SanDiegoVille's Chef of the Year for 2012 | Anthony Sinsay, Executive Chef at Burlap

January 1, 2013

We first had the pleasure of meeting Chef Anthony Sinsay last year as he was outgrowing his post as executive chef of Harney Sushi. Last September, after gorging Sinsay's seven course molecular gastronomy-inspired take on regional tailgate fare for the Old Town Harney location's 'Nook Dining' experience, we sat with the young chef, finished off the several remaining beers at the table, and shot the breeze with our laid back, newfound friend. Since that night, we've seen Anthony at countless events and always appreciate and admire his passion, attention to detail, patience with the culinary process, and of course, his knowledge and demonstrated technique. Chef Sinsay is chosen as SanDiegoVille's Chef of 2012 for reasons far beyond our friendship. The guy knows food. Now manning the kitchen at Brian Malarkey's Burlap in Del Mar, Sinsay continues to shine, as he does flawlessly in any environment. Everything he produces is beautiful, tasty, and well thought out. He is a humble man, but his dishes sing another story.

The year 2012 was a big one for San Diego native Chef Sinsay. In late March, Sinsay was wooed away from Harney Sushi by Brian Malarkey to take over and revamp the then-struggling Burlap in Del Mar, taking him from a bare bones, four burner kitchen without an oven in Old Town to the unlimited resources of Enlightened Hospitality's fabric-named brand of eateries. In September, Sinsay was an integral part of the back to back Champion team at the annual “Chef Showdown” fundraiser; in July he was featured on Andrew Zimmern's Bizarre Foods; and at this year's 9th Annual San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival Grand Tasting Sinsay took home 4th place in the Chef of the Fest competition (which he is still beating himself up over after winning it in 2009). Now, as the dedicated Chef at Burlap, Sinsay strives to redefine street food with global influence, serving up his own refined take on the “Asian Cowboy” motif - a mix of classic Asian flavors combined with the influences from the American West.

Inside Burlap
Chef Sinsay recently hosted us for dinner at Burlap to try some of his latest creations. Like most of the other fabric-named eateries, Burlap boasts an exhibition kitchen, eclectic seating options including a covered patio, and maintains a theme that stays true to the playful form of Malarkey's other restaurants, and of course, offers a take on 'shrimp and grits.' Festive dragon heads hang over the bar and dragon fixtures and bull heads decorate the various dining areas. Burlap fabric drapes the walls and hangs in the form of light fixtures and curtains. A bit warmer and livelier than the other Malarkey restaurants we've sampled, Burlap makes for an entertaining and tasty experience fit for either a lengthy meal or casual drinks and appetizers. Make it what you want.

Left: Kale Salad  Right: Scallop Crudo
To begin, we received a gorgeous Fambro Farms sweet kale salad ($13) - a combination of al dente farro, fresh sweet kale, compressed figs, shallots, and housemade lemon grass ricotta. The dish sang with each individual flavor profile coming together melodically to form a wonderful starter that refreshed and nourished, showcasing the tender kale. From the raw bar, we sampled the interesting pairing of sea scallop crudo ($14) with house made pate de champagne (pork terrine) that was inlaid with Chinese sausage, along with thin and crisp baguette shavings, juicy grapefruit slices, micro greens and orange blossom vinaigrette. The cool scallop offered clean flavors, a delicate smokiness, and combined with the other ingredients made for a yummy 'surf and turf' starter.

Left:  Lumpia  Right:  Egg "Drop" French Onion Miso
Next up on the train of deliciousness was Sinsay's traditional Fillipino lumpia dish ($12) - his culture's take on a spring roll. Served inside a raw lumpia crepe, this dish mixed sauteed marinated shrimp, carrots, and bean sprouts, making for a light dish that is made hearty by a thick and rich garlic peanut sauce. We were then served one of our favorite tastes of 2012: Sinsay's egg "drop" soup with French onion miso ($9). A sous vide egg sat delicately atop a thin bridge of brioche toast sprinkled in Pecorino Romano cheese, topped with edible flowers and microgreens, over a bowl of fragrant french onion miso. The presentation is beautiful and playful: break the egg and toast and watch as it drops into the complex broth, mixing the rich yolk with the salty, slow cooked miso, culminating in the most sensuously scrumptious bowl of soup you've ever had, guaranteed. I've said enough. Taste for yourself.

From the 'Street Food' section of the menu, we enjoyed a monster bowl of filipino style adobo mussels ($14) with a light and flavorful coconut milk, crispy garlic and onion broth served with slices of baguette for dredging. This dish is huge - quite the value for the price - and the broth is so fragrantly amazing. We also enjoyed a filipino sigsig ($13) - a traditional midday dish usually consumed with beer. Served sizzling on a skillet, this dish mixes pork belly and shoulder hash with chilies, garlic, scallions, vinegar, a sous vide egg, and comes with a Chinese take out box full of fluffy Jasmine rice for mixing.

Left:  Sturgeon  Right:  Tandoori Chicken
Of the main courses, we had an array of plates from the land and sea. The smoked sturgeon dish ($31) combined thick cuts of meaty fish, cold smoked and sauteed, served atop sweet and sour braised lentils that popped on the palate. Orange zest is poached in a maple syrup aged in a rum oak barrel, and sprinkled atop the sturgeon, combining many diverse flavors for a very well balanced, earthy and hearty meal. We also tried the Tandori chicken ($19) - juicy, tender and perfectly spicy. Sinsay sous vide the chicken in tandoori spices with yogurt, paired it with bitter chicory, and finished the dish with turnips braised in mint oil, cucumber compressed in mint yogurt, pickled shallots, micro mint and mint oil - amazing! Possibly the most creative offering of the evening, Chef Sinsay's "Irish Cowboy" is his innovative take on a Ruben sandwich: using a special chuck flat cut from Hamilton meats, the protein is sous vide in pastrami spices, then served with brussel sprout kraut ("brussels kraut"), house made thousand island dressing, and a burnt rye bread puree along with shaved rye.

"Irish Cowboy" deconstructed Ruben
Sinsay's is keenly aware of his theme in his preparations. He communicates and collaborates with his staff daily to constantly evolve his menu and improve upon his dishes. An obviously mindful chef, Sinsay will surely continue to shine as one of the best in San Diego. Also in 2013, Sinsay will embrace his philanthropist side as he develops an annual 'pop up dining' fundraiser for culinary students at his alma mater, Southwest High School in south SD. Sinsay plans to have nine top student's from the high school's culinary program do three weeks on the cooking line with Chef Sinsay in preparation for a 3-4 course dinner service benefitting the Sharon Kleinschmidt Culinary Scholarship program. Keep an eye on this San Diego native in the coming new year!

Burlap is located at 12995 El Camino Real in Del Mar.  For more information on Chef Sinsay, check out his Twitter page at, and be sure to stop by Burlap for some delicious offerings from SanDiegoVille's Chef of the Year 2012.