By Karen Billing
The area will get a taste of downtown in August when the new restaurant BURLAP opens at a prime corner location at Del Mar Highlands Town Center. The “Asian cowboy”-style restaurant comes courtesy of Chef Brian Malarkey from season three of Bravo’s “Top Chef” and Stingaree nightclub owner James Brennan who, together, own Searsucker downtown.
The name BURLAP is in all caps to emphasize the spot’s bold and fun flavor –instead of East meets West, Malarkey says it’s “West eats meat.”
An ambitious Malarkey, giving a hard-hat tour through the under-construction restaurant on June 15, said he hopes he can wrangle a public opening by late July. The restaurant has to be ready to open, at the latest, by July 17, when the eatery will play host to a charity event for CANTER (The Communication Alliance to Network Thoroughbred Ex-Racehorses).
Malarkey is very excited to bring this type of restaurant to Carmel Valley and surrounding communities.
“There isn’t a lot up here for late-night venues,” said Malarkey. “We want to give North County a great social scene.”
The eatery will open up serving dinner and lunch, eventually adding a Sunday brunch.
While it will be a great night out for adults, Malarkey said it is also going to be a family-friendly place — as a father he loves kids and wants them to feel welcome too—children will even be able to feed the koi in the patio koi pond.
BURLAP aims to serve great food at a modest price. The menu is still a work in progress but Malarkey knows of a few elements: Duck will feature big, there will be a raw bar (seafood is a Malarkey specialty), “cowboy caviar” and their pastry chef is perfecting Chinese steam buns.
The interior design of the place will “pop” with help from designer Thomas Schoos, who designed Searsucker as well as Tao in Las Vegas, a nightclub and restaurant with an extravagant and lush Asian décor. Malarkey said Asian design is right in Schoos’ wheelhouse and he’ll put a Western spin on it with exposed wood and steel beams, “tough but fun.”
There will be a big bar at the center of the restaurant with a large window looking into the kitchen, what Malarkey lovingly referred to as his “baby.” Diners will get to see their meals being cooked up by chefs in a uniform of red Dickie overalls with BURLAP printed across their backs.
“I want the kitchen to be part of the scene,” Malarkey said.
Malarkey said as cool as it is for people to get a view of the kitchen racket, it’s also fun for a cook to make a dish and be able to follow it out to the table and watch people enjoy it.
When the kitchen is closed a drop curtain will fall over the large window—“like the show is over,” Malarkey said.
Being on the corner of busy Del Mar Heights Road and El Camino Real, Malarkey said they couldn’t have asked for a better intersection in terms of visibility.
He said while the patio on the corner is great for people to see the restaurant, Malarkey still wants people on the patio not to know they’re at a huge intersection. Fast-growing bamboo has been planted to shield them from the view as they dine outside amongst a waterfall, koi pond and fire pit.
Malarkey said he has learned from conversations he has had with people who live in North County that they are thrilled a restaurant like BURLAP is opening close to home. BURLAP will save them a trip, bringing downtown to them, he said.