By Kristina Houck
Sea & Smoke is celebrating its invite-only grand opening on Aug. 25, but locals have been able to try the new restaurant in the Flower Hill Promenade for weeks. Headed by owner and Executive Chef Matt Gordon, the American-style brasserie opened its doors July 24 at 2690 Via de la Valle.
As a 25-year veteran of the restaurant industry, this is Gordon’s third restaurant, following Urban Solace in North Park and Solace & The Moonlight Lounge in Encinitas. Although his newest eatery offers the same quality ingredients and service, Gordon said Sea & Smoke is a fresh culinary experience.
How would you describe your style as a leader in the kitchen?
Well, I’m fairly direct and I drive people to work very hard. But I also really like to enjoy the environment I am in. So, we try to make it fun by having music playing and being able to joke around while still getting the job done the right way.
With Urban Solace in San Diego and Solace & The Moonlight Lounge in Encinitas, why did you decide to come to Del Mar?
Del Mar chose us! Seriously, we kind of have this thing about letting places come to us. The landlord liked what we do at our other two locations and invited us aboard.
How is Sea & Smoke different or similar to your other establishments?
It’s very different from our other two locations: the decor, food and drink options, and the bigger space. It’s still our soul behind it all and I’d like to think that’s still apparent. Our commitment to healthful living stays the same with responsibly sourced meats, seafood and vegetables made with zero artificial ingredients. And unlike Urban Solace and Solace & The Moonlight Lounge, Sea & Smoke serves breakfast all week long.
What’s the inspiration behind Sea & Smoke?
It’s kind of a long story, but the wood-fired oven definitely got the ball rolling. We love the location there above the wetlands; the fog rolls in and you can smell the ocean. There’s also a connection to Del Mar originally being a railroad town to the west of us, and to the east of us the Rancho Santa Fe land was owned by the Santa Fe railroad for railroad ties. So now we have this whole idea of the smoky trains running down the coast in the ocean breeze.
What do you consider to be “signature dishes” at Sea & Smoke? Have any dishes already become local favorites?
Our signature dishes include the lobster dish, which varies seasonally, the Niman Ranch braised lamb shoulder and “blackened” yellowtail crudo. For breakfast, the croque-madame. The most popular dishes so far include Niman Ranch braised lamb shoulder, charred green beans, cauliflower cheese dip, “blackened” yellowtail crudo, oven-baked Pacific mussels, yellow beet gratin and cedar-baked wild Alaskan salmon.
What’s next on the horizon for you? Will Sea & Smoke be your last restaurant, or do you have plans to open more?
I don’t have plans to open anything right now, but like we mentioned before, we let things happen naturally sometimes. If the right opportunity came to us, then you never know.
Sea & Smoke is open 7:30 a.m. to midnight, Monday through Thursday; 7:30 a.m. to 1 a.m., Friday and Saturday; and 7:30 a.m. to 11 p.m., Sunday.
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