New chef stirs up Mediterranean Room's fare with fresh, international flavors

Shrimp Nicoise with haricot vert, fingerling potato, egg, barrel-aged vinaigrette. Photos by Will Parson
Shrimp Nicoise with haricot vert, fingerling potato, egg, barrel-aged vinaigrette. Photos by Will Parson

By Will Parson

The tides are shifting at Mediterranean Room this summer. The menu is being refreshed and the management has brought in renowned Chicago chef Jason McLeod as a temporary consultant to revitalize the historical La Jolla hangout. Staying true to its name, the new menu from executive chef Lance Repp stretches from Spain to Greece (with many stops between) with a feel that is light, healthful and exciting.

McLeod notes positive trends all over San Diego’s restaurant scene as part of the impetus for change. He says the city is catching up with dining hot spots around the country. “It’s an exciting time to be here and we want to be a part of that.”

New dishes — two or three at a time — are popping up on the menu, matching a heightened emphasis on seasonal local ingredients from sources like Chino Farms and Crows Pass Farm. New events include the Mediterranean Nights every Thursday through Saturday, featuring music on the patio with tapas and small tasting plates that should be great to grab between dances. Monday night barbecues offer three courses on the patio, and Sunday Suppers offer a three-course meal served family style.

Chef Lance has been at Mediterranean Room for two years, but moved up to executive chef last September. He says his training is in traditional French cuisine, but that he gravitates toward other Mediterranean fare, such as Spanish and Italian, as well as Indian cuisine (some curries should appear on the menu in the near future).  While the restaurant has struggled with a large menu in the past, Chef Lance’s approach has been to clean it up and pare it down. His newer dishes, like the King Salmon, focus on just a few carefully prepared, fresh and delicious ingredients.

The key at Mediterranean Room has perhaps been a level of consistency despite the changes. The staff is confident in the direction it’s heading, and new dishes aren’t overwhelming the existing menu overnight.

And part of the new efforts, says McLeod, has simply been to look at why people came to the Mediterranean Room at various points in its history. After all, guests have enjoyed a pretty nice view of the ocean for the better part of a century.

Mediterranean Room at La Valencia Hotel

Address:

1132 Prospect St.

The Vibe:

Revamped

Signature Dish:

King Salmon

Open Since:

1926 (as Surf Room), changed to Mediterranean Room “some time in the 1960s,” according to bartender Rey, who is about to mark his 53rd year at the hotel’s Whaling Room.

Hours:

Breakfast 6:30-11 a.m. Lunch 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dinner: 5-10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday Brunch: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Web:

www.lavalencia.com/dining/mediterranean-room

Phone:

(858) 551-3765

Reservations:

Yes

Patio Seating:

Yes

Take Out:

No

Happy Hour:

3-6 p.m. daily

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: The Mediterranean Room’s Eggplant Caponata

   
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