Rooted on the ground floor of a Spanish-style hotel owned by the Kellogg family, the Shores Restaurant has serenely faced the La Jolla Shores surf since 1970. For carbon-date context, that was the year the Beatles broke up and the National Guard opened fire on Kent State.
The Shores’ hacienda-like dining room has a yesteryear feel. Pale green tablecloths. Chandeliers like fountains of wrought iron blackly bubbling from the white-beam wood ceiling. Arched windows looking out onto a well-used beach.
The space whispers, “Perfect for your wedding rehearsal dinner,” and, “That’s a killer sunset.”
Surprisingly, the dinner fare is mindful of the culinary zeitgeist: Laborious in-house techniques and seasonal ingredients are found here.
Since last August, the Shores’ kitchen has been modernized by chef de cuisine Amy DiBiase. Executive chef Bernard Guillas collaborates. (Guillas also oversees the Marine Room, the Kellogg’s fine-dining spot further down the sand.)
Foodwise, there’s none of that retro seaside-restaurant predictability — save for the fake leather blue menu covers.
See the Shores springtime salad of asparagus and fried organic egg. A compact slab of braised-and-seared pork belly also weighs down that plate — the pork was so gloriously imposing it drew double takes from my dining companions recently.
You’ll find this salad’s elements harmonizing sweet and fat at many top restaurants right now.
“But they didn’t peel the asparagus stalks,” was the only gripe at the table.
DiBiase, an Italian-food specialist, worked at Baleen, Cosmopolitan, the beloved old Laurel and the much-missed Roseville. From her old kitchen playbook come familiar dishes, like the gnudi — dumplings made from ricotta cheese and flour.
Here they’re artfully surrounded by an English pea purée (in need of more salt), nutty chunks of morel mushrooms and mellow red pearl onions. Sometimes gnudi can be creamy-slack and soft, as it was here. I prefer firm-skinned gnudi with a contrasting supple interior. To each his own texture.
Another appetizer, on the menu as “lightly smoked rainbow trout,” undersold its smokiness. The trout, poised above brunoise-cut beets, grated horseradish and a bed of greens, was dry.
Read Keli Dailey's full dining review and more on utsandiego.com