I first set my sights on TBL3 nearly two and a half years ago. I can thank ChuckEats for spurring the initial interest and the countless reviews, articles, and even seeming criticisms that followed for making that interest so much stronger. Expectations can be built quite high in such an amount of time and despite my best efforts to moderate them, well it doesn’t matter..I didn’t need to. The actual visit was November 8th, so yes, I’ve let some time pass, but for this one I wanted to see what I kept as the most memorable aspects of the meal. That’s not to say it wasn’t noteworthy in its entirety, but with fourteen courses I would rather focus on what I felt were the cornerstones of the experience, the most exciting or unexpected dishes, and the characteristics of TBL3 that will keep me coming back.
Beef Tongue – brandade cream, cherry tomatoes This dish was inspired by the Italian classic, Vitello Tonnato, but to make an even more familiar comparison (and do it little justice) imagine the best roast beef ever, but better. Thin slices kept the rich, melting tongue delicate enough to be paired with a full flavored brandade cream without feeling heavy in the least.
Peas – lettuce, lemon A subtle lemon foam complimented the natural sweetness of perfectly textured peas in a creamy lettuce-pea puree. I doubt this dish was as simple to prepare as the presentation or name would imply, but it’s possible. When ingredients are foraged the very same day, their characteristics come through in a way that needs few accouterments.
Carrot – coffee, yogurt, carrot jam The tenth course, a point in most tastings reserved for heavier protein-focused dishes. To me, this felt like Chef Foshee’s way of saying, “Yes, vegetables really are a focus here.”
Foshee brought out a large clay planting pot where the carrots had been roasted in a soil of coffee, salt, star-anise, and egg white. After a table-side foraging, they were placed atop a house-made yogurt with its strong tangy flavor cut perfectly by inherently sweet purple carrot jam. I’ve enjoyed many vegetable courses, but few have changed the way I thought about them. Here it was the savory side of sweet, and anything but an afterthought.
Lamb – Paella, squid, squid ink hollandaise, seaweed salad – With so many flavors present, I was unsure of how to best approach the final savory, and I still haven’t arrived at an answer. Every combination worked – including them all. The expert preparation of each component was a great example of the kitchen’s skill, and making all of them function as a cohesive dish – their innovation.
Others in my party have penned complete course-by-course reviews, and I would encourage anyone to read them. I’ll also take the time to thank my friend, and TBL3 veteran Yao for lending me his beautiful photos (full gallery below).
TBL3 really does showcase the best of San Diego. The cuisine would be expected, pairing this level of culinary skill with the quality local bounty is truly something special. But even the service has a much more relaxed and intimate familiarity. There is a perfectly efficient and free flowing interaction between the diners and the service team. It’s more personable, comfortable.
I opened by mentioning expectations, alluding to a failed attempt to moderate what I felt might be unreasonably high. I also noted that such attempts were unnecessary. When I finally sat down to TBl3, I had pent-up over two years excitement. As I left and as I am writing this now, that excitement is still building.