Tucked away on a hidden road in La Jolla, The Marine Room sits right on the water’s edge affording those who are lucky enough to dine here, the luxurious view of the ocean’s horizon.
We arrive just as the sun is making its way back into the horizon, the orange hues like a painter’s palette across the dusky sky. Chef Bernard Guillas is making his way around the dining room, welcoming his customers with his hearty personality.
I met Executive Chef Chef Bernard and Chef de Cuisine Ron Oliver at the Top Chef Korean Food Challenge a few months ago where they were the challengers and I was a guest blogger judge.
When Chef Bernard sees me, he greets me warmly and in true French style, plants a kiss on both my cheeks and tells me our dinner will be a tasting menu showcasing “what we do here” and smiles at me with a glint in his eye.
What they do at The Marine Room is this — using a myriad of ingredients spanning various cultures to bring together, on a plate, different flavor infusions fit for a fine dining experience.
As we sit back in our chairs, I marvel at the beautiful view, waves edging towards us, the sunset skies creating a picturesque view that can only be described as romantic, serene and relaxing.
Our first course is one third of the Ocean Trilogy Tasting — plum tuna tartare served in a sesame cone and topped with Spanish trout caviar.
The little morsels of sushi-grade tuna is tossed in sesame oil and sits in a slightly sweet tart cone, which I’m told, is made with umeboshi (plum). We pick it up and bite into it. This is textural heaven for me. The crunchiness of the cone with the firmness of the fish, together with the freshness of the delicate microgreen garnish makes for a wondrous mouthful.
Our second course arrived in a little casserole dish. Skillet roasted forest mushrooms casserole ($15) features a blend of mushrooms including the exquisite morel and the more humble honshimeiji.
This is definitely a marriage of east and west combining sherry — 20-year-old Royal Ambrosante to be precise with Japanese mushrooms and edamame. While I loved the mushrooms I didn’t care for the boudin blanc which was a bit spongey and reminiscent of over-cooked fish cake. The heavenly sauce it was sitting in was glorious and I found myself dipping my bread into it just to sop it all up, not wanting to waste a drop.
Royal “Tuk Bokki” ($11) was our third course and is on the menu to celebrate the chefs’ win at the Korean Food Challenge. Tuk bokki, a Korean rice cake dish, along with bibimbap secured the chefs’ victory at the challenge.
The version here is less spicy to keep in tune with a fine dining menu and I could really taste the sweetness from the gochujang (Korean red chili paste). A green papaya remoulade brings some crunchiness and little balls of summer squash and honshimeiji mushrooms also graced the plate. I am always impressed when chefs are able to bring their own creativity to a dish outside their usual repertoire.
Our fourth course is my favorite of the evening. Jordanian zaatar dusted wild prawn and scallop ($18) is delicately seasoned so it enhances the freshness of the seafood without overpowering them. Both items are cooked to perfection, especially the scallop which is tender and cuts through like butter.
Israeli couscous graces the plate and is so generous with the saffron I immediately taste it the minute it hits my tongue. A lemongrass coconut milk foam is delicate and so aromatic it could’ve been presented as a soup and I would’ve drank it up with vigor.
What I thought was a grape tomato turned out to be preserved kumquat. The tart fruit is prepared confit style enhancing its flavor ten-folds. Absolutely delicious! And just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, the pain d’epices, a thin crispy piece of spiced cookie used as a garnish was just delectable. Chef Bernard told me it is his grandma’s recipe! Looks like he won’t be divulging it anytime soon that’s for sure.
Our next dish, is an Alaskan halibut coated with leek dill pollen ($35) and served with rose fingerling potatoes, tomato confit, the highly praised maitake mushrooms and micro basil with an essence (sauce) made with Buddha hand lemon and Japanese sake. The fish is delicate and lovely with the coating it is topped with. I didn’t need anything else to complement it with.
By now we were quite stuffed but we’ve yet to taste the Berkshire pork cheeks braised with plum wine ($15). The meat is tender and acroutrements included honshimeiji mushrooms, black garbanzos which I didn’t care for, and candied root vegetables which I adored.
The candied root vegetables won me over and I wish I had enough room to finish it, but I had to leave some room for dessert and forced myself to push my plate away.
Our dessert Trilogy ($13) showcased three items. Although the espelette blood orange sorbet was undoubtedly the best item, the most practical, after our big meal with the citrus helping the digestion process along some, I was definitely enamored by the gianduja hazelnut chocolate crunch.
Rich and wonderful crispy with creamy gianduja making it rather sinful and decadent. Ordinarily, I’m a sucker for pot au creme, but I only managed to taste the ginger creme version here before pushing it away declaring defeat.
As I looked out the window, I can still see the waves ebbing its way towards us. Even though the sun has long set against the horizon, the huge flood lights of the Marine Room continues to shine outwards allowing diners a continuous view of the ocean. This is truly one of the most romantic places to enjoy a meal.
Fellas, if you are planning on proposing, I’m sure Chef Bernard can help you secure a lovely table with an outstanding view to pop the question at the most opportune moment. Regardless of what the occasion, the Marine Room is definitely an experience, one which is definitely best enjoyed with someone you love!
The Marine Room
2000 Spindrift Drive
La Jolla, CA 92037