Crudo, which recently opened in Del Mar, was one of San Diego’s most highly anticipated restaurants this fall. Executive Chef Pascal Lorange has worked in several Michelin-starred kitchens and finally opened his own restaurant in San Diego – Crudo, a fusion of Mediterranean cuisine with Japanese flavors. I was quite fortunate to be invited for a tasting!
The first thing that I noticed when I walked in was the absolutely gorgeous decor. Everything was clean, simple, and modern. I loved the marble counters, and the sleek glass and steel shelves atop the bar.
Jardin de Vie [$12]
The Crudo [$12]
My dining companion and I started out with a couple of cocktails, recommended by Laurent, one of the restaurant’s managers. The “Jardin de Vie” had cucumber vodka, bittersweet vermouth, St. Germain, lime, and muddled grapes with arugula. The drink was quite refreshing and definitely felt vibrant, fitting for its name which means “Garden of Life”. The other drink is the restaurant’s signature, The Crudo – white rum, plum wine, Calpico, muddled kumquat, lime juice, simple syrup, and garnished with shiso. I really enjoyed this one as well – the flavors were quite well-balanced, and I especially loved the hint of Calpico, hehe.
Bread & Condiments
Bread was served in a lovely glass, garnished with rosemary, garlic, and shallots. Our waitress also brought two condiment dishes that represented the Chef’s take on the traditional Japanese wasabi and soy sauce. Here, we were presented with yuzu soy sauce and a house-made horseradish sauce and chili paste, and our waitress encouraged us to try it with the bread to test the flavor. I liked the horseradish sauce a lot – it’s quite different from wasabi but had a nice kick.
Crudo Tasting [$19]
Since the restaurant is named “Crudo”, we knew that we had to try their crudos – but before we even had a chance to order, Laurent had this beautiful Crudo Tasting platter brought out to us! The fish from left to right are: branzino with seaweed tapenade, yellowfin tuna with heirloom tomato marmalade, and salmon with blood orange and lemon confit. Our favorite was the branzino with the seaweed tapenade, lemon, and Tuscan olive oil – the seaweed added a rich savoriness that we loved. The salmon was my least favorite, the citrus flavors overpowered the salmon a bit. However, all three featured excellent quality fish.
Mediterranean Sushi Roll Sampler
We also got to try a sampler of the Mediterranean sushi rolls, which definitely piqued my interest. We had two of each roll: Roasted Vegetables, Prosciutto di Parma & Burrata, Sesame Spicy Yellowfin Tuna, Smoked Salmon, and Smoked Duck Breast & Foie Gras. Each one had its own unique sauce, and all of them were delicious. If I had to pick a least favorite, it was probably the tuna – I felt that the flavor of the chili paste mayo and olive oil emulsion were a bit too overpowering. Everything else, though, was absolutely delicious, and I don’t think I can pick a favorite. The smoked duck breast & foie gras was particularly surprising – it was paired with kumquat chutney, caramelized mushrooms, tomato, scallion, onion marmalade, and an olive oil emulsion. The flavors here were spot-on, and the sweetness of the kumquat and onion helped cut the richness of the foie gras and made this into a perfectly-balanced bite.
Ricetini – Create Your Own [$22]
We also chose to sample the “Ricetini” – small representative bites of Crudo’s menu. We chose the “Create Your Own” option, which included twelve different condiments that are showcased here, and served with bread, cheese, and meats.
I’ll do my best to recall the twelve condiments: caramelized onion, eggplant tapenade, marinated leeks, pesto with goat cheese, spicy tomato sauce, fresh ricotta cheese, curried couscous, mango and tomato salsa, pesto, kumquat chutney, blue cheese sauce, and fig marmalade. These condiments were accompanied by baguette slices, prosciutto, pancetta, bresaola, shrimp, and manchego cheese. This was quite a plate! My favorite condiments were the eggplant tapenade, which had a wonderfully smoky flavor, the regular and goat cheese pesto sauces (because who doesn’t love pesto), and the leeks. It was really fun trying different flavor combinations and pairings with the proteins and bread! Next time, though, I’d like to try the Ricetini offerings that are listed on the menu since Chef Lorange is obviously much better at pairing flavors than me!
Lamb Tajine [$25]
Chilean Sea Bass [$32]
We were completely stuffed at this point, but the Chef wanted us to sample some of the hot entrees on the menu, and how could we resist? First off, the presentation was beautiful (just like everything else that we’ve had here). The mini Dutch oven pots that the entrees were served in are simply adorable – and the waiter left us the covers so that we could keep the dishes warm in case we were planning to take a break before digging in, hehe. The lamb tajine had a blend of Moroccan spices and was cooked with a variety of veggies including carrot and eggplant. The lamb was perfectly tender, but the flavor profile of the tajine was on the tart side, which I didn’t mind, but I can see that it wouldn’t be to everyone’s taste. The sea bass was also cooked perfectly – I actually looked up in shock when I had my first bite as the fish seemed to simply melt on my tongue. The sauce here was a green olive and herb tapenade, which was savory and bright. I would definitely order this again.
White Chocolate Cake
We were basically stuffed at this point, but when the waitress described the white chocolate cake that was basically Chef Lorange’s dream dessert, I gave in and ordered it to try. It has a shortbread cookie base followed a layer of chocolate rice crisp, then white chocolate mousse topped with a dark chocolate ganache, finally accompanied by a caramelized sugar crisp, vanilla whipped cream, and chocolate pearls. Even though it sounds rich, the mousse was actually quite light, and overall just the right amount of sweetness. We got about halfway through before realizing that we couldn’t take another bite and took the rest to go. (It was still delicious the next day, hehe.)
Lastly, the waitress showed me the other signature dessert, the Berry Tart. The presentation was so lovely that I had to get a photo, but we couldn’t find any room in our stomachs for this.
Mixed Berry Tart
Overall, we had a lovely meal at Crudo. I really appreciated the creative flavors and fresh ingredients and definitely want to return. They recently launched a weekend brunch menu featuring egg-based dishes, which I would love to check out.
Disclaimer: I was invited to Crudo, and our meal was complimentary. I was not otherwise compensated for this post, and all opinions and content are my own.
5965 Village Way, Suite 107, San Diego, CA 92130