Crudo by Pascal Lorange
Creatively combining cultures
Posted on April 12, 2017
Mediterranean meets the Land of the Rising Sun — it’s an unusual combination vibrantly delivered by Chef Pascal Lorange at Crudo. The casual haute spot in The Village at Pacific Highlands Ranch is a minimalist space filled with right angles. Many of the dishes add pops of color much like the various artistic touches punching up Crudo’s walls, providing a feast for the senses.
Med cuisine fans will be delighted by the “crudotini,” Chef Lorange’s term for bruschetta. Eight varieties are available and, like Crudo’s other menu offerings, many can be experienced via sampler plates. Creamy, perfectly salted burrata and tomatoes deliver a touch of the traditional. A version featuring foie gras and sugary fig chutney paired with lightly smoked duck breast is more of a decadent departure.
A variety of composed appetizers includes crab cakes, mushroom croquettes with a salty touch of prosciutto and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, and mussels steamed in Italian prosecco instead of a traditional white wine. But indulging in the eponymous “Royal Crudo Sampler” is highly recommended. Highlights of that first-course selection include spicy, dill-studded salmon tartare and incredibly clean-tasting branzino crudo. If desired, the latter can be punched up with Crudo’s signature trio of complimentary tableside condiments, which includes aged balsamic-spiked soy sauce, harissa in place of wasabi, and candied kumquats.
The Japanese influence is most pronounced in Crudo’s Mediterranean rolls. Designed to look and eat like sushi rolls but tasting more like Italy, they mix sushi rice and nori with fillings of sesame yellow fin tuna, hazelnut and chili-paste mayonnaise; and Prosciutto de Parma, olive tapenade, and burrata. These are daring mash-ups. The rice mutes the bolder- flavored ingredients in most cases. Those who aren’t as fanatical about rice should try the flavor combinations presented in this section of the menu like the crudo or bruschette.
Plated entrées bring in culinary flair from an even more diverse array of cultures. Lamb tajine with apricots and Hawayej (traditional Yemeni) spices shares the menu with Chilean sea bass steamed and served in a coconut curry broth, and seafood paella fortified with a mix of lobster, shrimp, calamari, and mussels. The paella is a focal point of the restaurant’s weekend brunches, where large quantities of this Spanish mainstay are cooked up live. Diners can experience that classic with a mimosa or Crudo’s take on an Old Fashioned cocktail, The Rancho’Fe. It’s made of bourbon, orgeat syrup (a special mix of orange, almond, and rose water), apricot liqueur, pomelo juice, and bitters.
Overall, Crudo does an admirable job of harmonizing seemingly disparate food-cultures, and brings a unique dining experience to burgeoning Pacific Highlands Ranch. 858.847.2797, crudopl.com Brandon Hernández
Photography by Vincent Knakal