611 5th Ave
San Diego, CA 92101
Dining date: 7/27/13
In three years, Brian Malarkey’s gotten a strong hold of the San Diego dining scene. His first restaurant was this one in the heart of the gaslamp quarter, opened in the summer of 2010. Three years later, he has five different concepts in the San Diego area and four Searsucker restaurants nationwide. His rapid expansion is expected to continue in Los Angeles at the end of this year with his seafood-centric Herringbone concept.
Staying at a hotel on the outskirts of the gaslamp quarter, Malarkey’s still-popular first restaurant seemed like a good choice. Good thing we made reservations; the place was packed on this Saturday evening (and it’s a huge space!) – the dim lighting, loud music, and trendy feel walked a fine line between restaurant and nightlife lounge. I could see this fitting the Hollywood scene.
The menu is split into a selection of both small and large plates meant for sharing. A lot of the food sounded pretty intriguing and we had a hard time narrowing down to just a few. Between the two of us, we ended up primarily ordering from the small plates section in order to sample more items.
Before ordering, these cheddar puffers came out compliments of the kitchen. I did get the cheese flavor when biting into these, but they were slightly doughy – far from the light and airy texture I was expecting.
beef tartare + taro chip + quail yolk
Tasty chopped beef was complemented by a lot of fresh herbs, capers, mustard and a quail egg yolk. Rich and satisfying. The taro chips came with arugula and raw red onions; their fresh brightness definitely helped to lighten the bites.
egg + bacon “pork belly”
Eggs and bacon pork belly sounded like a pretty rich combination, but what came out next topped even those expectations. An oily piece of toast was topped with crispy pork belly, which was then topped with a poached egg and hollandaise sauce. I will say each component was tasty on its own, but this was overwhelmingly on the heavy side.
short rib “cali-belgique” + horseradish + fried onion
As simple as this dish sounded, it was executed very well. Very tender, beefy short ribs sat atop creamy mashed potatoes. Crispy onion rings added some crunch and extra flavor to these satisfying, delicious bites.
mussels + beer + chorizo
These were good mussels, bathed in a light broth with hearty chorizo and fresh tomato flavors. A lot of the mussels didn’t open, though – I feel like the restaurant should be conscious of that. If there’s a few, I’m totally cool with it…but not when there’s ten unopened mussels.
tongue & cheek “yes” agave + fresco + cactus
Our lone foray into the larger plates was this playful dish. A huge braised beef cheek was rich and hearty; the tongue came in the form of crispy fried bits, adding flavor and texture. The rich flavors were compounding at this point in the meal – I really wanted some additional bright flavors or acid.
fennel, fingerlings + yolk
We also ordered this side dish; the potatoes felt excessively oily too. Further, the potatoes were still raw so we sent them back.
While there were some bright spots in our meal at Searsucker, there were far too many faults. It’s unfortunate though, since so many of the dishes piqued our interest. It may have been largely due to our ordering, but the food seemed overbearingly rich and heavy. Full-flavored – sure, but not particularly well-balanced. Execution was, quite frankly, sloppy at times. I’d come back for a drink if I was in the area, but I know the San Diego dining scene has much more to offer.