Diners give hacienda-style Veladora at Rancho Valencia Resort a ‘glowing’ report
By Kelley CarlsonWhether sunlight is streaming through the multi-paned windows or votives are illuminating the tables, Rancho Valencia’s Veladora is always glowing.
The restaurant — whose name means “candle” in Spanish — conforms to the traditional hacienda style of the property with its rich colors and natural materials, yet there’s a hint of new age. By day, it’s vibrant — there are orange and yellow place mats on the tables. The multicolored hues of the real butterflies in the $1.1 million, 84-by-84-inch “Imploration” art piece by Damien Hirst are brilliant against the neutral-toned wall. But at night, it’s dramatic and romantic, with flickering lights cast from the hurricane lamps and fireplace. In the background, jazz music can be overheard.
Outside in the fountain courtyard, the added sounds of bubbling water soothe, while guests curl up in lounge chairs near flaming logs. Meanwhile, groups gather for special occasions in the elegant brick wine room that houses the resort’s rarest bottles, and in the blue-and-gold Sunrise Room that features dozens of lights suspended from the wooden beams above.
But even though Veladora is elegant, it’s very relaxed and hip, and resort casual is the accepted style. Executive Chef Eric Bauer emphasized that it is not a pretentious establishment. In fact, “it’s a home away from home,” Bauer said.
It’s casual enough to bring the kids — they are able to enjoy fare such as Ants on a Log (celery “logs” filled with peanut butter) and Grilled White Fish with steamed rice and broccoli, and standards that include Crispy Chicken Strips and plain or cheese Rascal Burger Sliders with French fries. They can even color while they are waiting for their food to arrive.
The main menu focuses on a coastal ranch/Mediterranean-inspired concept, and many dishes are switched out on a weekly or biweekly basis, often due to ingredient availability. Bauer favors produce from area growers, such as Rancho Santa Fe’s Chino Farm. But some items require even less travel: On the Rancho Valencia property, there is an olive grove and honeybee hives, and herbs are grown on the land.
Some of Veladora’s dishes center around the vegetables; among them is the Grilled Artichoke Cannellonis with braised baby leeks, black truffle cream, charred endive and Reggiano cheese, wrapped in potato instead of the standard pasta.
Others focus on meat, such as the Braised & Lacquered Veal Breast with winter onion soubise, smoked carrots and puffed farro, in a natural veal reduction.
And then there are the seafood selections. The colorful Slow Poached Maine Lobster Salad incorporates Rancho Valencia citrus, pickled and roasted beets, chunks of avocado and burrata cheese, and is dressed with lemon vinaigrette. The raw Breath of the Sea combines California uni, spot prawn, Kusshi oyster, giant clam, cucumber, seaweed, finger limes and chilled dashi consommé.
The latter “is the soul of the ocean – very fresh, very clean,” Bauer said.
He recommends that Veladora guests try as many different dishes as possible, made possible by half portions of pastas and other small plates.
Veladora at Rancho Valencia Resort
ranchovalencia.comAddress: 5921 Valencia Circle, Rancho Santa Fe
The Vibe: Elegant, Romantic, resort casual
Signature Dishes: Slow Poached Maine Lobster Salad, Breath of the Sea, Grilled Artichoke Cannellonis, Braised & Lacquered Veal Breast
Open Since: 2012
Patio Seating: Yes
Take Out: Yes
Happy Hour: No
Hours: 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 6-9 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday; 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 6-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday
On The Menu RecipeEach 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.
Veladora’s Toasted Quinoa and Seasonal Vegetables