Whisknladle rests in picturesque La Jolla Village, which offers some of San Diego’s most beautiful ocean views and overlooks the famous La Jolla Cove. Although beautiful, La Jolla Village does not have ample amounts of parking, and I am relieved to find a spot near the restaurant. Located amongst other fine dining and shopping establishments, Whisknladle stands apart with its unpretentious and cozy vibe.
Upon approaching the hostess podium my guest and I are greeted with a friendly smile and guided by our server to our table at the front of the restaurant overlooking the bustling street. A wave of relaxation flows over me as my attention is diverted from the street to the rustic urban décor. The warm, casual, and laid-back atmosphere is intoxicating. The main dining room is located in an outdoor patio setting with the interior housing a bar, lounge, and private dining room. The outdoor patio is made up of oak tables and wrought-iron patio chairs carefully laid out, with large potted plants lining the exterior, creating a refreshing display of earthy tones set to soft lighting. The outdoor patio setting evolves from rustic to sophisticated as you enter the lounge with an intimate bar and private room enabling lounge-goers to enjoy drinks in a swanky setting. The entrance to the bar is distinguished by a beautiful floor- to- ceiling wine tower. The bar is marked by trendy white bar stools and an elegant stone countertop, which separates the lounge from the rest of the restaurant. Towards the back of the patios and to the left of the bar, large glass windows reveal the kitchen, where diners can observe the culinary magic of the chefs at Whisknladle.
Our attentive server describes the soup of the day and inquires if we want to start the meal with a cocktail. I and my guest are more than happy to oblige given the eclectic mix of cocktails listed on the menu and order the house recommendations: the Pomegranate Mojito and the Julian. As we wait for our cocktails, the restaurant begins to fill up, but the atmosphere never changes; it is continuously serene and calm, with an assorted mix of jazz and rock music playing quietly in the background. The interior is akin to an outdoor Southern patio or barn-- rustic with an urban chic twist.
I awake from my relaxed and comfortable state when the cocktails arrive. The drinks taste as delicious as they look. The Pomegranate Mojito is a rosy red color that boasts a fruity flavor with the signature mint bite of a Mojito. The Julian is a sophisticated and very adult version of apple cider. The rich cinnamon bourbon combined with the tang of the cider and earthiness of the rosemary create a complex but satisfying cocktail that is fitting for the fall season.
Our first appetizer is the Fig and Persimmon Salad. The salad is presented on a simple white plate, with a pop of color from the figs and persimmons. Made with balsamic roasted onions, frisee, and pistachio the salad is light with a rich nutty and peppery bite balanced by the sweet figs and persimmons. The balsamic roasted onions add a tangy sweetness and an unexpected but pleasant texture. The salad strikes a nice balance of sweet and savory – a theme present in all of the dishes to come. The figs and persimmons taste fresh from the farm, which is exactly where they came from. Executive Chef Barclay Dodge goes to the farm every day to pick fresh ingredients for his menu. Everything on the menu is organic and locally grown. The quality of the ingredients is apparent in their taste and texture. This is an ideal starter for the rich and homey foods that are about to arrive.
The next appetizer served is something that I am excited to see on the menu because I have never tasted it before. As the Charred Bone Marrow is placed on our table, the rustic presentation of the bones split in half brings my senses to a carnal level. Seasoned in parsley, lemon, and capers, and spread on buttery toast, the Bone Marrow is unctuous with a lovely buttery and salty flavor. The Fatty and tender texture is complemented by the crunch of the toast. A signature of Whisknladle is the fact that their menu boasts a variety of unusual ingredients that are combined in ways that are delicious and satisfying; this is embodied in our last appetizer.
The Crispy Sweetbreads, made from the thymus of a calf, are served on a delicious bed of honey crisp apples, celery, and hazelnuts. This dish is a delightful schmorgasboard of textures, taking your taste buds on a wild ride. The sweet breads are crusted in toasted rice, giving the tender sweetbreads a satisfying crunch as you take a bite. Drizzled in a sauce with a hint of mustard flavor, the honey crisp apples, celery, and hazelnuts add another dimension of texture. The dish as a whole is invigorating and rich, fulfilling every dimension of taste and texture.
Next is the Ricotta Gnocchi served with red wine braised oxtail, carrots, and shaved matsutakes. The ricotta gnocchi are rich with a hint of sweetness that blends well with the melt-in-your-mouth texture of the oxtail that falls off the bone the moment your fork touches it. The sweet undertone of the carrots enhances the delicate blend of savory and sweet components of the dish. This is the ultimate comfort food-- a dish that takes a bad day and makes it instantly better.
The last entrée departs from the richness of the previous dishes. The Poached Halibut with artichoke barigoule, “pil pil,” and arugula is a beautiful and colorful display of fresh ingredients. The artichokes are prepared in a tangy white wine and vegetable broth. The arugula is prepared with the “pil pil,” which is a sauce made from the oil that the Halibut is cooked in, along with garlic among other ingredients. It is a light, simple dish that focuses on bringing out the flavors of the vegetables, with the fish as a tasty backdrop. The halibut, moist and buttery, is complemented by the earthy matsutake mushrooms scattered on top.
For dessert, we order the Pumpkin Bread Pudding with butter rum ice cream and pecan streusel. This dessert embodies the best flavors of the fall season. The sugary crunch of the streusel adds a layer of sweetness to the bread pudding, which is infused with subtle rum and nutmeg flavors. Like the previous dishes, there is a note of richness that is never heavy, or overbearing, but acts as a backdrop to the variety of flavors in the dish.
My guest and I leave very content after experiencing a level of comfort that only food therapy can provide. Whisknladle offers a harvest of goodies that are of the utmost quality presented in a simple manner. Their rustic food, friendly staff, and a relaxing setting set the stage for a pleasant evening filled with great food. No frills, just good food made with quality ingredients and of course, lots of tender love and care.