Chef Brian Malarkey, the executive chef of Downtown’s Oceanaire Seafood Room will be recognizeable to many from his stint on Bravo’s wildly popular Top Chef television program. And, while his kitchen is downtown, he has lots to say about dining in La Jolla.
First, when asked what advice he would give to La Jollans looking for the best ingredients in our area he said, “All the fish caught off the La Jolla coast such as yellow tail shark, California white sea bass and harpoon swordfish are great. Take a short drive to north Pacific Beach and go to The Fishery to get a lot of the same fish we serve at Oceanaire.
Asked about his culinary training, Malarkey states, “I am a student of life. I learn from every dining experience that I have, good or bad. In terms of formal education, I attended the Western Culinary Institute’s Le Cordon Bleu cooking school in Portland, Ore. After graduating, I moved to California and worked with French chef Michael Richard at Citrus in Los Angeles. Traveling and eating my way through Europe and northern Africa was [also] a great and valuable experience that I definitely brought back with me to the kitchen.”
Malarkey has since settled down and made a home for himself in San Diego, but is quite familiar with La Jolla’s culinary landscape. Much of his knowledge comes from having collaborated with many of our region’s talented chefs. Chief among them is Bernard Guillas, the executive chef at The Marine Room and The Shores. “We’ve traveled and cooked together. We went up to Montana for the Food and Wine Festival, went fly fishing and had a cold beer. It doesn’t get much better than that.”
Malarkey has also had the pleasure of working with executive chefs Trey Foshee [George’s At The Cove], Ryan Johnston [Whisknladle], Jason Knibb [NINE-TEN] and Damaso Lee [Trattoria Acqua] and fosters authentic respect for each of them. But one restaurant stands out as his favorite.
“Trattoria Acqua. [It’s] like being in an Italian village. I feel like I’m in Italy every time I’m there. You can taste the love in the food and the warmth from owners Mike and Victoria [McGeath] makes you feel like part of the family.”
Malarkey cites Trattoria Acqua’s lobster ravioli as the best dish he’s enjoyed in the region in the past year and adds, “They’ve got great wine, too.”
When asked about some of his other local favorites, Malarkey’s list begins with another well-known La Jolla restaurant. “The Marine Room. [Chef] Bernard Guillas creates phenomenal meals,” proclaims Malarkey, who describes our community’s dining scene as “endless” and goes on to say, “There are so many great restaurants, not to mention a beautiful setting. [It’s] great for any day of the week.”
Restaurants outside the Jewel that hold a special place in Malarkey’s heart and stomach are Stingaree (Downtown) and Dish (North Park), both of which feature the “progressive and exciting” dishes of Executive Chef Antonio Friscia, Harney Sushi in Old Town and Cafe Chloe, a “comforting, beautiful little French bistro” in the East Village. “I love spending Sundays [at Cafe Chloe] with my wife.”
Malarkey enjoys the latter spot so much that, when asked what the perfect San Diego dining experience would be, he kicks off a grand scale journey of taste and ambience within its friendly confines. “Breakfast at Cafe Chloe. I’d definitely have one of their lavender mimosas. Then, I’d drive down to Baja, run around on the beach, surf and have some lobster. Hopefully, I’d get back in time to enjoy dinner at Island Prime [on Harbor Island] where I can look out at its beautiful view of San Diego. From there, I’d head over to Stingaree for bottle service.”
It’s nice to see that a California Restaurant Association Gold Medallion-winning chef and celebrated national TV star doesn’t require a limo for his grand scale gastronomic gallivant. When it comes down to it, he’s just another great San Diego chef working hard to be the best at the profession he holds dear. “I love to cook. The passion in the process of creating a dish and in the end result. It is creative and every night is so different. I love observing guests enjoy my cuisine and getting their feedback.”
To be one of those guests, place a call to (619) 858-2277 or visit
www.theoceanaire.comto make reservations. Oceanaire Seafood Room is located at 400 J St. in Downtown San Diego.