Café La Rue brings a new charm to La Valencia Hotel in La Jolla
By Kelley Carlson
On New Year’s Eve 2013, La Valencia Hotel celebrated more than the start of a new year. The date marked the opening of its renovated Café La Rue, once a part of the iconic Whaling Bar & Grill.
There are no longer black-cushioned booths, brick-red walls and mahogany paneling — that look has given way to a space that’s bright and airy, with colorful floors and walnut accents.
But the changes extend beyond the aesthetics. Nearly the entire menu is new, and while still meat-centric, preparation is now more European rather than classic American. Most of the ingredients are obtained locally and meats are cured in-house, from the bacon and Andouille sausage to the chorizo. “We go out of our way to find the best products,” Executive Chef Daniel Barron said.
The offerings are light in the mornings (continental pastries made in-house and Illy coffee) until 11 a.m., when an assortment of appetizers and entrees await.
One of Café La Rue’s most touted items is on the starter menu: the Brussels Sprouts, a sweet-and-salty delight enhanced with bits of house-made pancetta and cashews, balsamic and a drizzle of Parmesan cream. Another is the Pork Belly boutine, which derives its mature flavor from soaking in its fat for a week. Other starters include the House Cured Guanciale Flatbread, Mediterranean Spreads Platter and the Mussels.
There are sandwiches or heavier “Main Event” courses for entrees. Consider the Smoked Cheddar Bratwurst, a sausage in a roll that’s blanketed in melted IPA beer cheese with rings of roasted red peppers and onions and griddled jalapenos; or the La Rue Burger — with Dijon aioli, caramelized onion and mushroom gruyere — which is adored by the staff.
Another “wow” dish is the Lamb Shank Pot Pie, in which a bone sticks out of the top of a flaky butter pastry crust. Those who delve into it are rewarded with forkfuls of tender meat — which has cooked for 18 hours — that slides off the bone, along with gravy and vegetables.
Rich desserts include the Espresso Pot de Crème, a cup of espresso crème that’s topped by a cloud of vanilla Chantilly, with a delicate, lightly sugared shortbread cookie on the side.
For a “spiked” treat, there’s “The Whaler,” a carryover from the Whaling Bar that’s a concoction of Kahlua, crème de cacao and brandy ice cream akin to an adult milkshake
Café La Rue also has two happy hours — aka “The Appointment” — six days a week. Among the $6 bites is a skillet of mushrooms and mozzarella on a bed of polenta. The specialty cocktails, named for La Jolla’s streets, are $9; classic cocktails are $7. One bartender specialty not on the menu is the Old Fashioned, a combination of bitters, rye whiskey and simple syrup garnished with a cherry and a twist of orange rind.
Café La Rue
■ 1132 Prospect St., La Jolla (inside La Valencia Hotel)
■ (858) 454-0771
The Vibe: Elegantly casual
Bacon, Brussels Sprouts, La Rue Burger, Pork Belly Boutine
Open Since: 2013
Take Out: Yes
Patio Seating: Yes
Happy Hour: 4-6 p.m. and 10 p.m. to close Sunday-Friday
Hours: 6 a.m.-11 p.m. Sunday-Thursday,
6 a.m.-midnight Friday and Saturday
GET THE RECIPE!
Each week you’ll find a recipe from the featured ‘On The Menu’ restaurant
This week’s recipe: Café La Rue’s Mussels. Just click the bar below!
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