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Life On The Farm


It takes a lot to pull a crowd of 100+ to a fish seller’s warehouse on a Sunday evening. Such is the mass appeal of Olivier Bioteau, who did just that last month at Catalina Offshore’s monthly Collaboration Kitchen cooking class. Of the 125 in attendance, the majority were regulars at the chef’s University Heights restaurant, Farm House Café — an impressive stat for an intimate eatery that seats around 40.


There are a number of French chefs throughout San Diego working diligently to indoctrinate diners to the virtues of their native cuisine. And Bioteau is among the best of them. Though a chef without compromise when it comes to preparing French dishes the proper way, he does know when to yield and subsequently adapt for the betterment of his food. This is most evident in the way the seasons dictate the dishes that comprise his bill of fare. Only ingredients at the peak of freshness will do and, for that, Bioteau sticks close to home.


Since opening nearly five years ago, he has established relationships with many of the county’s top farmers, ranchers, and edible artisans, many of whom set aside their finest just for him. Catalina Offshore offered him their only rare pumpkin swordfish. Taste Artisan Cheese goes straight to Bioteau with their most pungent, ultra-runny fromage. Why? They know he will do the fruits of their labor justice.


San Diego’s bounty shines via sound French technique applied to elegant yet unfussy dishes like a salad of beets sliced carpaccio-style and served with fresh Burrata and other garden-fresh produce. As the seasons shift, so too will the composition of Bioteau’s dishes. Expect a return of sumptuous braised short ribs; hearty one-pot dishes like pork osso bucco, lamb stew, and coq au vin; and pappardelle pasta coated in a vibrant sauce made from roasted ratatouille vegetables.


Of course, not everything is ever-changing. As with any restaurant with its fair share of regulars, there are mainstays, the removal of which would illicit herds of torch-hoisting malcontents. Key among those fixtures is a creamy risotto studded with tender escargot and rendered pea green with the addition of garlicky parsley butter. Chicken liver mousse — a hard sell at many venues — is similarly untouchable, as is a juicy Meyer Ranch burger dressed up with remoulade and Gruyere cheese. And at brunch, warm, orange butter-adorned ricotta pancakes make for a most delectable mimosa go-with. They aren’t going anywhere.


Similarly unchanged in the past half-decade is Farm House’s decor. It’s about as close to dining in someone’s home as one can get. Earth tones, a country-style hutch lined with plain white urns, cups, and tagines, plus a pastel-colored array of matching wooden ducks make for simple, cozy environs — even if that mood is sometimes thwarted by the increased amperage brought on by a full-house.


Bursting with freshness and Frenchness, the food at Farm House Cafe can always be counted on to be top quality and delicious. It’s that consistency that has won so many regulars who venture back to an eatery that, though out-of-the-way for most, is always worth the journey. (619/269-9662, www.farmhousecafesd.com)    BRANDON HERNANDEZ


Photography by Vincent Knakal


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