Juniper & Ivy
2228 Kettner Blvd
San Diego, CA 92101
Dining date: 1/1/16
I’ve been following Richard Blais since seeing him on the fourth season of Top Chef. Given he was based in Atlanta, I figured I wasn’t going to be able to try his food anytime soon. Lo and behold, he moved to San Diego and opened this restaurant in 2014 – Juniper & Ivy. The restaurant’s been highly acclaimed since opening and has been atop my list of restaurants to try in SD. I was finally able to try the restaurant during a quick weekend trip on the first of the year.
I lucked out and got seats at the kitchen counter. Seated right in front of the dessert station and cold appetizers, I had a front row view of the action.
8 Mint Plaza
San Francisco, CA 94103
Dining date: 12/24/15
Oro opened in September, the second restaurant from chef Jason Fox of the Michelin-starred restaurant Commonwealth. I’ve had some great meals at Commonwealth over the years, so I was very interested in trying this spot. The restaurant was one of the few that could welcome a party of 8 on Christmas Eve, so it was an opportune chance to try the restaurant with some extended family.
A la carte is available at the restaurant, as well as a blind tasting menu served family style for $75pp. To make things easier with such a large party, we opted for the tasting format. It turned out to be a ton of food.
222 S Hope St
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Dining date: 12/12/15
Otium is one of the most anticipated restaurants of the year. Part of the new Broad Museum development, the restaurant is a collaboration between Bill Chait’s Sprout Group and Tim Hollingsworth (ex-chef de cuisine of The French Laundry, Barrel & Ashes).
I’ve been following Hollingsworth since he departed TFL and came to LA. From his first dinner at The Strand House, to opening BBQ restaurant Barrel & Ashes, and to making tacos at the Petty Cash Taqueria soft opening, Hollingsworth has made a number of appearances around town. However, Otium promises to be his flagship restaurant. The restaurant has been open for about a month for lunch service, recently debuting brunch and then dinner service.
1525 Fillmore St
San Francisco, CA 94115
Dining date: 11/29/15
The Progress is Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinski’s follow-up to uber popular State Bird Provisions. Opened for almost a year now, the restaurant is located just next door to State Bird and has also gained mostly positive reviews (though not quite to the same crazy hype as their first restaurant). I was able to dine in with the parents as the last meal in SF over the Thanksgiving holiday.
114 E 2nd St
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Dining date: 9/2/15
I’ve been to Redbird a few times; I consider it to be the best ‘new American’ restaurant in the downtown area. It seems to have a little bit of something for everyone and it helps that it’s such close proximity to my home and office. On this occasion, I introduced an out-of-town coworker to the restaurant.
It was a great time to take advantage of the open roof on a warm summer evening. It had a little bit of the al fresco dining feel yet still had the elements of a beautiful, modern dining room.
1600 Atlas Peak Rd
Napa, CA 94558
Dining date: 8/30/15
When The French Laundry closed this past winter for a remodel, Thomas Keller partnered with Napa’s Silverado Resort to open up a temporary restaurant on the grounds. The primary reason was to keep the TFL team employed while the restaurant was closed, which was only supposed to be about 3-4 months. The French Laundry did reopen in April, but Ad Lib’s run has been extended through October when the resort will host a PGA Tour event.
While I am a huge Thomas Keller fan, I was a little apprehensive about trying Ad Lib. The restaurant had received somewhat mixed reviews and The French Laundry staff had already departed in April back to their home restaurant. Furthermore, one of the most popular dishes from the original run, a short rib beef wellington, was no longer on the menu. However, I figured I might as well give the restaurant a try during its limited run.
Temporarily situated inside the resort’s Royal Oak restaurant, Ad Lib was one of the dimmest restaurants in recent memory. The focus of the decor was primarily on the large windows peering out onto the resort grounds and its golf course. While it was dark by the time of our reservation, we observed a striking moonrise over the mountains.