The Ultimate Dining Guide 2006:A Though Act to Follow, but in yet another bucolic setting, we have A.R. Valentien among the golf courses at The Lodge at Torrey Pines. It’s easier to break a hundred here than on the greens. Service was exceedingly attentive, and there were lots of complimentary extras. The executive chef is Jeff Jackson, who defected from Shutters at the Beach in Santa Monica. Dinner chef Tim Kolanka sent out an appetite-whetting amuse bouche. We shared an appetizer of pork belly ($12)— delightful even though that porker from Niman Ranch could have benefited from some liposuction to save trimming off quite a bit of fat. Then followed another present from the kitchen: a scallop with fava beans plus a palate-cleanser of refreshing cucumber sorbet. Veal cheeks, in a sea of fresh English peas ($32), are uncommon; they were so tender, a toothless infant could have chewed them.
Chicken is ubiquitous, but this was no ordinary birdie. Roasted to a turn and still juicy with home-cured, crisp bacon, it was the least expensive dish at $30. several of the comestibles were rather salty. Not enough to raise your blood pressure to a danger point, but more than necessary, to my taste. After this trip to bountiful, dessert seemed a bit over the top. But for the sake of this reportage, I forced myself (yeah, right) to order the poppy-seed lemon cake ($10). A standing ovation —if I could have risen from the chair. With the bill, yet another lagniappe arrived: cookies and maras du bois strawberries.
The Verdict: Loved all the garden-fresh produce, the next best thing to growing your own, but the sodium-conscious L.A. Westsiders would want to sneak into the kitchen and hide the salt shakers.All material copyright © 2006 by San Diego Magazine. All rights reserved.
Excerpted from San Diego Magazine August 2006