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Dining Review: Searsucker Del Mar


Searsucker Del Mar

Gone are the dragons, paper lanterns, and Chinatown kitsch. In its place are animal print-upholstered furniture, light wood floors, and the silhouette of a star chef blowing on a noisemaker. Even with a singular holdover — a koi pond on that outdoor patio — the eatery formerly known as Burlap is now unmistakably the second coming of Searsucker. Actually, it’s the fourth coming. After opening five restaurants with five different concepts in two years, chef Brian Malarkey (he of the noisemaker) and business partner James Brennan have come to the realization that two of them — Searsucker and Herringbone — have what it takes to be the runaway successes they envisioned.


As such, they have consolidated, opening new Searsuckers in Scottsdale, Arizona and Austin, Texas, before recently converting the Asian-inspired Burlap. The alterations are prominent and have been well received by those who appreciate the more family-friendly atmosphere and installation of something they previously had to experience in the Gaslamp Quarter.


Rather than reinvent the wheel, the new Searsucker comes across almost exactly the same as the downtown original. While more adventurous items like “cowboy caviar,” a lightly breaded and perfectly fried bull’s testicle appetizer, and “tongue and cheek,” a slow-braised cow tongue and beef cheek entrée served with nopales (cactus paddles), are missing, the majority of Malarkey’s Del Mar menu mirrors the Gaslamp’s. And given some of the unlikely ingredient combos he’s putting out there, it’s plenty outlandish enough, even sans offal.

Blackened Mahi with chipotle blue cheese butter
Blackened Mahi with chipotle blue cheese butter


Mahi mahi is dressed with blue cheese butter and a balsamic vinegar reduction. Fish and fromage don’t usually mix, nor do bleu and balsam, but for the most part, this dish works. Macerated cherries and smoked almonds accompany California sea bass, and albacore tuna features more of that concentrated vinegar as well as other Italian staples — prosciutto and basil.


Of course, it’s not all gastro-bending cuisine. In fact, much of it is straightforward and literally everything is boldly seasoned. Stick-to-your-ribs happiness awaits with tender braised pork shoulder adorned with soft peaches and a salty, smoky bacon emulsion. Steaks are hearty (especially the $75 rib-eye “tomahawk” with cognac and horseradish) and bolstered by béarnaise sauce, mushroom demi-glace, chimichurri and lobster butter (yum). A quartet of sides are available to round-out any entrée, the best of which, hands down, is spicy, buttery corn studded with chunks of chorizo sausage.


Those going the appetizer route can nosh on garlicky habanero pickles, blistered shishito peppers, bone marrow with sweet onion jam, or a unique upscale take on classic buffalo wings in which ground chicken and chorizo are rolled into hot sauce-covered orbs, skewered and served with blue cheese and thinly shaved celery. Or, skip breakfast and have the most important meal at dinner time by filling up on the tasty “egg and bacon,” which comes across as Eggs Benedict adjusted to include a hunk of pork belly and light-as-air hollandaise.


What is different about San Diego’s pair of Searsuckers is the mood. Downtown’s iteration remains the see-and-be-seen, bar-heavy “meet market” it’s always been (and why not, the craft cocktails are as attractive as the clientele), while Del Mar is more laidback, set by the mood of suburban neighbors and visiting shoppers. Assess your own mood, then choose your adventure. (858.369.5700, 619.233.7327, www.searsucker.com)    BRANDON HERNÁNDEZ


Searsucker Del Mar
Searsucker Del Mar

Photography by Vincent Knakal



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