7837 Herschel Ave
La Jolla, CA 92037
Dining date: 6/15/13
Brian Malarkey’s been a busy man in San Diego, having opened six restaurants in the area over the last two and a half years (with one closing recently). Aside from being a young chef/restaurateur, he’s probably best known for his appearance on Top Chef (season 3) and for being a judge on ABC’s The Taste alongside Anthony Bourdain, Ludo Lefebvre, and Nigella Lawson. Herringbone is his lone restaurant in La Jolla (which was convenient considering my family and I were there for UCSD’s graduation weekend), while fellow Top Chef alumnus (and former Water Grill executive chef) Amanda Baumgarten is the executive chef at this seafood-centric spot.
The restaurant is large and kind of beautiful, with huge windows providing a glimpse into the kitchen and whole trees playing a part of the interior decor.
The menu features a raw oyster bar, a handful of hot/cold small plates, pizzas from a wood-burning oven (sort of unexpectedly), and about a dozen large plates balanced between land and sea.
The meal began with a couple of cold starters.
Spinach, Feta & Bacon Balsamic
Whole Fish Ceviche loup de mer
The salad was a simple one, pretty much as advertised.The ceviche was definitely more interesting and beautifully plated. While maybe a bit pricey at $25, the loup de mer was tender with a good balance of citrus and heat. Light and refreshing.
The hot small plates were far less healthy, but ultimately more satisfying.
Fried Oysters, Pinenut & Avocado
Both of these were pretty delish. The fried oysters held up a nice crunch, while staying moist…almost juicy, on the inside. A little citrus helped to cut through the richness, though I lost where the pine nut and avocado came in (I think much of it fell off the oyster). The poutine featured very crispy fries smothered in a rich, savory gravy. A generous helping of tender duck leg topped everything off, making for some rich, satisfying bites.
Moving onto the larger plates/entrees, we each ordered one and happened to get a great variety.
DAY BOAT ALASKAN HALIBUT farro, roasted mushroom, meyer lemon & hazelnut
I ordered this halibut, cooked to a medium temperature leaving it firm but still moist. Various earthy flavors complemented the fish between the farro, mushroom and hazelnut. The meyer lemon was an integral ingredient both to pair with the fish and also to brighten up the earthy accompaniments.
QUINAULT RESERVATION STURGEON braised bacon, poached egg, beluga lentils, carrots
Staying within the seafood realm, my grandmother went for the sturgeon. I don’t think she expected this fish to be as dense as it was, preferring the lighter varieties. I thought it was relatively moist for the type of cut, but my dad and her found it a bit too dry. Unfortunately, the overpoached egg didn’t help either.
COLORADO LAMB SHANK saffron brown butter potato, moroccan olive, piquillo pepper, orange & rapini
My aunt chose this tender lamb shank, bathed in a rich braising sauce. Creamy saffron-scented potatoes were a good pairing to this homey dish, which came out about as expected.
SEAFOOD STEW clams, mussels, squid, head on shrimp, grilled bread & harissa aioli
My brother opted for this large bowl of shellfish, which looked similar to a cioppino. He seemed to enjoy getting his hands in there, breaking down the shellfish, and finishing off the bread in the residual sauce.
WOOD ROASTED STRIPED BASS served whole, citrus and pine nut gremolata
My parents split this bass, presented whole and nicely charred. The small sample I tried was pretty moist though lacking a whole lot of flavor; however, my parents found the fish to be too dry and disappointing overall.
FILET prime, 8 oz
My cousin opted for this steak which was pretty much as advertised – cooked well, with a very tender interior. It would’ve been nice if there was just something more to this dish than the plain side salad.
fried brussels sprouts with tasso ham
We got a few sides, including this one. The brussels sprouts were fried nicely, complemented with the salty, meaty ham. I think there was a little balsamic here too, adding a slight tanginess to cut through the richness.
The food at Herringbone was pretty good, though not without some flaws. Style-wise it seemed to be based around jazzed-up comfort food, which was just what we were looking for. However, the execution wasn’t always on point particularly with the fish (supposedly the restaurant’s forte). For what it’s worth, the service was excellent though.