Coronado’s latest culinary sensation has landed at Loews
It doesn’t get much more authentic to San Diego’s bayside environs than to dine below a chandelier that was fashioned out of planks of what was once the old Broadway pier.
The newly designed Crown Landing at Loews Coronado Bay Resort is a rich complement to the culinary team’s masterfully creative menu.
At Crown Landing and its neighboring Silver Strand Exchange (juice bar by morning; mixology station featuring innovative craft cocktails by evening), the venue design and the food offerings celebrate the San Diego region, with an emphasis on “the freshest from the sea.”
The restaurant is a testament to collaboration and creative brainstorming among the Loews management team. That team begins with managing director Sean Clancy, who recruited hotel manager Dean Griffin, who hired Eric Jenkins, the hotel’s director of food and beverage, who brought on board Crown Landing executive restaurant chef Jamie Dunn. Also in the management mix is Loews’ executive chef Chris Aguirre, who Jenkins credits with an incredible talent for Baja-infused flavors.
Jenkins supervised the remodel of the former Market Cafe into the two new spaces. He moved to California in late 2015 from the Hard Rock Hotel at Universal Orlando where he was assistant director of food and beverage.
He began his search for the right chef by visiting restaurants in San Diego, looking for a talent well acquainted with and appreciative of the region’s local flavors and who exhibited the creative culinary flair that he wanted for the new venue. At the Smoking Goat in North Park, he found Jamie Dunn, whose culinary background was extensive and impressive. Dunn’s career began in Park City, Utah, where he worked at the St. Regis Hotel under James Beard-award-winning chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten. After stints at renowned kitchens throughout the country, Dunn came to San Diego County’s only AAA Five-Diamond restaurant, Addison at the Grand Del Mar, and later joined the Urbana Kitchen Group, working at Cucina Urbana and Cucina Enoteca.
“What excited me and what attracted Jamie to Loews was that we were working with a blank slate,” Jenkins said.
Jenkins found the right San Diego design team to transform the former Market Café site with Bottles & Wood, a company that specializes in eco-friendly designs utilizing up-cycled goods including reclaimed woods and glass.
The new design features a nautical motif that maximizes the views of the Loews Marina. At the Silver Strand Exchange, a handsome teak wood chevron of 2 ½-inch thick panels accents the Exchange bar. A latticed wall was removed to allow expansive marina views from a new countertop bar, outfitted with USB ports. “We picture guests spending time here, enjoying a cocktail and working away on their laptops as they gaze over the water,” Jenkins said.
The design motif is decidedly relaxed, with a hip, friendly vibe that blends well with Crown Landing’s menu featuring small dishes that are often designed to be shared.
I sampled several dishes that highlighted locally sourced foods.
“Surf & Turf Carpaccio” featured chunks of lobster, arugula, pickled mushrooms, fine herbs and Fresno chili, the latter providing a bit of Baja “pop,” all set upon thin slices of tender beef tenderloin.
Next, a salad of arugula, cranberry and ricotta, dressed with a walnut vinaigrette, perfectly accented a rich and nutty-flavored butternut squash. It demonstrated Dunn’s penchant for punching up his dishes with a bit of citrus acidity.
I don’t know if I’ve tasted octopus before, but I do know this was not to be the last time I would opt in for “Crispy Octopus.”
The dish was tender inside, crispy outside and served on top of flavorful polenta, topped with pickled bok choy and dressed with a spicy garlic aioli; its bright orange contrasted with the cobalt blue plate. (Those plates, too, are local, made in Encinitas.) “Shrimp Toast” featured a delicious shrimp mousse on toast, mounded with a Napa cabbage coleslaw, candied jalapeños and sesame seed oil. Both dishes demonstrate Dunn’s deft balancing of seafood with brightly flavored salads.
Now, imagine a full-meal “Lobster Boil” being reduced to its essentials and served as a single course. The dish features lobster, clams and mussels in their shells, and slices of steamed corn, right on the cob — all ensconced in a lusciously fragrant broth.
But it’s not just seafood that excels in Crown Landing’s kitchen.
The richly flavored duck ragout was enhanced with a pecorino Romano cheese and a balsamic glaze and a heavenly fusilla pasta. All pastas at Crown Landing are made in-house, and the chefs are downright giddy about their new pasta equipment.
A New York strip was tender and served over one of the most delicious polenta dishes I’ve tasted anywhere.
Finally, a spiced devil’s food cake featured a rich chocolate glaze, with a surprising bit of heat from a Baja chili. The blood orange sorbet was a perfect accompaniment, sort of like fire and ice.
While Loews says hello to Crown Landing, its former Mistral restaurant space is bidding adieu, but there’s excitement in the air as Loews’ imagineers are envisioning the future of this second-floor space.
It will now serve as a meeting venue for special events, some pop-up dinners featuring visiting chefs and four sensory wine dinners. In addition to teasing our taste buds, Jenkins is planning special lighting to accompany each of the dinners’ four courses, along with herbal scents and music. A huge music fan, Jenkins, who was with the Hard Rock Hotel at Universal Orlando for 13 years, is already curating his extensive music collection for just the right sounds. The dates for these dinners will be announced soon.
Stay tuned… the creativity is heating up at Loews!