By Kelley Carlson
A visit to Flavor Del Mar serves as a feast for the senses.
For starters, the California contemporary cuisine is uncomplicated, yet is concocted to delight the taste buds.
“The chef uses few ingredients on the plate, but creates innovative combinations that are delicious,” Assistant General Manager Gabrielle Clift said. “They’re not fussy and not oversauced; they’re simple, clean and fresh.”
The restaurant’s interior, and its views from the third floor of the Del Mar Plaza, are certainly easy on the eyes. The ocean can be seen from every single table.
“There isn’t one bad seat in the house,” Clift said. “The sunset views here are amazing.”
The marine theme is reflected in Flavor’s decor, featuring varying shades of white, green and blue. At the bar, there is cerulean-hued glass simulating waves.
While guests can’t hear the crashing surf, they can tune in to sounds from the ’80s and today’s top 40 hits during the lunch hour. The tempo picks up at dinner, becoming more “clubby” and electronic, and a disc jockey plays dance music from 8 p.m. to close Fridays with no cover charge.
For the ultimate Flavor experience, Clift recommends arriving during happy hour and munching on Pickled Potatoes, a play on salt-and-vinegar chips that is served with a side of creme fraiche and chives.
“It’s the perfect thing to snack on with a cocktail in hand at the bar,” Clift said.
Make sure to have an early reservation on the glass-enclosed, temperature-controlled patio in order to watch the sun dip below the horizon — the dinner rush usually picks up around 6 p.m. and often quiets back down around 8 p.m.
Whether you’re sitting by a window or the cozy fireplace, arrive with enough of an appetite to sample several courses. Share a Tuna Crisp topped with red onion, shiso and white truffle oil. Or open the meal with Scallop Ceviche, a Pear Salad or a Foie Gras Doughnut.
For the main course, try the Maine Diver Scallops with potato two ways, cauliflower, wild mushrooms and Meyer lemon. For a “meatier” entree, there’s Braised Prime Beef Short Rib, with potato puree, quail egg ravioli, gingered carrots, onion chip and natural jus. Children may select from items such as beef sliders and pasta with butter and cheese.
Next, savor the Butterscotch Budino, an Italian pudding with creme fraiche, caramel and Maldon sea salt.
Finish the night off around the corner at Flavor’s intimate wine bar, Sip, with a glass of port and a cheese platter, sampling from up to 25 artisanal varieties. There are more than 40 wines by the glass to choose from and two large community tables designed for interaction with other guests.
Sip is open from 4:30 p.m. to close Sunday through Friday and from noon to close Saturday. Wine tastings are held from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturdays, with different regions and producers highlighted each week; it’s $10 for eight selections.
The same bar menu is served at Sip as Flavor, and all specials apply to both sites. On Mondays, a trio of Niman Ranch Beef Sliders and any beer is offered for $15; Wednesdays is half off suggested wines by the bottle; and Sparkling Sundays features 50 percent off the price of sparkling wine by the bottle.
• 1150 grams pee wee potatoes
• 750g white vinegar
• 20 white peppercorns
• 20 black peppercorns
• 1 bay leaf
• 2 garlic cloves
• 250g sugar
• 300g salt
• 300g water
Bring all ingredients except potatoes to a boil. Dissolve sugar and salt. Add the potatoes. Cook at a simmer for 8 minutes or fork soft.
Cool in the poaching liquid. At service, remove potatoes from liquid. Push on each with a fork to slightly crush. Fry them at 350 degrees for 4 minutes. Drain. Serve with creme fraiche that is slightly whipped. Top with chives.