When you think about San Diego food what immediately comes to mind is all of the different types of world cuisine spread out over a diverse and sprawling city. However, what’s not immediately apparent is what native San Diego food is all about. In essence, the coastal region is exemplified by superb seafood and vibrant produce. Those two pillars come together perfectly at Chef Giselle Wellman’s new restaurant Pacific Standard Coastal Kitchen.
Our first starter, the Brioche was warm and welcoming, just like the first time we met Giselle. Fresh off her run on Top Chef, she was hanging out with fellow contestant Chad White at the Craft Pizza Company in the UTC shopping center. We instantly recognized her in the same black leather jacket she was wearing on the show, and decided to go over and say hi. Giselle was very nice and chatter with us a bit, even having her dad take a picture of us all together. That sort of warm and welcoming feel is how our whole evening felt at Pacific Standard.
Our next two starters were exciting and set the pace for the rest of the meal. The Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes were exceptional, and almost entirely made of pure tender Crab meat. The fennel and carrot slaw that accompanied it was a great balance to the spicy remoulade and delicate Crab. This is one dish I would never leave off a repeat visit! We also had the soup du jour, inspired by the fresh produce found at Little Italy’s farmer’s market. Today that soup was a mushroom soup. This wasn’t your boring canned variety either, it was fresh, rich, and very satisfying. The pine nuts that garnished the soup were a nice little kick to break up the rest of the bowl.
Our server was careful to pace out the meal, and the main courses arrived exactly when they needed to. Giselle was on hand to deliver one of them herself with a couple of other servers. Between the four of us guests, we got a great cross section of the entire menu. The chicken with buerre blanc sauce was notable for the perfectly cooked piece of chicken, with crispy skin. The accompanying charred green beans were a nice light touch to the plate. The fish and chips using local Rockfish was a simple plate of fries and huge pieces of beer-batter fried fish. Normally that would seem dull, but the fish was moist and flaky, showing the care with which all ingredients are treated.
The Beef Short Rib over a rosemary-parmesan polenta was tender and moist. A red wine jus permeated every bite with a rich, deep beef flavor. The last of our main courses was the Steak Frites. In a time when this dish is getting increasingly popular among trendy restaurants, it’s nice to see how good it can become when you use incredible quality ingredients that are cooked to perfection. That’s exactly how this marinated prime flat iron steak was cooked! A perfect pink all the way through, and every bite was so tender and bathed in the herb butter topping.
After we had all finished our main courses, Giselle came out to chat with us a bit. It was during this happily-full state, that we learned a bit more about how she became a chef. Inspired by her Mexican-Jewish heritage, she grew up having big Friday night Shabbat dinners. Thinking the next extension of cooking would be a chef, she honed her craft in some of the country’s top restaurants under chefs like Thomas Keller, Jean George and Mario Batali. Ironically, working as a chef has kept Giselle in the kitchen where getting away for Shabbat meals is tough.
Wrapping up the evening was a pair of tasty sweet treats. The seasonal pumpkin donut had a nice spiced cakey donut with a sweet pumpkin cream and jelly filling. A chocolate peanut butter bar with toasted marshmallow fluff tasted like a peanut butter-flowerless chocolate cake. Even if you’re not the biggest fan of sweet peanut butter treats, this was delicious!
If you’re looking for a great date spot, or just a nice restaurant out, don’t hesitate to give Pacific Standard Coastal Kitchen a shot. We can’t wait to come back and see what chef Giselle has in store as the fresh seasonal ingredients change and we wish her lots of success with her San Diego homecoming!