New Kid on the Block

Editors’ Note: Ponsaty’s is now closed. To read about the new restaurant at this location, Nick & G’s, click here

Off the corner of Paseo Delicias and La Granada in Rancho Santa Fe lies a storied dining spot, which previously housed the neighborhood jewel, Delicias, for a quarter-century. Like a gemstone in a wedding band, the location remained prime, but was taken more and more for granted over the years. In 2012, the owners did a full-scale remodel, and hired a new chef with a new culinary point of view in an attempt to revive its glory. But longtime regulars protested. Within a year, Delicias returned to its former identity, but sadly the damage was done. Its legacy undone, the only option for the space was new blood, and in late July, Ponsaty’s debuted.

The name is familiar to San Diego epicures, as Patrick Ponsaty is one of just two French Master Chefs in San Diego County. He built a name for himself behind quality French-rooted cuisine at Tapenade, El Bizcocho, Bernard O’s, La Bastide, and Mistral. Ponsaty then moved on to head culinary operations for The Grand Restaurant Group. His luxurious gastronomic handiwork has been on display for GRG at Bellamy’s in Escondido and The Ranch at Bandy Canyon. Intricate, highly seasonal, skilled, and delicious, the dishes served at those sister eateries upped already high anticipation for his latest venture in this legendary space. So far, the restaurant is meeting and even exceeding the loftiest of local foodie expectations.

Ponsatys

Local Rack of Lamb: Spicy ratatouille, Yukon Gold potato gnocchi, lamb-thyme reduction

Inspired by the Basque region on the French-Spanish border, Ponsaty’s menu brings in local flavor, with ingredients sourced in San Diego and around California. A lobster bisque studded with shrimp is rich yet not overly thick and served with a perfectly puffed dome of buttery pastry. An artistically plated, deconstructed roasted beet salad is matched with baked Laura Chenel goat cheese and an extra bit of sweet earthiness, courtesy of creamy beet ice cream. Meat eaters can feast on a côte du boeuf built for two or veal cheeks slow-cooked for 24 hours. Halibut served over soft ricotta gnocchi with spicy diced chorizo and a delectable clam broth emulsion will thrill seafarers. (A heartier, crispier gnocchi is also available as a side dish.) Desserts such as a luxurious chocolate bar and custard and cherry-stuffed gauteau show great skill, but feature too many ingredients, throwing the overall flavor-profiles off just a bit.

Fennel Pollen Crusted Baja Scallops: Orange blossom mousse, tri-color baby carrot, garbanzo, orange sauce

Fennel Pollen Crusted Baja Scallops: Orange blossom mousse, tri-color baby carrot, garbanzo, orange sauce

Ponsaty’s well-appointed bar is a nice spot to take in the restaurant experience without becoming fully immersed. The bar offers an extensive Scotch selection and rarified craft-cocktail experience (as well as tapas, wine, and mixed-drink promotions on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday). One custom tipple, the Fig Fashioned, provides a balanced charge that pairs beautifully with a starter of seared foie gras with soft, honey-baked figs. And a wine list heavy on French, Spanish, and Californian varietals meshes as well as one would expect with a menu playing off the culinary cultures of those locales.

Ponsatys

While the bill of fare is concise and easy to pin, Ponsaty’s interior design is altogether different. Crystalline chandeliers are juxtaposed by modern, right angle-rich light fixtures, and plush blue curtains are paired with earth-toned modern counterparts. It’s an odd mix that comes together to create something unique and unquestionably posh. The goal was to cultivate an environment that was clearly fine dining but also casual and family-friendly. Will this thematic risk be rewarded or shunned? Only time will tell, but Ponsaty’s stellar cuisine should carry the day. 858.771.1871, ponsatys.com   Brandon Hernández

Ponsatys