“We have a good tide tonight,” Guillas exclaimed. “Sometimes, with king tides, it comes up over the roof. Thanks for joining us. We are going to have fun. This is an adventure. Bon voyage.”
While San Diego may comparatively lack cohesive culinary tradition, often opting to follow trends instead of pushing forward, Guillas found his footing in presenting classics in a fresh, playful and refined manner. Known for his unique flavor profiles of time-tested classics, Guillas purveys some of the freshest seafood and land animals with produce and fruits in an utterly original manner.
Having grown up in the South, I have eaten my fair share of over-breaded, remoulade-doused yellow-and-brown hockey pucks passed off as crab cakes. It’s an obligatory menu item at any restaurant in the southeast, from sports bars to high-end establishments. With this background, I typically avoid the dish at all costs. So when the server recommended their crab cake as an appetizer, I relented, ultimately to my benefit.
Guillas’ cashew sansho-coated blue crab cake managed to place the emphasis on the original sweetness of the crab meat (which was a healthy portion) atop a serving of green tea noodles, star fruit, horseradish sprouts and ume emulsion. Paired with the ‘Ocean Trilogy,’ which consisted of a lobster medallion, ahi tuna tartare and hiramasa sashimi – accented by pickled papaya, sesame brittle, trout roe and a smoky dashi gelee, one can begin to catch on to where Guillas’ dishes are heading. His use of fruits as accouterments or a sauce base pervades his exquisite menu.
The main courses followed, consisting of the red walnut roasted rack of lamb, replete with adante break pudding (amazing), tomato confit, baby artichoke and white sage jus. Also ordered was a special menu item, pistachio puff wild rice crusted swordfish. The swordfish was cooked to perfection, tender and able to be portioned with a fork (or spoon).
For dessert, we opted for the royal Kahana macadamia crème brulèe. Although there was little room left to complete the dinner (the portions are ideal), the brulèe was assailed with ease. It should be of note that the front-of-the-house staff at the Marine Room takes great pride in their jobs, for it shows. They dutifully return to tables, make excellent recommendations and allow guests the ability to take in the ambiance.
Chef Guillas returned several times to discuss anything from dinner to his career. He has recently released a cookbook, of which has quite the story behind it as well. “Flying Pans: Two Chefs, One World,” which was co-authored with The Marine Room’s chef de cuisine, Ron Oliver, “reads like a travelogue,” says Guillas. “Honestly, there are recipes in here from all over the world. It is a culinary adventure.”
If one has never been to a high tide dinner at this La Jolla institution, it would behoove them to do so. The next round of dinners will be held from Saturday, June 9 to Thursday, June 14 daily. For more information, visit marineroom.com.