Hotel La Jolla to reopen with boutique flourishes
Hotel La Jolla / Cusp Dining and Drinks
By Pat Sherman
The sawdust has settled and the hardhats are coming off in anticipation of Hotel La Jolla’s Aug. 1 grand reopening that will feature a boutique, “coastal chic” ambiance under the guidance of its new operator, Kimpton Hotels.
Nestled at the foot of La Jolla Shores Drive, the decades-old hotel joins Hotel Palomar and Hotel Solamar downtown as the third local property under Kimpton’s stewardship. Kimpton also operates the Argonaut and five other properties in San Francisco.
Following the $4 million renovation, the hotel is shifting its focus from a “leisure-driven, last- minute booking clientele to more of the business traveler and group clientele,” said General Manager Caroline Dyal.
“We’re looking to really incorporate more of the locals back into the fold (and) reintroduce that spark, that energy and that excitement that used to be there when the place first opened, when Elario’s (Bistro and Sky Lounge) was here,” said Dyal, who will oversee the hotel’s 110 guestroom operations, business development, guest relations and rebranding.
“I think we just kind fell into a bit of a rut,” she said. “There hadn’t been any major updates (and) we realized there’s so much more potential with this property. Our neighbors were very open about what they thought the hotel needed to be and what they wanted it to be.”
One of the most important aspects of the redesign for locals, Dyal said, was to keep the restaurant on the 11th (and top) floor, instead of moving it to ground level, as originally planned. When speaking with residents in The Shores or La Jolla Village, Dyal said, people would get a big smile on their faces reminiscing about a meal or happy hour at Elario’s or Clay’s.
“Every seat at the bar (now) faces a view; every table in the restaurant faces a view,” Dyal said. “That view is just simply stunning and jaw dropping. … The old configuration had everybody’s back to it, which is just tragic.”
The 100-seat eatery, which opens Aug. 1 as Cusp Dining and Drinks, will offer coastal Mediterranean cuisine inspired by Executive Chef Donald Lockhart, who also created the menu for the hotel’s new 2,000-square-foot outdoor poolside lounge, Hiatus.
Dayl said the lounge would was designed as the “perfect gathering spot to have a couple cocktails under the stars or sit poolside with your best girlfriend or your family.”
“At night we’ll have a beautiful candlelit glow,” she said.
Before crafting the menu, Lockhart met with several local chefs to introduce himself to the community and gauge what Cusp’s culinary niche would be. Lockhart held two private dinners for local socialites and philanthropists to test some of his healthy, locally sourced, seafood-rich fare.
One of Cusp’s signature dishes includes octopus braised slowly with court-bouillon, a spiced French liquid used similar to a stock. The octopus is then lightly charred on the grill and served warm in a salad with citrus, roasted ciabatta croutons and mojo verde, a cilantro herb puree also made with garlic, shallots and red wine.
Lockhart’s “celebration of grilling” will be pointed up with sauces such as romesco, a Spanish nut, roasted red pepper and tomato sauce, and chimichurri, a sauce of Argentinian origin made of chopped parsley, garlic, oregano and olive oil.
Cusp also has its own pizza oven to make fresh, gourmet pies, flatbreads, roasted vegetables and potatoes. With the exception of pastas and pizzas, about 80 percent of the menu will be gluten free, Lockhart said. Instead of croutons, he uses ingredients such as cheeses or shaved and roasted baby candycane beets for texture.
Lockhart said he also will use the pizza oven to confit a medley of baby Yukon, baby red and Peruvian purple potatoes with garlic, rosemary and olive oil.
Other signature dishes will include a honey sriracha pork belly with living watercress.
Lockhart, who comes from Delphine French restaurant in Hollywood and the now closed Cintronelle restaurant in Carmel, developed his appreciation for locally sourced food at the later establishment, where farmers would arrive at his back door with fresh produce.
“There’s such a celebration of food up there,” he said. “I’d actually like to see that in San Diego. I’ve heard there’s a possibility of that happening here.”
Lockhart also reserved some panache for his desserts, which will include fresh ice cream, made in- house daily. A float will include house-made peach soda and vanilla bean ice cream.
Another dessert is Lockhart’s warm chocolate cake with peanut butter filling, served on a plate with burnt marshmallow, caramelized bananas and pecan brittle.
Chicago bar veteran, Nate Howell, will help stock a transparent wine cooler that greets guests as they enter the restaurant.
Hitatus lounge will serve a variety of crostinis, with toppings such as roasted peppers and house-made ricotta cheese, as well as sliders made with char siu, a Chinese- flavored barbeque pork.
In addition, the 11th floor includes a 1,000 square-foot meeting room that can be used for weddings and other events.
The women’s restroom features a balcony overlooking the pool, and windows behind the sink that face out over the ocean and sunset.
“It’s going to be a pretty special spot,” Dyal promised.
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- Kimpton Hotels takes over Hotel La Jolla as renovation moves forward
- Gallery, wine walk returns Thursday
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