Dining & Drinking San Diego Snags Top Talent
enhancing San Diego's cool downtown scene is Saltbox,
a gastro-lounge where dining, drinking, socializing and relaxing
all convene for a multi-sensory respite. To kick things up a
notch, the affable eatery-located lounge-level in the Hotel
Palomar situated in the heart of the historic Gaslamp District-recently
appointed "culinary cutthroat" Jeremiah Bryant as
Chef de Cuisine.
honed his talent at notable local restaurants like El Bizcocho
and Delicias, Chef Bryant is said to have a "fertile flare
for fusing traditional cooking techniques with modern, innovative
approaches." In his new role at Saltbox, Chef Bryant has
already put his own brand of swag on signature lounge favorites
and offerings at large with the October 2013 launch of a new
dinner menu. With this knowledge, I stopped in for a dinner
service to see first-hand what all of the buzz was about.
quickly learned there are many things that set Saltbox apart
from other Gaslamp Quarter eateries. According to Chef Bryant,
"We have the tools and support to excel at what we do as
a group, yet have the opportunity to be individually creative.
This applies to our cuisine, bar program, and unique culinary
Bryant is also quick to highlight the team environment he is
painstakingly cultivating. "The kitchen operates as a whole,"
he remarked. "I constantly seek the input of all my staff
when creating menus and asking how we can do better and become
more efficient. In the kitchen and as chefs, you often spend
more time with your coworkers than you do your own family, so
they become family. Our bond in this particular kitchen is one
of the strongest I have ever had the opportunity to be a part
of, and it is this bond that is evident in every plate of food
that leaves the kitchen."
the mission-critical nature of this close-knit team atmosphere,
Chef Bryant adds, "This bond allows us to take a combination
of many ideas and transform them into familiar dishes of an
unfamiliar quality. We take popular dishes or use ingredients
other chefs are using but build them from scratch and plate
them in new and exciting ways. The care put into the made-from-scratch
food, the quality of the product, and the finished flavors are
unique to the palate and surprisingly delicious."
Bryant's penchant for diverse ingredients, cuisine styles, and
recipe reinterpretations has proffered a highly appealing dinner
menu. "Take our Chicken and Waffles [$21], for example,"
he urges. "Instead of the Southern classic comfort dish
we all know, we use a mole marinated chicken with poblano waffles.
It's our take on it but full of new flavors." Having sampled
this dish, for which the chicken is actually cooked sous- vide
style rather than fried-locking in that coveted flavor and moisture-as
just one interesting aspect, I can attest that it is a unique
and impressive savory spin unlike any other.
my visit, I was pleased to sample many of the other course-by-course
menu items. From the "Munchies" section, I opted for
the panko crusted Housemade Fried Pickles ($7) served with a
remoulade side; the plump Shishito Peppers ($8) accompanied
by a smoked paprika aioli; and a bold flavor-packed trio of
Pork Belly Sliders ($11) comprised of brioche, arugula, tomato
jam and avocado. From the "Flatbreads" selection,
I tasted the Spicy Chicken ($13) with achiote, jalapeno, avocado
the "Greens & Grains" salad course came the fresh
and crisp Grilled Caesar ($13) with just the right amount of
char; and the Goat Cheese ($14) with arugula, shaved beets,
sweet onion, fried goat cheese and pomegranate with sherry vinaigrette.
I tasted included the 1855 Steak Frites ($32) featuring premium
1855 beef famous for its exquisite marbling, served with bordelaise,
wild mushroom, hand cut fries and truffle aioli; Hot Pot ($23)
with mussels, clams, sea bass, fingerling potato and leeks in
a rich cioppino broth and a baguette side; Pot Roast ($22) with
tender and meaty braised short rib bursting with flavor and
plated with the hearty combination of confit carrots, pearl
onion, red potato and pan jus; and a fresh and flaky Grilled
Wild Salmon ($24) with lemon potato cake, grilled asparagus,
and a sherry honey glaze.
also delivered. The Seasonal Fruit Cobbler ($9) was a mélange
of fresh fall produce topped with streusel crumbles, and the
Cake of the Day ($9) that evening was a house-made pumpkin cheesecake
that had a lovely 50-50 crust to cake ratio.
notwithstanding, Chef Byrant also boasts about how the food
at Saltbox matches the bar program, noting, "Too often,
they don't match up at restaurants. One might excel, but the
bar menu and food are on the same level and handled with the
same care and attention to detail."
fact, working in close partnership with Principal Bartender
Jen Queen, Chef Bryant has changed the menu to blend with her
craft-ingredient drinks. My favorite Craft Concoctions ($12)
were the Chapman made with Grey Goose vodka, charred peach,
simple, lime and peach bitters; Effervescence with Hendrick's
gin, cucumber, rose water, house grenadine, lemon and soda;
and the Gold Rush with bourbon, honey, and lemon.
its gastro-gems, the historical significance of the restaurant's
moniker is also noteworthy. As Chef Bryant explained, "Saltbox
was named after the pre-framed lumber 'salt box' houses that
once occupied the Fifth Avenue space where the restaurant is
now. In fact, the William Heath Davis house in downtown San
Diego was built in 1850 and remains the oldest 'salt box' structure
restaurant has plans to continue to push the envelope, elevating
the gastro-lounge concept along the way. This includes a commitment
to environmental sustainability, appealing to locavores by using
farm fresh ingredients from San Diego partners and offering
seasonal menus that reflect nature's most current bounty. In
providing a glimpse into the restaurant's near-term future,
Chef Bryant noted, "Our short-term goals are to become
a household name for a great dining experience, tear down the
'hotel restaurant' perception because nothing we do at Saltbox
is standard hotel food, continue to grow our relationships with
local farmers, and help promote the local economy. Our team
will always keep an eye out for new ideas that we can bring
to the table and evolve the cuisine."
all, Saltbox is superb for downtown dwellers who seek a sociable
hot spot that offers inspired cocktails and passion-driven fare
1047 Fifth Ave. ,
San Diego, California, 92101, United States
By Merilee Kern, 'The Luxe List' Executive Editor
Luxe List" Executive Editor Merilee Kern scours the luxury
marketplace for exemplary travel experiences, extraordinary
events, and notable products and services. Submissions are accepted
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or all of the accommodations(s), experience(s), item(s) and/or
service(s) detailed above were provided at no cost to accommodate
this review, but all opinions expressed are entirely those of
Merilee Kern and have not been influenced in any way.***