Whisknladle serves fanciful dishes without a fancy façade in La Jolla

Seared Ahi with sweet & sour beets, cucumber, celery, horseradish and fiddlehead ferns. Photos Will Parson
Seared Ahi with sweet & sour beets, cucumber, celery, horseradish and fiddlehead ferns. Photos Will Parson

By Will Parson

For a dish to be described as “meat butter” you know it must be rich. And the charred bone marrow at Whisknladle, achieves a certain fatty, salty, gelatinous glory with just a few unassuming cross-sections of veal femur. Cut in half for easy access, they are heavy enough in constitution to be deceptively formidable. The capers and lemon successfully combat the melting marrow, like a detergent cutting through grease. Definitely try it if you’ve never have before and the idea of spreading marrow on toast doesn’t immediately scare you away.

The dish is typical of Whisknladle, which head chef Mike Litta said takes “classic bistro ideas” and reworks them to add a little surprise. But that’s definitely not to say the rest of the menu is as fatty as the marrow — just that the menu is straightforward and carefully prepared. A much lighter example would be the Seared Ahi, which plays almost like a meat salad. Marinated sweet and sour beets, cucumber, celery, and fiddlehead ferns result in a clean-tasting meal, with a horseradish sauce adding a little bite.

Close to Whisknladle’s core is the focus on local ingredients (though the ahi currently comes from Hawaii). Several items on a recent menu refer specifically to the farms where ingredients originated, such as the Crows Pass salads, the Carlsbad Aqua Farm mussels, and the Pitman Farms chicken. Liotta recalls from memory the names of a handful of farms from the Escondido area to the Tijuana River Valley (Suzie’s Farm) that the restaurant utilizes. He also said, “Just about anything we can make, we make it in-house. Pickles, ice creams, everything.”

At another time of year you might find halibut instead of ahi. Liotta said the menu changes very consistently — every three or four weeks, “depending on what the farmers might have and what we feel like doing.”

He has only been with Whisknladle for several weeks, but the transition has been an easy one for Liotta. “I kind of fell right into the place. It’s food that I enjoy cooking,” he said.

He described his personal style as slightly more focused and “to-the-point,” but it seems to be a match for the Whisknladle ethos. Just like the bare-bulb lighting and polished metal surfaces in the large closed patio and indoor lounge and bar area, the staff seems to enjoy presenting flavorful dishes without a fancy façade.

Whisknladle

Address:

1044 Wall St.

The Vibe:

Industrial, To-the-Point, Relaxed

Signature Dish:

Squid Ink Fettucini

Open Since:

2008

Hours:

11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday; 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday

Website:

whisknladle.com

Phone:

(858) 551-7575

Reservations:

Yes

Patio Seating:

Yes

Take Out:

Yes

Happy Hour:

5-7 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:  Whisknladle’s Wild Prawns with Cuttlefish Ink Tagliatelle, Uni Saffron Creme, Fresno Chiles and Fava Leaves.

   
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