Hotel Solamar's Jsix Restaurant | How Food Should Be

October 17, 2012

Neither my mind nor my pen could keep up as Chef Graves rapidly described the intricacies of his dishes.  Persimmon carpaccio??  Vanilla poached pears?  Crispy parsnips? House cured salmon?!  These items seemed like second nature to Jsix's executive chef Christian Graves, but to me, the thought process and attention to detail implemented into each of Graves' layered flavor profiles were so mindfully crafted and uniquely artistic that I couldn't help but do a double take of some of the ingredients used and techniques mastered.  It was an experience unlike any other as my partner and I enjoyed an amuse plus three savory courses at the preview of Jsix's fall dinner menu offerings.  Each dish was beautiful, delicious and evidently well thought through by one of the most innovative and eco-conscious chefs in San Diego.

Graves tending to the rooftop garden
It is often difficult for a chef of Graves' inventiveness and passion to balance the artful nature of his dishes with comfortable deliciousness, but he truly delivered with his autumn menu offerings.  Graves presents his world view through his food and appears to have a deep, intense philosophy about his culinary output.  Obviously a supporter of eco-consciousness and a promoter of local markets over commercialism (even offering 10% discount for 92101 residents), Graves adheres to a style which embraces sustainable, organic, and seasonal ingredients prepared from scratch.  Graves even tends to the Jsix's rooftop garden, where many of the herbs and other ingredients are grown for his dishes.  He understands the prevalence of dietary restrictions and offers vegan, vegetarian and gluten free options to his guests, something that all eateries should embrace in this day and age. He comforts at the same time as he thrills and in doing so takes the diner on a different, and honorable path to satiation.

Jsix is located at the ground floor of Hotel Solamar.  With lofty ceilings, an open kitchen, large windows and an eclectic interior design, the space is stylish and welcoming with easy access from the corner of 6th and J streets.  Valet parking is comp'd for 2 hours if you validate at the restaurant or bar, making it a convenient and welcome dining destination in Downtown's East Village.  

After a stressful day, starting my meal with the Maple Ole Fashion ($11) hit the proverbial spot.  I do not understand how the thick cut of bacon stayed crisp after being submerged in the cocktail, but it worked to bring the beverage together as delicious heart and belly warming comfort in a glass - one which I savored and "mmmmmm''d after each and every sip.

Dinner started with an amuse of peach burrata, hydroponic water cress, baby arugula, house made salami, and fig vinegar, which was a perfectly sweet, creamy and exciting palate cleanser to begin our culinary journey.  With an almost floral finish, it was a single bite that left us yearning for more.

Next we were presented a dish consisting of cured salmon, baby endive, persimmon carpaccio, candied walnuts, mixed microgreens, and tangerine.  The curing gave the salmon a welcome texture, basil micros packed a pleasing punch, and the persimmons were the literal star of the plate.  The dish was refreshing and consisted of a very clean combination of flavors.

For the second and third courses, my guest and I were each presented with different dishes to ensure that we really experienced the fall menu.  I received a hearty octopus stew, with pole beans, broccoli raab, 'lemon bean liquor,' and hints of smokey bacon and pastrami pieces.  The octopus was unlike any I've had, as it was tender as can be and deeply infused with flavor.  The broth is constructed by pouring the bean juice, which is cooked with smoked bacon and pastrami chunks, over lemon rinds and whole garlic.  It was absolutely fantastic and unlike any dish we've eaten.

My cohort enjoyed the savory braised pork belly with homemade kim chee, yuzu aioli, chili oil, microgreens, and vanilla poached pear.  The protein was melt-in-your-mouth delectable, and rightfully so, as Chef Graves revealed that it is dry-rubbed in fall spices then left alone for a full 24 hours before it is seared and roasted with apple, orange and celery.  The pickled napa cabbage kim chee was a bitter and sweet compliment to the other ingredients.

For our last course, we were provided seared scallops with chestnut-porcini sauce, miatake mushrooms, chanterelles, leeks, and balsamic brown butter with baby fondant potatoes.  The scallops were cooked to perfection, and the potatoes so rich from the duck fat confit.   The combination of ingredients made for such a creamy umami flavor that worked to warm the soul.

We also received the braised short rib with parsnip puree, baby mixed carrots, caramelized cipollini onions and crispy parsnips.  This dish coaxed us into a blissful coma, and the combination of textures and flavors were surprisingly subtle, yet evidenced a well thought out design, aesthetically and flavorfully.

Chef Graves presented us with an incredible meal that left us yearning for fall.  His modesty may be his only vice, as it may benefit him to exude more bravado - being that he is so capable of meshing inventiveness with palate pleasing deliciousness.  At Jsix, you'll find that the dining experience is based as much on your plate and palate as the thought and analysis inspired by the food.  The offerings felt classic, and yet personal.  When you cook merely for the diner, you may lose the passion required to adequately present such next-level dishes.  When you cook with your heart and soul and an inspired mind, it comes through in the food, and we definitely appreciate that.

616 J Street, Downtown
(619) 531-8744

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