TBL3 at Georges California Modern - La Jolla, CA

Dinner - Wednesday, March 27, 2013

It's been nearly a year since my last post about the TBL3 menu at California Modern (we have enjoyed other meals there in the meantime, including an undocumented TBL3 dinner). This time, we brought three guests from out of town to share in Trey Foshee's expression of the early Spring season.

Celery root taco
Smoked apple gelee, citron vinegar
Uni soup
Radish flower, avocado
A play on campechana, that addictive Mexican seafood cocktail. The uni was surprisingly benign, revealing itself mostly in the aftertaste. The radish flower was a key component, contributing a much-appreciated peppery kick.

Octopus tostada
Avocado, pickles, radish, micro cilantro
Eucalyptus blossoms
An early palate cleanser - we sucked on the cut ends of the blossoms, releasing a cooling, menthol-like sensation. Quite interesting, because the blossoms were exactly what one would naively expect eucalyptus to taste like.

Northern Divine caviar
White asparagus, aori ika, buttermilk
I found the sustainable sturgeon caviar from British Columbia a touch too salty. The white asparagus, on the other hand, was spot on - crunchy and creamy all at once. Together with the tangy buttermilk foam, they nearly balanced the roe.

Local stone crab
Jicama, cucumber, nasturtium
The chilled crab was served under a canopy of jicama cured in a lemon-lime-chili mixture. Beautiful textures throughout, and the sweetness of the crab flesh was impressive. The dish was paired with a 2008 Von Hovel Riesling, whose sweetness resonated with the crustacean's. Very, very good.

Local spot prawns a la plancha
Simply prepared with espelette pepper and a butter of its roe, the sweet spot prawns were perfectly grilled - teetering within that delicate zone between raw and cooked. Some of the best prawns we've had in a long time - these actually came close to the grilled Palamos shrimp at Etxebarri (my all-time benchmark).

Salt cod raviolo, Chino Farms artichokes
Black truffle, Thai basil, mustard greens, fennel
"Wild salad"
Natal plum sorbet, pine nuts
Fantastic - each foraged vegetable was preternaturally intense. The cranberry-like sourness from the slightly sweet natal plum sorbet matched well with the varied greens and the dressing of honey and pine nuts (which, incidentally, continue to be some of the best I've ever tasted). This is the best iteration of the salad dish that we've had at TBL3 so far.

Basil-crusted sardine
Fennel, celery, saffron new potato
The fillet was extremely large, coming from a sardine. I loved its silky texture - a contrast with the crispy basil crust. The thinly-shaved saffron new potatoes reinforced the plate's Spanish notes. This dish marked a turning point in the menu, towards weightier courses.

Soft poached egg
Crispy wood parched wild rice, turnips, morels
The texture and flavour of the crispy rice were superlative (I regret that I've forgotten their source). Paired with early season morels and baby turnips, they were fitting accents for the canvas of yolk that burst forth from the poached egg.

Halibut, candied kombu, baby chard
Tomato-clam-citrus blossom consommé
Peas, green garlic
Peas and green garlic - two of my favourite things about Spring. They were presented a number of ways individually, but married in a purée that took shape as a luscious dollop of green on our plate. The rare squab was beautifully cooked - meaty and rich, like a reminder of the winter that has passed.

Roasted carrots
Vindaloo, yogurt, purple carrot jam, pineapple sage blossoms
The kitchen has a way with carrots, and I don't recall ever being disappointed by a preparation. This was a revised version of a dish we'd had previously - improved by more assertive spicing and the introduction of some uniquely-flavoured sage blossoms. Surprisingly refined and "smooth" for a plate with such strong ingredients.

Lamb loin and shoulder
Jerusalem artichoke, truffle, pickled chanterelles
Citrus sorbets
Avocado, crème fraiche, Belgian endive
An excellent intermezzo, particularly after the onslaught of the previous 3-4 courses. A number of different citrus sorbets played with each other on the plate, but the real star was the avocado sorbet that tied them all together.

"Milk & honey"
Parsnip, banana, yuzu
I had asked Lori Sauer to make sure this dessert was served, after seeing a picture of it last week - it lived up to expectations. A yuzu honey sorbet was accompanied by toothsome parsnips dried in honey and a soft banana cream. For further textural contrast, ethereal shards of milk meringue that dissolved on our tongues. Well-composed and delicious.

Chocolate apricot layer cake
Anise syrup, mustard, raisin ice cream
If I recall correctly, this is our fifth TBL3 dinner thus far. Since its inception, there has always been a clear focus on showcasing San Diego's bounty as much as possible, and this continues unchanged. We have enjoyed every meal and experienced the heights of Spring, Summer and Winter. Only the early Fall still eludes us. Later this year, we will attempt to rectify this omission.

Georges California Modern
1250 Prospect St.
La Jolla, CA 92037
Phone: (858) 454-4244