a classy but casual dining experience at Amaya La Jolla

Being a huge fan of The Grand Del Mar Resort and its Addison restaurant, I was excited that Amaya at the resort opened a sister location in La Jolla. I was invited to dine with them and I brought my friend Vivienne along several weeks ago and found the restaurant very stylish!

Chef Camron Woods serves American fare, but has included some of his Southern heritage into the menu. The food is contemporary and is perfect for business entertaining as well as lunch for visiting tourists.

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We were asked if we would like wine pairing with our meal, but since I’m not a big wine drinker, mixologist Andrew Adelson offered to do a cocktail pairing to go with our specially created tasting menu by Chef Woods.

We started with some warm Pretzel Rolls with a Trio of Butters. Salted butter, garlic and herb, pecan honey were all wonderfully tasty, but my favorite was the pecan honey.

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Andrew brought our first cocktail Lavender Gin & Guava Press amethyst gin, guava puree, lime juice, simple syrup and soda was so refreshing and delicious Vivienne and I were struggling to stop sipping on it.

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Our first course consisted of a tasting of three items (prices reflect a la carte portions). Crab and Lobster Bisque ($12) with tarragon creme fraiche was umami filled and the espresso cup size was hardly enough to satiate my longing for more.

Day Boat Scallop and Beef Short Rib ($18) combined together a perfectly cooked scallop with fork-tender short rib. Vanilla-cauliflower puree was interesting while the huckleberry sauce added a touch of richness.

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One of my favorites was Spicy Chile-Lime Shrimp ($15 full portion pictured). I loved the touch of spiciness and slight tartness of the sauce. The grilled bread was perfect to dip into the remaining sauce. I would’ve licked the bowl had I been home alone.

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Our second cocktail of Muddled Blackberry & Absinthe Margarita arrived. Herradura silver tequila, fresh muddled blackberries, orange bitters, Absinthe, lime juice on a salted rim. When Andrew brought it over and explained it, I was skeptical because I can’t stand absinthe. He explained that he only spritzed the cocktail with absinthe and begged for me to try it. I did and surprisingly, the absinthe didn’t overpower and I enjoyed the drink tremendously!

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Our second trio to taste consisted of Crispy Dorade ($32) confit fennel, tomatoes and nicoise olives, tangerine sauce, Duo of Sea Bass ($36) brandade and seared pave, pinot noir sauce and Duo of Beef ($38) grilled New York strip and braised short rib, crushed creme fraiche potatoes, broccolini.

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The crispy dorade (photo depicts full portion) was heavenly! The skin was super crispy while the flesh remained flaky and moist.

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Duo of sea bass (photo depicts full portion) was more subtle and the fish melted in our mouths. I wasn’t sure the pinot noir sauce would work with such a delicate fish, but it did!

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Grilled NY strip and braised short rib (photo depicts full portion) was served a perfect medium rare, and a meat lover’s dream! Tender and oh so decadent.

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Our last cocktail was a perfect pairing for our dessert trio. Angels Share Buffalo Trace was explained as Emilio Lustan, Palo Cortado, peach puree, lemon juice, twist of lemon around the inside of the glass. Don’t ask me what some of the items were because I have no idea, but it was Vivienne’s favorite! I think she drank my glass too (well to be fair, I drank her margarita!).

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Chocolate Truffle Torte ($9) with black pepper caramel, hazelnut brittle, caramel-poached bananas and bananas foster ice cream is a chocolate lover’s delight. Rich, decadent with a really nice marriage of textures when you combine everything together in one bite.

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Blood Orange Tart ($9) was my favorite. It wasn’t too sweet on its own, but if you wanted it a little sweeter, add the caramel sauce, blueberry compote, candied pistachios and whipped creme fraiche with it onto your spoon and voila, there’s your lusciously sweet bite.

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We received one portion of the Mini Cheesecake Trio ($9) — the vanilla portion of the trio. A white balsamic gastrique and raspberries accompanied.

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Amaya is not stuffy and you can walk into the restaurant in shorts and a T-shirt if you wanted to. The food is top notch, classy and worthy of a five-star resort, but it is as casual as you want it to be but formal enough for a business luncheon.

Amaya La Jolla
1205 Prospect Street
La Jolla, CA 92037
Tel: 858-750-3695

Amaya La Jolla on Urbanspoon

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