With the plate their canvas (and produce their paint) A.R. Valentien chefs turn out culinary masterpieces
By Will Parson
Don’t let the Lodge at Torrey Pines’ kilt-wearing doormen fool you; there’s a distinctly Californian feel at A.R. Valentien. The Lodge itself pays homage to the California Craftsman Movement, and its signature restaurant takes its name and inspiration from Albert Robert Valentien, an early 20th century Impressionist and San Diegan.
Valentien’s open-air landscapes adorn just about every wall. Complementing the California cuisine — steeped heavily in local ingredients — the artwork brings guests closer to the fertile soil of San Diego’s farms.
The clientele consists of more locals than you’d expect for a hotel restaurant outside of downtown La Jolla, and the seafood on the dinner menu is particularly popular. It’s currently represented by White Bass, Maine Lobster, Wild King Salmon and Guerrero Negro Scallops. And the surest way to appreciate executive chef Jeff Jackson and chef de cuisine Tim Kolanko’s farm-to-table approach is with the weekly outdoor Artisan Table dinners.
The restaurant gets most of its produce deliveries on Thursdays, so every Thursday morning the chefs create a four-course menu based on the best ingredients of the day. Only when roughly a dozen guests are seated outdoors on the deck do they find out what they will be having for dinner. “It’s fun for me to … be able to go to the Artisan Table and say ‘Hey, I shook this farmer’s hand this morning an hour after he pulled this lettuce out of the ground, and that’s what you’re getting tonight,” said Kolanko.
A bit of culinary adventure is a by-product of having an exceedingly fresh menu. The idea is to show off the best ingredients San Diego has to offer that day, and the intimate family-style setting lets the chef talk with guests about every bit of their four-course meal. Every communal meal brings guests closer to their food, as well as to the former strangers seated in close proximity.
The typical dining experience at A.R. Valentien is a more traditional affair than the Artisan Table, but still features the same ethos — even if the chef isn’t there to tell about special items, like the fennel pollen that Point Loma Farm harvested singularly at Kolanko’s request. It’s not too far of a stretch to imagine the food on your plate came from a place like the landscape hanging above your table.
Address: 11480 North Torrey Pines Road
The Vibe: Fertile, Warm, Californian
Signature Dish: Guerrero Negro Scallops
Open Since: 2002
Hours: Breakfast: 7:30-11:30 a.m. Saturday and Sunday; Lunch: 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday–Friday, noon to 2:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; Dinner: 5:30-10:30 p.m.
Phone: (858) 777-6635
Patio Seating: Yes
Take Out: No
Happy Hour: Not Available
On The Menu Recipe
Each week you’ll find a recipe from the featured restaurant online at lajollalight.com. Just click Get The Recipe at the bottom of the story.
This week: A.R. Valentin’s: Guerrero Negro Scallops with Creamed Corn, Fried Green Tomatoes, Padron Peppers, Espellete
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