Some things have changed and both hotel and restaurant are on the cusp of something great. Fittingly, the restaurant’s name is Cusp Dining & Drinks, presided over by a chef new to San Diego but with a world full of culinary experience, Donald Lockhart.
The hotel is now managed by Kimpton Hotels — a boutique chain whose general image shoots for “hip, cool, contemporary” (Kimpton also manages Hotel Solamar and Palomar Hotel downtown).
Located on the top floor, Cusp has undergone change, with hip, modified décor — though the best part remains the fantastic view, where one can gaze at brilliant sunsets that plunge into the horizon, making for an unrivaled ambiance.
The restaurant features a “show” kitchen where chefs jostle to prepare delightful dishes. The cuisine can be easily categorized as “coastal Mediterranean cuisine,” utilizing fresh, local ingredients.
“I love my guests,” Lockhart said, “and I go overboard to make certain that they always have a memorable experience. My cuisine is simple but very flavorful. I use many local ingredients to enhance the tastes of my dishes. We are right next to the ocean and the freshest seafood, and minutes away from local farms, fresh produce and culinary artisans.”
Lockhart grew up in Southern California, where his family was in food-related businesses, giving him an early introduction.
“We had a family garden where we grew much of our own produce. This taught me a respect for food and an ethic toward how we grow and cultivate it,” he said.
He said he’s indebted to all the master chefs — including Julia Child and other industry greats —with whom he has worked. He competed in the World Culinary Olympics and cooked at the James Beard House. He’s worked at locales both international and domestic.
Prior to coming to La Jolla, Lockhart was working in Los Angeles, but he agreed to come to La Jolla because he fell in love with the venue. He could see the potential of the property and the affiliation with Kimpton Hotels, where he said he has the freedom to explore his culinary ideas.
The menu, while not extensive, has something for everyone. A raw bar satisfies seafood lovers, while the appetizer menu features some of Lockhart’s signature dishes, like crispy pork bellies — crispy on the outside and soft on the inside with a terrific honey glaze — and pepperoni rolls.
Flatbreads come stuffed with savory ingredients. A favorite is the San Sebastian, topped with roasted shrimp, Spanish chorizo, garlic and cilantro.
Among entrees, the pan-roasted Jidori chicken is a real winner, accompanied by a very tasty polenta. The Morrocan spiced king salmon is beautifully presented and very flavorful.
For dessert, leave room for the chocolate peanut butter cake, served warm with toasted marshmallows.
For those looking to wet their whistles, the bar offers fresh, interesting cocktails created by veteran mixologist Nate Howell. A nice selection of wine and beers, including a number of local brews, and a good collection of spirits — like the extensive collection of single malt scotch, listed by region of distilling and including a selection of hard-to-find Bruchladdich from the Isle of Islay — means most any cocktail enthusiast will find what they’re looking for.
Prices at Cusp are surprisingly moderate, given the quality of the cuisine and the delightful ambiance. The restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and features a daily happy hour. Weekend brunch offers an à la carte menu. Whether by day or evening, come for the view and stay for the food.
The restaurant is located on the 11th floor of the Hotel La Jolla, 7955 La Jolla Shores Drive. For more information, call (858) 551-3620.