Chef’s new wave of dishes rolling in to Pacifica Del Mar

Executive Chef Chris Powell has rolled out a wave of new dishes at Pacifica Del Mar.

It was a gradual move by Powell, who joined the restaurant on Nov. 1. He began introducing items in December, but most of the changes came in late January and February. Powell overhauled the entire breakfast menu at Pacifica’s “sister” restaurant, Breeze Café, which is just down the stairs; he also revamped three-fourths of Pacifica’s breakfast menu, a third of its lunch menu and half of the dinner menu.

“It’s simpler food done really well,” said Powell, who has more than 20 years of experience cooking for well-known area restaurants such as Whisknladle, Bali Hai, Roy’s and La Jolla’s Grande Colonial Hotel.

“I wanted to expand the palate,” he added, and “there’s so much opportunity with the local produce” that’s available.

Among the small plates that he recently debuted are meaty pieces of Charred Octopus dressed with Meyer lemon, Marcona almond slivers, frisee, lemon oil and balsamic; Ahi Crudo, decorated with sweet Sumo citrus slices and cipollini onions, watercress, and garlic fennel seed oil that adds a hint of licorice flavor; and the Sizzling Shrimp, featuring a bowl of jumbo head-on shrimps sautéed in garlic and butter (scampi-style), served in a Calabrian chile pepper sauce that has a touch of spiciness. There’s also the Fuji Apple Salad made with Suzie’s Farm organic butter lettuce, bacon, blue cheese and honey mustard vinaigrette; Ahi Tuna Poke; and Steamed Black Mussels.

Another Powell specialty is the Market Fish, which rotates depending on the season. During a recent evening, the featured catch was yellowtail, a tender and flaky piece enhanced by oven-roasted butternut squash puree, pea tendrils, cherry tomato halves, pieces of Dungeness crab, and a zesty yuzu kosho vinaigrette. Halibut will be offered soon, Powell said.

Among the latest of the large plates to be introduced are the Short Rib and the Lobster Bucatini “Carbonara,” a flavorful pile of thick spaghetti mixed with bacon, Parmesan fonduta, peas, egg yolk and black truffle, topped with a large piece of sweet lobster.

Finally, Powell and new chef Will Von Pertz (previously of Whisknladle) have unveiled several decadent desserts: Sweet D’s Glazed Chocolate Cake, composed of devil’s food cake surrounded by a “mirror” glaze, garnished with a dollop of silky peanut butter mousse and sprinkled with brown butter Maldon roasted peanuts; Whipped NY Cheesecake Tart; the Ice Cream Sandwich, featuring cookies-and-cream gelato packed between two large chocolate chip cookies, with fudge sauce; and the Butterscotch Budino.

Despite all the menu changes, Powell noted certain items that are “untouchable” for now — signature dishes that include the Sugar-Spiced Salmon, Mustard Catfish, Local Seabass and Seared “Rare” Ahi.

Meanwhile, there are specials nearly every day at Pacifica. Happy hour is celebrated from 4 to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and all night Sunday and Monday. Guests receive half off small bites, and $2 off beers, featured cocktails, wines by the glass and other select appetizers. Among the libations to consider: the sunset-colored Pineapple-Chipotle Margarita, served in a glass rimmed with chile sea salt and garnished with lime. The first sips are sweet and smoky, but wait a moment, and the heat will kick in.

The restaurant also has several “themed” events each week: Taco Tuesdays, when patrons can order two tacos and a Corona for $9; Martini & Oyster Night on Wednesdays; and 50 percent off bottles of wine on Thursdays.

In addition, two-course Sunset Suppers are offered from 5 to 6 p.m. daily, for $23.75 per person; and brunch on weekends.

“(Here) it’s really about friends and family coming together and enjoying the experience,” Powell said.

Pacifica Del Mar is at 1555 Camino del Mar in Del Mar. Lunch is served from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; dinner is from 5 p.m. to close daily.

Call 858-792-0476 or go to www.pacificadelmar.com.

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