Flavor out and make a reservation at flavordelmar.com