When the major criticism of the evening has to do with the naming of a dish rather than it’s taste, I would say that’s a pretty good sign that the Evolve Cuisine team is doing something right. So right from the beginning I’ll tell you this was another successful event. If that’s all you needed to read to get you to one of the next events, you can stop reading now. But if you came for pictures and prose, I’ve got that too.This menu was described as, “a modern tribute to the classic cuisine of America’s finest city”. To start Servers came by providing a 3 different amuses each prepared by a different member of the Evolve team.
My favorite was the tempura beef shank from Sheena Villegas. I thought of it as a nod to San Diego’s many Japanese eateries where patrons are given chicken karaage to start the meal. So if you like that type of fried chicken – try fried beef. The additional sweet mustard and mild spice from chili threads made this a opening bite one that I’ll remember for some time.
Our first comprised dish was the favorite of many. Along with a fresh piece of local San Diego urchin, each component carried some essence of the delicately briny, sweet flavor.
What was originally going to be yellowtail ended up being a a great piece of Wahoo (an even better choice for a play on fish tacos). What made the dish for me was semi-spicy guacamole moderated by a cool crema sphere, and additional crunch from the radish chip. Another one that many called favorite.
The smell of this dish immediately brought a Big Mac to mind, and I mean that in the most fondly nostalgic way. My best guess as to where that came from is the horseradish/white cheddar mixture inside the brioche giving me a sense of special sauce. Conceptually, I think this may have been the best dish of the night.
Our intermezzo was another palate annihilator from Mike Yen. I thought the cuisine was involved, until I got the ingredient list for this cocktail. You will will wipe palate clean with one of these, and you’ll have fun doing it.
This course was the naming controversy I alluded to earlier. Apparently you HAVE TO HAVE CARNE ASADA in order for it to be a California Burrito. After tasting, I wouldn’t have cared if it had been called spaghetti & meatballs, it was still my favorite. I’ll take a tortilla filled with Barron’s cilantro potato espuma and crispy shrimp against any filled with carne asada and fries. Shoot me.
The short rib was collaboration with a dish created Matt Gordon. My personal preference is still for Matt’s more traditional prep, but a number of diners noted just how similar the flavors were to the beef cheeks being served at Urban Solace. A worthy dedication, just not a replacement.
The final dish was…a cupcake? After having Chef Jeff Bonilla’s dessert be a highlight of the last event, I was
fucking furious a bit let-down to be presented with a standard cupcake. Luckily, it was only a joke and the initial disappointment only heightened my feelings for the actual dish.
The cupcake proper had a similar composition to my last Bonilla Dessert. My favorite components this time being the chocolate cremeux, raspberry sorbet, and the tiny Bunch-a-Crunch like chocolate spheres.
The food is good. It’s inventive, fun, and most importantly tasty. But aside from cooking technique, what really distinguishes Evolve Cuisine events is the atmosphere they provide. The food is refined, but there’s no pretension. The same people making the dishes are serving them, and if your dining companions weren’t already your friends at the beginning of the evening, they likely will be by the time you leave. I’m really enthusiastic about what the Evolve team is doing, and can only see them getting bigger and better.