by SLICK TRACY
Hotel Detective & Food Sleuth
Uncovering the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
There are currently four locations that make up something called Whisknladle Hospitality. I found out about this by having dinner at the PreKitchen Del Mar. This is a very small, but outstanding restaurant, located on the corner of Camino Del Mar and 12th Streets. The area is typical beach-front look for most of Southern California. If you were not looking for this place, you probably would not find it. The signage is small, as is almost all the signage in Del Mar, probably due to city fathers not liking large signs.
Signs and size are not as important as the food. If the food is great, people will come. That is exactly what has happened with the PrepKitchen. It only seats 14 people inside, but there is a fairly large covered patio area. The busy-ness of the street traffic is not so bothersome as to limit conversations, however. The major problem is the afternoon and early evening sun. If you are not careful in selecting a decent table and seat, the sun will blind you, at least for 30 minutes or so.
The food, you ask? The simple answer is ‘awesome.’ This is not a fast-food spot by anyone’s imagination. It is a restaurant designed for lingering, socializing, and savoring the food and atmosphere. However, lunch menus are available where preparation and service can fit anyone’s noon-time meal period.
For a starter, I tried the Roasted Beet and Spinich Salad. It was enhanced with Satsuma, Avocado, Goat Cheese, Almonds, and Balsamic Vinaigrette. Since I am a big fan of beets, fresh spinich, and almonds, I though I would give this a try. At my request, they omitted the goat cheese. The avocado wedges were too much and too many, although it was fresh and tasty. The amount of vinaigrette was neither too much or too little. Others at my table enjoyed the WhisknLadle Caesar Salad, which was a plate full of lettuce topped with Anchovy Dressing, Croutons, and smoothed in Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
The main courses enjoyed at the table were Braised Beef Short Ribs, Mary’s Half Chicken, or Local Rock Cod. Since this was a Southern California coastal location, how could I possibly go wrong with fish? I choose well. The cod dish was a generous serving, cooked to exactly my liking. It was set on a large serving of Potato Puree and enhanced with Confit Heirloom Tomatoes and Sprouting Broccoli. Tablemates enjoyed the short ribs and chicken as much as I enjoyed the cod. The short ribs were also presented on a serving of Potato Puree and enhanced with Cippolini Onions, Field Mushrooms, and Carrots. The chicken was served with Savoy Spinich, Fingerling Potatoes, Caramelized Onions, and Pancetta.
For dessert, we tried the Meyer Lemon Tarts with whip cream, although there is a wide variety of choices. Apparently, the Bread Pudding is almost a ‘must-try.’ PrepKitchen does not offer a full-service bar, although there is a fairly good choice of wines and craft beer.
This is a very popular place, especially on weekends, with minimum food/beverage amounts for groups, even small groups. Reservations are definitely encouraged, which can be accomplished on the internet or telephone.
The Whisknladle group was started in 2008 and has grown significantly. The owners say, “Culinarily speaking, we take a back-to-the-future approach to cooking by working with seasonal & farm-to-table products and taking the time to make most of our food from scratch. This is the way it used to be and they way it ought to be.” The PrepKitchen concept was begun several years later. “PK has grown into a quintessential neighborhood spot serving great seasonal comfort food in super-relaxed environments.”
In addition to the original Whisknladle on Wall Street in La Jolla, there are Prepkitchen locations in La Jolla, Del Mar, and Little Italy (on India Street.) Prices average $35-$50, although specialty items are generally more. Ask about Early Bird Specials and other offers. Catering, of course, is available at all their locations.
THE GOOD: outstanding food and ambiance, very attentive wait staff
THE BAD: the Del Mar patio requires staying out of the blinding sun
THE UGLY: nothing