Imagine traveling down a road into the elite neighborhood of Rancho Santa Fe, secluded by earthy surroundings, and ending up at a fork in the road where all you have to do is turn left to find your delicious dining destiny. Those who turn left can literally end up at Delicias Restaurant, a hidden jewel and a dream come true for seekers of seasonal California Fresh cuisine at its finest.
Upon arriving at Delicias, I notice that there is plenty of space for comfortable outside patio dining in Delicias’ street side patio. The entry way, positioned to the left of the patio, leads directly to the chic, dimly lit, L-shaped, granite bar which offers bottled beers as well as smaller local brewery beers, wine and non-alcoholic beverages such as refreshing bottled mineral water. The low lighting and the dark brown and black décor helps give the bar area a very elegant feel. Glass doors allow for a sneak peak to the courtyard seating which is situated adjacent to the bar and dining room and offers a comfortable space for private parties up to thirty, and a retractable roof to gaze at the stars.
Moving past the bar into the dining room, guests will experience an entirely new and different vibe. The tan tile floors, textured walls and ceiling, tablecloths and seats gorgeously unite in a light brown theme, giving off the impression of a home away from home. Embedded in the ceiling are elaborate skylights, and hanging alongside these skylights are graceful black chandeliers. More delicate light fixtures embellish the walls and a beautiful brick fireplace adds to both the serene dim lighting, as well as the warm domestic feeling.
Seating options in Delicias’ dining room include tables for 2, 4 and 6, as well as large booths with high round backings, mimicking the seats of royalty with throw pillows for an extra touch of chic comfort. Looking around, I noticed bustling families, and couples younger and older, all undoubtedly enjoying themselves. Great attention is paid to each aspect of the service at Delicias, from the beautifully put-together visual setting, to the incredibly attentive staff. We were provided with purse stools as we situated ourselves and my napkin was quietly re-folded when I left the table for only a moment.
Delicias not only offers superb service, but everything they do is done with the highest quality and the intention to please. The menu consists of seasonal dishes made from the freshest ingredients available. Daily specials are created by Executive Chef Michael Knowles based on the vegetables, fruit, fish and meat that he himself comes across that day. The produce comes from Chino Farms, which is no more than a mile and a half away from the Delicias kitchen.
Delicias boasts an extensive wine list but as Director of Sales and Marketing Carmelle Piña excitedly explained, the restaurant has big plans for an expanded wine list and an incomparable wine room. They are currently in the process of un-stocking the current wine supply, so that a wine room, containing 5,500 bottles, can soon be filled. This cellar will be amongst the largest in San Diego and Delicias will be adding a Sommelier to their staff.
The restaurant’s theme of seasonal cuisine was made apparent from our first course of Pumpkin Lobster Bisque. Made with local spiny lobster and full of mouth watering seasonings, this creamy pumpkin-colored soup, topped with a dollop of brown butter crème, resembled the look of a classic fall favorite, pumpkin pie. The large chunks of lobster blended with the sweetness of the famously fall flavor to create a fragrant and light bisque.
Next we were presented with a duo of salads. The Chino Farms Tomato Salad with avocado puree was a prime example of why Chef Knowles places so much emphasis on using only the freshest seasonal ingredients. This salad was made with bright yellow and red heirloom tomatoes, which were so ripe and juicy that they have been, with all sincere honesty, unforgettable. My dining partner and I agreed that we had never tasted a tomato with such perfection in taste, texture and color. The salad lay atop an avocado puree which was very smooth in texture and had a creamy green color.
The second salad we sampled was the Chino Farms Chop Salad, a bed of green leafy vegetables, fresh green beans, zucchini and purple cauliflower. Bright yellow, juicy cherry tomatoes added a significant softness and sweetness to the otherwise crisp salad, drizzled with just a hint of sherry vinaigrette.
The next dish we had the pleasure of trying was from the entrée selections on the menu, although we enjoyed it as a shared appetizer: Delicias’ Mac ‘n Cheese. With prosciutto, peas and black truffle oil this dish goes far beyond the boundaries of what many believe “mac and cheese” to be. I took one bite of the delicate white pasta shells, covered with a smooth, creamy white, six-cheese sauce that resembled the flavor of sharp cheddar, and entered a state of purely delicious bliss. The shells were so warm, like envelopes of comforting heat in each bite, melting in my mouth. The second bite contained the added complementary flavors of fresh peas and rich bits of prosciutto, which brought a dash of color to the all cream-colored plate.
Butternut Squash Risotto with bacon braised brussels sprouts was another sumptuous and highly gratifying dish. The bright yellow risotto had a soft creamy texture and the brussels sprouts were a deep green on the outside and a soft pink on the inside. The intended bacon flavor enhanced the traditional taste of the fresh brussels sprouts, with a richness that was not overwhelming.
Coming up on the entrée portion of the meal, a beautiful Crisp Skin King Salmon with English pea puree, bacon, pea shoots, maitake mushrooms and cipollini onions was brought to the table. This seasonal fish was seared, skin on, making for a gorgeous golden exterior, while the inside was pink and moist. Maitake mushrooms, peas and crisp asparagus were bedded alongside adding to the array of seasonal flavors and colors on the plate. The salmon was tasteful without being overly seasoned and the puree was smooth with the distinctly pure taste of peas.
Our second fish selection was the Pan Roasted Alaskan Halibut with heirloom tomato panzanella and corn puree. The halibut was seared and lightly browned; the corn puree nearly matched in color but added a lovely sweetness to the dish. A layered vegetable and bread salad accompanied the fish, composed of fresh lima beans, corn and the same deliciously ripe tomatoes from before. This dish combined sweet with savory and crispy with juicy, and did so quite successfully.
Our next dish was the Braised Short Rib with mascarpone polenta puree, served with Chino Farms fall vegetables. The tender short rib fell apart with the slightest pull of a fork, and pleased my taste buds with its bursting succulence. The white creamy polenta underneath was mild in flavor on its own, but was clearly designed to complement the beef. It was a successfully delectable duo.
As our final entrée plates were cleared our dessert was being carefully prepared to top off a fantastic meal. The Dolce de Leche Brownie was a sweet masterpiece, complete with layers upon layers of chocolate. The bottom layer was a brownie sitting underneath the mousse-like leche middle. The soft leche was covered with a thin layer of chocolate sauce- mixing sweet, semi sweet, cool and rich flavors into each sinfully delicious bite.
Into even the last bite, this meal was overwhelmingly fresh, the quality of the cuisine surpassed my expectations, and the quality of the service doubled over my satisfaction. Executive Chef Michael Knowles has put together a deliberately fresh, all seasonal menu to ensure his guests receive nothing but the best.