Ornate Amaya in La Jolla lets you dine like the chairman of the board
Photos and story by Kelley Carlson
The newly opened Amaya La Jolla is carrying on the traditions of its sister restaurant in “Grand” style. Located just a couple of blocks from the ocean, the 10,000-square-foot restaurant is very similar to its counterpart in The Grand Del Mar: same look, same service, same quality, Executive Chef Camron Woods said.
“It’s a fine dining experience without pretentiousness,” he noted.
Inspired by Italy’s palazzos and Roman architecture, designer Warren Sheets created an opulent and ornate dining space utilizing polished Italian marble; hand-carved stone accents; wrought-iron and crystal chandeliers hanging from elaborate ceilings; walls that display fine art featuring idyllic scenes; and shades of ochre, aubergine and gold throughout the rooms.
The main entrance, on Prospect Street, has tall and elegant iron gates; the indoor veranda incorporates skylights, a heated floor, and windows that open onto the outdoor patio. For private functions, there’s a centrally located room with doors that provide access to other areas of the restaurant, and a Wine Cellar Room with a TV.
Also, Amaya La Jolla presents a contemporary American menu that is similar to the original Amaya, with a bit of an added Southern touch, and items can be customized as needed. To fully get a taste of Amaya, “be adventurous,” Woods recommended. “If you’re on the fence, try it.”
The main dinner menu — offered from 5 to 10 p.m. daily, with nothing over $40 — features appetizers such as Buttermilk Fried Quail with smoked mac and cheese and cole slaw, Seared Day Boat Scallops, Angus Beef Carpaccio, and Sautéed Skate Wing and Veal Sweetbreads. Among the entrees are Crispy Branzini with confit fennel, tomatoes and Niçoise olives, and tangerine sauce; Seared Sea Bass with celery five ways and roasted chicken jus; and Braised Veal Osso Buco Cannelloni with Beech mushroom ragout.
And there’s no shortage of wines to pair with the dishes, with more than 300 labels, all under $100.
For a bit more casual cuisine, Woods prepares Daily Rustic Southern Specials — a reflection of his heritage.
“You can have fine dining, or the antithesis of it,” he said with a chuckle.
These comfort foods include Fried Chicken, Carolina Gumbo, Shrimp & Grits, BBQ Baby Back Ribs, Lightly Breaded Market Fish, Smoked Pulled Pork and Mini Meatloaf. They’re served with sides of Cheddar-Herb Biscuits, Jalapeño Cornbread and Deviled Eggs, for $24.
The children’s menu is also informal, with selections such as burgers, grilled fish, chicken, barbecue sandwiches and pizza.
Reservations are highly recommended on weekends and other typical peak dining times, Woods said.
Instead of coming in at prime time, he suggests arriving for a leisurely dinner around 5-5:30 p.m., and then heading into Amaya’s nightclub/sports bar/tapas bar, Club M, at the back of the establishment.
Beginning at 7 nightly, there’s live music — ranging in style from American Songbook and jazz to contemporary, rock and Top 40 — and the lounge is usually in full swing from 8 to 9:30 p.m., according to Woods. There are also about a half-dozen large-screen TVs for event viewing.
While the dinner menu is reserved for the dining room, patrons are still able to order light fare such as Smoked Chicken Quesadilla, Classic Hummus, Half-Pound Angus Burger and Tempura Spicy Tuna Roll. Club M is open until 11:30 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and until 12:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday.
Regardless of where people sit, they will be made to feel at ease, Woods indicated. “As ornate as it (Amaya) is, you feel like you’re at home,” he said. “We want you to come in and feel comfortable.”
Amaya La Jolla
Address: 1205 Prospect St., La Jolla
The Vibe: Elegant, Intimate, Classic, Smart Casual
Signature Dishes: Slow-Roasted Pork Chop, Spicy Chile-Lime Shrimp, Crab and Lobster Bisque, Buttermilk Fried Quail
Open Since: 2013
Hours: 5 to 11:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 5 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday
Phone: (858) 750-3695
Patio Seating: Yes
Take Out: No
Happy Hour: No
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: Amaya’s Spicy Chili-Lime Shrimp
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