After the smash success of Little Italy’s Juniper and Ivy and neighboring Crack Shack, San Diego has been waiting (somewhat) patiently for a new concept by “Top Chef” Richard Blais. Seven years later, Ember & Rye opened to a whirlwind of reservations, filling the house with eager foodies and guests of the Park Hyatt Aviara, where the restaurant is based.
Blais describes the concept as a “not your parents country club” meets modern steakhouse kind of place. “Ember & Rye is the type of restaurant I personally want to eat at every day. It is the embodiment of my cooking style, focusing on elevating classic dishes that many people may already be familiar with while creating a distinct, new style and flavor in a fun, playful way.” Core to his ideology is the practice of sourcing ingredients from regional farmers, foragers, and fishermen, including Chino Farm, Saraspe Seafoods, Flannery Beef, Girl & Dug Farms, and Weiser Family Farms, procuring locally when possible to minimize food waste.
On the expansive 5,000 square foot patio with a view of the Aviara Golf Club and Batiquitos Lagoon, a mesquite-burning grill takes center stage, sizzling and smoking with each addition. For Blais, a golf aficionado, there might be no better view than the green of the 18th hole behind dancing flames. The restaurant pays homage to vintage golf culture with elements like an Arnold Palmer-inspired cocktail, The King & Rye, and a prominent leaderboard announcing the bar menu’s small bites.
Ember & Rye offers some of the showy elements that turned Blais into a celebrity chef, like the creative use of liquid nitrogen, with a foundation of classic steakhouse dishes and time-honored cooking techniques. For example, the 10-ounce strip steak that is dry-aged 14 days. Blais shares, “We want to make sure we have all of the traditional Steak House cuts, so a strip steak falls in line there. All of the restaurant’s aged meats come from Flannery Beef. We cook the strip steak on our wood-burning grill using mesquite and then baste the steak in some butter, dry-aged fat, garlic, and thyme. We garnish most of our steaks with onion or garlic flowers as well.”
Even with this return to wood-fire cooking and a more traditional menu, the Blais’ signature showmanship brings the wow factor. A stunning avocado tostada with tuna tartare is topped with a “yolk” made out of mango that oozes when broken. It pairs well with the restaurant’s most popular cocktail, the Smoking Ember, which encases Mezcal, grapefruit, agave, lemon, and lime in a bubble that pops into wisps of citrus smoke. For purists, a “Whiskey Library” serves small-batch rye whiskeys and rare bourbons in vintage glassware.
Oysters and Pearls, a dish Blais is known for, tops oysters with beads of liquid nitrogen Leche de Tigre, like tiny pearls. From the grill, Chilean sea bass is paired with miso and a lemon beurre blanc. Blais describes it best as “Luscious. Fatty in the best of ways and we double down on the richness with the citrus miso butter. It’s decadent. The Chardonnay of fish dishes.”
When asked what his favorite dish on the menu is, Blais jokes, “Why not ask who is my favorite child?” An apt answer since the restaurant was named after his daughters, Embry and Riley. Instead, Blais offers the table order that would give people the experience that he recommends:
7447 Batiquitos Dr, Carlsbad, CA 92011