It is Easter Sunday, and we are in La Jolla. The view is spectacular, and I am quite happy not having to go downtown on a holiday weekend, rubbing elbows with the entire world, all here enjoying the glorious day. However, we have reservations at The Hake Kitchen & Bar, and so, off we go. Luckily, there is valet parking! At first, I am a little hesitant when I see that the restaurant is located beneath street level — nestled between George’s and Azul — however, very soon, I am very thankful for it.
The restaurant is beautiful and I choose a table on the inside, along the perimeter of the patio. We enjoy the outside without being directly under the sun. I am now breathing a sigh of relief the restaurant is hidden from the main street. It gives us privacy from the hustle and bustle of all the tourists meandering about. There’s nothing worse than people hovering and staring at me while I am trying to enjoy my meal — hence, very thankful for the restaurant’s secluded, below-street-level location.
Our server Joán is incredibly knowledgeable and guides us through our meal like a pro. We begin with Ceviche ($12), which changes daily. Today, we eat lime-marinated halibut, with jalapeno, avocado, baby heirloom tomato, cilantro and onion. I eat it with a spoon like soup, not wasting a drop of the addicting, mouth-puckering marinade.
Do not miss the Tuna Tostada ($6) — a taco topped with soy marinated ahi, a sesame encrusted avocado slice and finished with crispy shards of leek. There is a little sriracha aioli to give just a hint of heat.
Its namesake is nowhere to be found, but there is an abundance of other seafood available. Hamachi Tiradito ($12) is crazy good. The hamachi is gently bathed in miso with jalapeno for heat and garlic chips. Actually, I am not detecting the latter and mention it to Joán who swiftly retreats to the kitchen and brings me flecks of fried garlic which I add to the plate. It immediately zaps crazy flavor to the dish. The best part of this dish is how its simplicity brings such complexity to each bite — contradictory, yes I know, but you’ll have to eat it to understand where I’m coming from.
Sea Scallop ($17) is as fresh as you will ever get. A beautiful composition, the combination of cucumber, citrus, chipotle and sea salt comes together nicely, but I wanted just a tad more of the sea salt to lift the scallop’s natural umami.
I never pass up the chance to order this protein. Roasted Octopus $16) is an insane offering both in presentation and in flavor. As much as I adore octopus — and this possesses a perfect texture of crispy exterior and soft interior — it is the olive oil poached potatoes which blows me over. Soaking up every robust spice used, it is the smoked paprika which really takes it up another notch. Absolutely stunning!
Take a spoonful of the Tuna Chicharron ($15) and wrap with the corn tortillas. Then, top with one — or all — of the trio of accompanying salsas: habanero, avocado, and my favorite, puntarena with serrano and lime juice. I would have liked a crispier finish seeing it is described as “chicharron”, but nevertheless, it is a fun and interactive item to share with friends.
For those who prefer meat over seafood, there are several to choose from. One is Shaved Rib Eye ($16) with thinly sliced meat, sauteed shishito peppers and sweet caramelized onions on a hot plate. Eat with your choice of condiments.
We are full, but are intrigued by Joán’s description of Artisan Cheese Cake ($8). “A cheese platter in a dessert” is how this is explained, but to be quite honest, I don’t think there is anything I can say that will do this justice. It is simply one of the best things I have ever eaten. Goat cheese, gorgonzola, honey, pecans, rosemary, and pear come together in a to-die-for experience. I love the chilled forks we are presented with for dessert — what a lovely touch.
So there you have it. This is a seafood-lover’s paradise! Top quality ingredients are left to shine with well thought out accoutrements to enhance each and every protein on the menu. I highly suggest simply popping in and getting a slice of the cheese cake. It is THAT incredible.
The Hake Kitchen & Bar
1250 Prospect Street
La Jolla, CA 92037