TBL3 at Georges California Modern - La Jolla, CA

Dinner - Thursday, December 1, 2011

Given the resounding success of our previous TBL3 meal under Trey Foshee's care, we were eager to revisit as the seasons turned from the sunny warmth of the summer months to the chill of December (relatively speaking, of course - we do live in San Diego, after all). This time, we returned with another couple to share the experience with them. For their opinion on this dinner, follow this link.

One thing I miss about dining at Georges in the summer is watching the sun set over the water during dinner, hunting for the elusive green flash in between bites. However, with no external distractions this time around, we trained our attention completely on the table and the 14 stunning courses that were unobtrusively placed, removed and replaced in admirable clockwork fashion over four magical hours.

Amuse - Beet, turnip, carrot
We began, as before, with a trio of small bites. Set in the middle of the table were skewers of soft beet swathed in yogurt and crispy quinoa - creamy and tangy, with a very mild beet flavour (I would actually have preferred a more pronounced preparation). Next, the most exquisitely cooked turnip I've ever had, topped with a brunoise of apple and bacon. Finally, a light carrot-orange soup, scented with star anise and topped with a delightful chervil foam - liquorice on liqourice.

Chino farms crudité
Ricotta, seaweed toast
Our next bite was a striking mini-garden of raw and pickled produce - carrot, cucumber, radish, broccolini, orange cauliflower, red cabbage, broccoli stem, persimmon, celery, red onion, celtuce, turnip, parsnip and purple mustard greens (and I'm sure we must have missed some). Each sliver was so distinct and full of character - it was painfully good.

Aji, fluke, hamachi, caviars
Excellent fish. Everyone found the pairing of fluke and sturgeon caviar expectedly delicious, but I found the hamachi with finger lime achieved an impeccable balance of acid, salt, and sweetness. The aji, dominant as always, overpowered its partner and was better complemented by the traditional sliver of shiso hiding between its flesh. A thoughtful touch was the tiny smear of finger lime between each fish - a very effective palate cleanser.

Local spiny lobster
Daikon, ginger, coconut-sweet potato pudding, avocado
My dish of the night - a terrific showcase for the exorbitantly priced San Diego spiny lobster. Its sweet flesh was highlighted by paper-thin shaved daikon cured in garlic. The pudding was so well-balanced, I wanted to eat a bowlful of it. The element that really put this dish over the top was the ginger flowers, filled with their aromatic nectar - so fresh that one of us had the tiniest caterpillar crawl out of her flower onto the plate!

Smoked foie gras, white soy marshmallow, orange
The brilliance of the previous dish made this one all the more disappointing. There were radishes, bunapi shimeji, seaweed, petals of rose geranium and Aspiration - all in a moat of miso soup. The dish was tepid, without any temperature contrast and the daubs of orange strongly overpowered the other components as they dissolved in the broth.

Uni, poached egg
Côte de bœuf jus, grilled levain
Parsnip six ways
I enjoy dishes that explore the possibilities of an ingredient. Here, parsnips were prepared in six textures with various flavours - (i) braised with duck jus to tender perfection; (ii) as an espuma with coffee (my favourite); (iii) dehydrated; (iv) in a snappy apple-parsnip slaw with parsnip leaves; (v) simply roasted; and (vi) rather banally fried.

Onion, truffle, Comté, white mushrooms
I believe Trey has mentioned in the past that this course was inspired by a similar preparation from Shinichi Sato. The tender onion, its melting layers interleaved by slices of black truffle, was amazing. It sat on a bed of shaved Comté and white mushrooms - the nutty saltiness of the cheese was perfectly complementary to the other components. Finally, the aroma of more truffles shaved tableside by Trey made us heady with glee.

Oregon Troll King Salmon
Cauliflower, green grapes, seaweed, ikura
Squab, persimmon, broccoli, buckwheat, brown butter
Really, really good. I feel the need to stop using superlatives in this post, but credit must go where it's due. The honeyed notes of the persimmon paired wonderfully with the lean and earthy squab. Both were offset by the vegetal broccoli, and some crispy buckwheat kept textures interesting. Uncomplicated, and a total success.

Venison, reds
I dubbed this "venison a la roadkill" - it reminded me of a dish we had at Moto some years ago (photo from Foodspotting). A smoked beet puree was refreshingly acerbic, and I enjoyed the syrupy raspberry and blackberry in red wine reduction with the piece of venison. Rounding things out was a segment of soft red cabbage. Again though (and I know I'm beating a dead horse), I'm not enthusiastic about large pieces of meat ending the savory section of a meal (Asian sensibilities?)

Citron ice cream, Buddha's hand, tangerine foam
Pepitas, white chocolate
Great start to dessert - the citruses played nicely against the pepitas and sweet white chocolate. I haven't found citron to be commonly used outside Asia and the Middle East, but the aroma of this ancient fruit (I believe it may be one of the oldest citrus species) is unique and enticing. Buddha's hand is in fact merely a cultivar derived from the original citron (they are the same species), but I am a sucker for its pith, which inexplicably reminds me of apricots.

Honey cake and semifreddo
Pineapple, ancho, marcona almonds, yogurt, caramel
Even better than the previous course, this was my favourite dessert. Everything was impeccably matched - from the airy semifreddo, to the hit of heat from the ancho, to the fresh notes of the micro cilantro. It hit all corners of our mouthes. I was particularly enamored by the smoky tartness of the tamarind syrup accenting the other components. This was a dish for people who shy away from rich or saccharine desserts - perfect for the two of us.

Hot cocoa, milk chocolate, mint
Mignardises - Sesame and gingerbread truffles
Gift - Fuyu persimmon
This time around, our progression felt a bit more linear - there was less of the ebb and flow, back-and-forth mirroring of tastes and flavours between courses that I enjoyed so much on our previous visit. On the other hand, the simpler and more "classic" narrative really brought home the superiority of the TBL3 experience compared to myriad other Southern California menus. And throughout, Trey and his team never failed even once to highlight our county's beautiful produce. Having now eaten through their expression of two seasons, I think another visit in the Spring should be on our agenda.

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