Lysabeth Luansing-Garcia, who I happen to think is an amazing blogger, approached me about doing a guest post on her blog www.GarciaMemories.com. I’m new to this blogging world and wanted to get my feet wet. . . So, I asked what the assignment was. She said the venue was JRDN Restaurant at the Tower 23 Hotel in Pacific Beach. Chef DJ Tangalin was hosting a tasting event to introduce Filipino fusion cuisine. He had members of the San Diego Filipino Blogger Network (and some friends) to come out and try some inspired dishes.
Pacific Beach to me is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get! What I appreciate about this city, is all the up and coming as well as established joints that offer great nightlife, good food and drinks! There’s something for everybody and you know a good spot when you see lines out the door! I swear it’s a never ending smorgasbord of delectable treats to fit every taste and budget. My friend Mike from Creative Cruz and I made our way Tower 23 Hotel. This place is a chic and contemporary beachfront hotel. The glass walls offer a spectacular view of the ocean and when the sun sets, it is absolutely gorgeous! Our party of six met at the lobby and they promptly escorted us to the outside patio overlooking the ocean. Brennan, the manager and his staff were AMAZING and very attentive. Our main waiter Johnny started us off with an apéritif of Poema Brut Cava. The sparkling wine gave our little event a celebratory vibe. We toasted to good food and new friends and eagerly awaited the courses to begin.
Chef DJ Tangalin came out with his army of servers. He took the time to give us a mouthwatering description of the first course. He answered some of our questions then left us to enjoy our meal. The first course was a play on Coconut Shrimp. Forget the fried stuff! This dish was fresh and light. The poached jumbo shrimp, melon, and avocado were tossed in a lime dressing and presented in a young coconut topped with a refreshing granita. The flesh of the coconut was so tender and flavorful. All the components together made our mouths sing! What a spectacular way to begin our culinary journey!
Our next course was fresh lumpia. The lobster, bean sprouts, watercress, and herbs, were lovingly wrapped in a turmeric rice wrapper. The sauces added a fresh and tangy element.
The next dish was probably the most unique and definitely a favorite. . . Short Rib Siopao with Blueberry Gastrique. The presentation was so pretty and camera ready! I like how this wasn’t your usual pork filled steamed bun. The filling made of braised short ribs was incredibly tender and flavorful. The bun was baked then topped with the loveliest blueberry gastrique and garnished with fragrant microbasil. I was worried about the blueberry sauce because it looked like a dessert to me. I have an aversion to sweet glazes with meat but this actually worked. The blueberry gastrique was lightly sweetened. When I took a bite, it reminded me of pulled BBQ brisket- DEVINE!
This is the time we got to see a PB celebrity- Slow Mo! He slow mo’ed past us as we were talking to Chef DJ! This night just keeps getting better and better! Chef DJ came out to check on us. We genuinely raved about what we just ate. It was unlike anything we’ve tried before. This is coming from a bunch of foodies mind you! While we still had light from the setting sun to take footage (and to give us a chance to rest before moving on to more dishes) we had a chance to get to know the chef by springing a Q&A session on him. It was so interesting to hear about his culinary background and roots. His experiences helped shape the vision for his inspired cuisine and he pays homage to his cultural heritage in his creations. Chef DJ’s passion and love for food comes through in his cooking!
After our Q&A session, Chef DJ presented our fourth course for the evening- Octopus Adobo. The dish was a fusion of Italian, French and Filipino. The octopus was so tender. It wasn’t rubbery in texture or chewy. It was like BUTTAH! The octopus was cooked with garbanzo beans and baby corn in a sofrito sauce. It was tangy and savory with a hint of sweetness to it. The adobo was accompanied by a squid ink polenta that was finished with mascarpone cheese and lime juice. Melt in your mouth deliciousness!
Oh no. . . let’s not stop here! Let’s introduce some libations that made our meal even more enjoyable. On top of our Poema Brut Cava, we ordered the Chili Mango Margarita (chili infused tequila, mango, house mix), Basil+ Gin+ Lemonade (Hendrick’s gin, basil, lemonade), and the Pimm’s Cup (Pimm’s No.1, lemon, simple syrup, ginger ale). Hey, it was Sunday and it was past 5 o’clock everywhere!
Our fifth course was a play on a filipino favorite- Fried Rice and Tocino! Chef DJ explained that for many Filipinos this is comfort food. This is your quintessential breakfast, lunch or dinner. The fried rice had foie gras, green onions, bacon, garlic, and scrambled eggs. The tocino was made of prime sirloin steak with rosemary and a dijon and tamarind glaze. Karen exclaimed that it tasted like her mom’s fried rice! When flavors make you reminisce and make you think of your momma, that is an ultimate compliment!
As our flatware was cleared and a spoon made an appearance, I KNEW dessert was the next course! Before our sweet ending, Chef DJ introduced us to his wonderful sous chefs: John Dolan and Eugene Guerrero.
We gave them a round of applause for contributing their talents in making our dining experience so special and memorable. Chef DJ cued the army of servers and they made their way to our table with big square plates. He referred to the dish as a dessert tour of Filipino inspired dishes. In front of us, we had ube cupcakes, coconut panna cotta with jackfruit, tapioca tossed in some macapuno, passion fruit and blueberry sauce, and sesame crumbles. I’m a baker and cupcakes are my thing so I’m highly critical. The ube cupcake had a nice, fluffy texture and it wasn’t overly sweet. It had a creamy frosting that accented the cake part well. Now, let’s move on to the next delectable item. . . let’s just take a moment of silence and think about coconut panna cotta-shhh. . . I LOVED IT! The panna cotta was silky and creamy. It had the right amount of sweetness. The sesame crumbles provided a crunchy texture to the smooth panna cotta and the passion fruit and blueberry sauces added a fresh and tangy element. There was a flavor party in my mouth! We savored our dessert with some Joe’s Coffee and the evening came to an end.
I love how Chef DJ never forgot his mission statement behind his inspired cuisine. Keep it fresh, local, innovative, and comforting. It was a pleasure and an honor to try his cuisine. Chef DJ demonstrated his love for food and culture with the dishes he created for this particular occasion. I appreciated the fact that he prepared each of the dishes with critical attention to detail and presentation which added to and elevated our dining experience.
I encourage everyone to go out to Pacific Beach and visit the JRDN Restaurant at Tower 23 Hotel. Since Chef DJ took helm, he changed the restaurant’s entire menu twice to keep it innovative. He wanted to highlight the fresh local ingredients to give diners an amazing experience. When asked where he visits to eat down home filipino food, he said that he loves Tita’s, Manila Sunset, Chow King and Jollibee.
On Fridays, you can find him walking through the North Park Farmers’ Market to check out the produce. On Saturday, he likes to hang out at the Little Italy Mercato Farmers’ Market. He spoke about the importance of using the freshest ingredients. He even has a private fisherman that catches the seafood for the restaurant. Talk about from the ocean straight to the table! He also works with a local fresh produce supplier that gives him dibs on seasonal goods! On his off days, he hones his craft by traveling to different cities to be a stagiaire or an apprentice that works for free to learn/refine techniques. When we asked Chef DJ if he follows or draws inspiration from other chefs, he said there were two in particular: Jason McLeod and Jonathan Bautista. Outside of work, family life is important to Chef DJ. He loves to spend time with his loved ones especially his two year old daughter. They love to swim, travel, visit and experience all of what America’s Finest City has to offer!